Stirling County.......8

After the week Scottish rugby had endured and with the Springboks on their way, how refreshing it was yesterday to see the minnows win this Tennent's Velvet Cup third-round tie.

This kind of unexpected win is what sport is all about and Linlithgow's performance at their own Mains Park was a classic case of team spirit allowing a side to overturn the odds.

Albeit Linlithgow won their league last season, while Stirling are currently bottom of their's, the gulf between these clubs should, in rugby terms, be far greater than the 20-odd miles separating the two commuter towns. Stirling are, after all, among the elite forming the Premiership first division, while Linlithgow are four divisions lower in National League 2.

However, the added ingredient making this tie such an attractive prospect, is that, just three years since Stirling won the national title, Linlithgow could field more regulars from that team than their visitors could.

Of the championship squad, only Malcolm Norval was still in the Stirling side, but their then scrum-half Kenny Harper and prop John Gibson are now involved in a player/coaching capacity with Linlithgow and so, for them, this was always going to be a special day.

''Obviously there are mixed feelings,'' said Harper, who had watched the previous day's international match at the Bridgehaugh clubhouse.

''It's very sad from Stirling's point of view how they've come down, but they'll come back again.''

He went on, a broad smile camouflaging his sympathy for his old club: ''It's just the way it went. We all got old together, but it's hard to replace 14 players as quickly as that.''

This was, however, Linlithgow's day and Stirling connections or not, Harper was keen to savour the moment.

''Obviously, a huge amount of it was the sense of occasion,'' he said, acknowledging a magnificent team effort.

''What I've found coming here is that players don't switch on for every game, but when they do they can really compete.''

Early on, Stirling dominated territorially, but, with their hosts tackling tigerishly, they struggled to make real headway.

Full back Jamie Leslie's try should have relaxed them, yet it seemed only to lift Linlithgow and they quickly moved ahead.

Harper made a half break and, some 10 metres out, club captain Scott Oliver bounced through a tackle and plunged over between the posts, John Smith converting.

The telling score was inspired by yet another former Stirling player, Gavin Spowage powering forward from a lineout on the Stirling 22, before releasing back-row colleague Gordon Cairns.

David Adamson, a 19-year-old of whom great things are expected by Stirling, but who struggled both to impose himself on this match and with his place-kicking, did reduce the leeway early in the second half with a penalty from under the posts.

However, even before Smith cancelled that score out with 12 minutes remaining, things seemed to be going very much Linlithgow's way.

As ever on such occasions, there was an extra factor to maximise the sense of euphoria, John Gibson Jr having been born just days before the game.

''We're off to wet John's baby's head,'' Harper said, as he made his way to join his team-mates in the bar.

Though, somehow it seemed they didn't need any added cause for celebration to make this a big night in Linlithgow.

Who says club treasurers hate Sunday rugby?

Linlithgow - J Smith; M Gowdy, M Bonnar, S Oliver, D Forbes; E Bredenham, K Harper; J Gibson, S Campbell, B Cherrie, D Wood, A Smith, G Cairns, S Jamieson, G Spowage.

Stirling County - J Leslie; J McPhail, W Barr, D Dunsire, R Lewis; D Adamson, F Kennedy; D Jamieson, J Garraway (G Gordon 25min), S Cameron (C Reid 58), R Hogg, C Hufferdine, B Wyllie, G Broomfield, M Norval.

Referee - T Sutherland (Livingston)

Scoring sequence (Linlithgow first): 0-5, 7-5, 12-5 (half-time); 12-8, 15-8.

Scorers: Linlithgow: Tries - Oliver (18 min), Cairns (34). Conversion - Smith (34). Pen - Smith (68 mins). Stirling: Try - Leslie (13) . Penalty - Adamson (43).