Stirling .. 27 Hawick ..12

Saturday at Bridgehaugh was a celebratory day for Stirling County in more ways than one.

They unveiled their impressive #1m revamped ground and, with an even greater show of pride, toasted the occasion with a win over side Hawick to be top of the premiership

For the record, County have lost just one match this season - against Kelso at the beginning of the League Trophy. Since then it has been an uninterrupted run of success, restoring the confidence that helped them win the championship two seasons ago.

Much of the credit for County's new attitude must go to New Zealander Tom Coventry, their coach, who has instilled a fresh sense of purpose into the Stirling side. It certainly showed on Saturday when County, after a difficult first half playing into the stiff north east wind, totally outplayed Hawick in all the fundamentals of the game after the interval.

When you hear Eric Grierson, a loyal Hawick servant over the years, bemoaning the fact that the Hawick pack was given a lesson in the basics, you know that something is amiss.

Arguably the absence of Brian Renwick, a late call-off, weakened the Hawick forward effort. They had no answer to the dynamic back row play of Gareth Flockhart and Brian Ireland and the rumbustious activites of David Jamieson in the Stirling front row.

Stirling, once they settled into a steadier pattern of play, took the honours behind the scrum. Again James McLaren posted an impressive performance, this time against Hawick's distinguished centre pairing of Cameron Murray and Tony Stanger, confirming the view that he must now be in line for a Caledonia contract next season and perhaps a Scotland A cap.

Hawick, who had notable contributions from right wing Darryl Menzies and flanker and try-scorer Grant Harris, led 12-0 at half-time, their other touchdown coming from full back Keith Davidson.

But if Stirling had failed to cope with playing into the wind, they knew how to turn the game with the elements in their favour.

Mark McKenzie, with another characterful display, orchestrated matters from stand-off, setting up a fine try for McLaren and contributing 12 points from three conversions, a penalty goal and a drop goal. Stirling's other scores came from two tries by Flockhart.

Scorers: Stirling County - M McKenzie 3c 1p 1dg, Flockhart 2t, McLaren 1t. Hawick - Harris 1t, Davidson 1t, Welsh 1c.

Stirling County - Sievewright; MacPhail, Wright, McLaren, Sangster; M McKenzie, Imrie; Cameron, K McKenzie, Jamieson, Norval, Hogg, Flockhart, Brough, Ireland. Substitute - D Short for McLaren (81 min).

Hawick - Davidson; Menzies, Stanger, Murray, Suddon; Welsh, Reid; Howe, Hay, Scott, Imray, Elliot, Cottrill, Landells, Harris. Substitute - G Bruce for Landells (59).

Referee - R Dickson (Madras).