Stirling University’s men’s rugby first team moved to within touching distance of the BUCS Scottish 2A title as they thrashed an under-strength Edinburgh Napier 1s 78-19 on Monday night.
Playing the same opposition for the third time in a fortnight, home fans were hoping for a repeat of Stirling’s thrilling 41-38 BUCS Cup final win over their capital opponents. However, it was clear from the start that the game was going to be one-way traffic, as the boys in green flew out of the blocks with three tries in the opening ten minutes. After Owen Jarvie had crossed for a try after just four minutes, fly-half Liam Brims followed him over the try-line after an audacious dummy pass in the Napier 22 before Euan Cassells was put over out wide to give his side a 19-0 lead after just nine minutes.
With a number of first-choice players unavailable, Napier knew they were in for a tough encounter against a Stirling team who have been in great form this season. However, they did manage to stem the tide of tries against them midway through the first half, as two long range penalties cut the deficit to 19-6.
It was to be a temporary fix, though, as Stirling ran in three more tries before the half-time interval. It began on 25 minutes, as a lovely handling move saw the ball shifted wide at speed for Sam Harrison to cross for the score. Despite a missed conversion, the score now read 24-6 in the home side’s favour.
Napier replied with another long range penalty, but two moments of class from Brims ensured Stirling went into the break well in control. First of all, the fly-half’s eye-catching break from the halfway line was supported well by number eight Angus Inwood, who showed good power to drive over for the try. It was then left to Brims himself to notch the final try of the half, strolling over unopposed for his second score of the game. With both tries converted, Stirling had a 38-9 advantage at the interval.
With his team clearly in command, coach Lee Wadsworth made a number of changes before the second 40. However, there was no let-up in intensity from the promotion chasing Stirling. Just moments after coming onto the pitch, Jamie Laughlin was on the end of a slick move to power over in the corner, before fellow substitute Alasdair MacKinnon touched down in the same corner to break the 50 point barrier.
Stirling were now cutting through the Napier defence at will and on 53 minutes scored one of the tries of the match. A set move from a scrum saw Jarvie make a break through the middle, before an inside ball found Danny Ross on a support line that took him all the way to the try-line. The conversion was successful, taking the lead to 57-9.
Straight from the kick-off, the home side were over again. Robbie Swan broke straight through the defensive line having claimed the kick-off, before finding Cameron Crawford in support. Crawford’s well-timed offload found substitute back-row Peter Barton, who showed good strength to hold off the last-ditch tackle and score in the corner. A tricky conversion was no problem for Cassells, extending the lead to 64-9.
Napier, to their credit, never gave in. After stringing together a number of phases in the Stirling 22, they were rewarded with their first try of the game on 63 minutes, as the ball was driven over by the forwards. However, Stirling hit back almost immediately, as a strong run and ferocious hand-off from Billy Dineen was rewarded with another try for the home side to take the score to 71-14.
The visitors responded by immediately going in search of another score and, with the ball deep inside the Stirling 22, Jamie Laughlin was sent to the sin-bin by the referee after one too many infringements from a Stirling player. From the resulting penalty, the ball was spun wide for the winger to touch down in the corner, making immediate use of the extra man.
The final word, though, went to a rampant Stirling side. Dineen’s power once again caused problems for Napier’s defence, before the prop found Danny Ross with a delightful offload to allow his winger to score his second try of the game. Cassells converted to leave the final score at 78-19 in favour of the home side.
A comprehensive win, then, and one that takes Stirling to within tantalising reach of promotion. They travel to Aberdeen on Wednesday afternoon knowing that a single point is all that is required to clinch promotion.