Edinburgh Accies coach Jonny Else has acknowledged the desperate situation in which he and his players now find themselves after a 23-17 defeat against Stirling County consigned the Raeburn Place men to a relegation play-off.
The result means Else’s men will face Stewart’s Melville on April 5 to decide which of the sides will take the final place in a four-strong Capital contingent in the RBS Premiership next season.
“We really are in a cup final now. We’ve got to make sure that we pull together,” said the coach. “There will be no point in training particularly hard. It will just be about getting our mindset right and making sure we go into that game with clear heads. We are focused and determined.”
It was a disappointing end to a campaign that started well amid a flurry of excitement surrounding participation in the British & Irish Cup, and the redevelopment of Raeburn Place, as well as a strong playing base that has seen Accies field four sides.
“We were winning so well at the start of the season and we had a winning mentality. It seems as if we have got ourselves into a bit of a rut now,” conceded Else, who knows that top flight survival is crucial for the club. However, he also pointed out that vital end of season matches are nothing new for Accies. “It goes without saying that it’s huge for a prestigious club like this. The last couple of years there has always been a game at the end of the season that could have gone either way,” he added.
As last season’s play off between Hawick and Dundee High proved, the momentum in such matches is likely to be with the lower division side, while the relegation threatened Premiership team’s confidence will be at a lower ebb. Else has two weeks to work with his players as they seek to overcome that mental barrier, and opponents whom he expects to pose a stiff test.
“Stewart’s Melville will want to have a crack at us and we will want to have a crack at them. We have to go in with a more positive mindset. This is the last chance saloon. It’s definitely do-able. StewMel will be saying the same thing.
“We’ve got two weeks off. We are going to have to pull together – everybody at the club. We need to be focused and firing against StewMel or it’s relegation – simple as that.”
Saturday’s performance was brimming with endeavour, but Accies were beaten by a more committed Stirling side. They led 11-5 at the break after Brian Archibald booted two penalties and Alex Moffat replied in kind to an unconverted try from Accies full back Ruaridh Young. Danny Gilmour extended the Stirling lead with a touchdown five minutes into the second half but Jamie McCarthy cancelled that out when he forced his way over. Then, when Rory Hughes sprinted in for a converted try to build a 13-point advantage entering the final quarter, the outlook was bleak for Accies.
However, the hosts displayed great character to finish strongly and haul themselves back to within striking distance when Hamish Watson barged over and Ruaridh Bonner converted. And, while with greater composure from Accies within sight of the line, the outcome could have been different, the visitors held firm nd plunged the hosts into uncertainty.
“We simply didn’t deserve to win that. It wasn’t a lack of desire or determination, we were just getting a bit panicky at times,” said Else. “Some of our play is really good and at times we just don’t make the right decisions and it is that decision making that is putting us under pressure.”
Scorers: Edinburgh Accies – Tries: Young, McCarthy, Watson. Con: Bonner.
Stirling County – Tries: Moffat, Gilmour, Hughes. Con: Edwards. Pens: Archibald (2).
Edinburgh Accies: R Young, J Farndale, E Campbell, I Berthinussen, N Godsmark, A Blair, A Black, A Allan, A Lutui, P Cringle, A Toolis, J McCarthy, R Snape, H Watson, G Campbel. Subs: M Liness, D Morrison, T Stuart. R Bonner, J Marples.
Stirling County: B Archibald, B Addison, F Lyle, D Gilmour, R Hughes, S Edwards, H Pyrgos, J Bhatti, A Moffat, G Mountford, E Dewar, C Deacons, S Robertson, S McDonald, B Barsanti. Subs: B Dineen, R Kennedy, A Ashe, AJ Macfarlane, P Horne.
Referee: J Matthew.