Boroughmuir coach Bruce Aitchison has warned his men to learn quickly from the errors that left them with only a narrow-defeat bonus point from Saturday’s tough baptism in the BT Premiership.
Aitchison was reflecting on a 25-18 loss at home to Stirling County that underlines the magnitude of the task facing his side. And he conceded that the greater intensity of the top flight was in sharp contrast to last season when Muir were largely untroubled on their march to the title.
“It’s not going to get any easier but that’s why we are here,” he said. “Last year was too easy. If we lost the ball, we got it back pretty quickly. Last year we were pretty confident that we would score tries, our defence would hold up and the depth of our squad and fitness were always of a standard above whoever we were playing.
“This year we don’t know because we haven’t been there. We certainly haven’t been there with this squad. As a coaching team we haven’t been at this level either, so there’s lots of things adding up to a new experience.”
There was little sign of that lack of experience as Muir raced from the blocks, opening the scoring inside the first minute with a penalty from Graeme Blackhall, who doubled his side’s tally with a second three pointer after six minutes.
Jamie Urquhart responded in kind for Stirling before Muir hooker Cal Davies marked an impressive contribution when he forced his way over from close range for the first try of the afternoon and Blackhall converted. At that stage, the Capital side looked in control but the visitors delivered an instant riposte when Danny Gilmour raced over.
Still Muir appeared comfortable but as they pressed to extend their lead just before the break Stirling winger Craig Robertson plucked a loose pass out of the air and galloped the length of the field for a solo score. Urquhart’s conversion left Muir two points adrift and playing into the wind in the second half.
Urquhart booted another penalty then added the extras after Gilmour darted in for his second try on the hour. To their credit Muir battled on and deservedly took something from the game when Will Kay capped a spell of pressure when he barged over for an unconverted try. Indeed, the win still looked possible at that stage and Muir had opportunities. However, a solid Stirling defence and a high error count cost them.
While frustrated at the result, and particularly the three incidents that gifted Stirling their tries, Aitchison acknowledged the commitment of his players, saying: “I was really proud of the shape that they showed and the try that they scored. That’s a lot of what we are trying to do and they backed themselves, didn’t panic and got the try they deserved.”
And he is confident they have the requisite tools to remedy the situation. “I’m proud of the way they kept going, they stuck together, they showed some good shape and some good bits. They worked very hard, their effort level was high but it needs to be with some thought and some concentration,” he added. “The players need to learn. The last time they were in this league, the players who were here had a pretty negative experience for two or three years and we’ve got boys who have never played at that level before.
“So, there is a lot of experience to be gained in these games. We took a point from it, which is not what we wanted and I thought our play merited more. Stirling are a bit more experienced at that level, we have also stuck a few new players in at that level so in some respects maybe I wanted too much. You always want that as a coach and you always expect them to produce their best. Little moments just added up.”
Aitchison has confidence in his men and knows that the squad will be bolstered in the coming weeks by the return of key personnel, including five men likely to be first choice players in his back division.
Boroughmuir: Tries: Davies, Kay. Con: Blackhall. Pens: Blackhall (2).
Stirling County: Tries: Gilmour (2), Robertson. Cons: Urquhart (2). Pens: Urquhart (2).
Boroughmuir: I Martin, R Scott, C Hardie, S Wilson, J Edmunds, G Blackhall, J Adams, R Wilson, C Davies, J Latta, A Best, T Sutton, M Bradbury, M Entwhistle, I Moody. Subs: S Bingham, D O’Connell, W Kay, S Johnson, C Keddie.
Stirling County: J Urquhart, C Robertson, A Russell, D Gilmour, M Lamb, F Lyle, A Price, J Bhati, R Kennedy, G Mountford, M Minari, R Leishman, S Robertson, S McDonald, A Mcnube. Subs: B Dineen, J Graham, E Dewar, A Black, M Smith.
Referee: J McPhail.