Compared with the team which won the first encounter against Stirling County last season, just four players featured in Currie rugby club’s 20-strong match day squad against the same opposition at Malleny Park on Saturday.
By any standards a massive re-building project is under way and in such circumstances a 28-42 defeat was not entirely without merits.
High amongst these were the four tries scored for a bonus point while it was also significant that although most of the game was spent hanging on the coat-tails of opponents worthy of a 23-18 interval lead Currie did have the final scoring word.
Not only that but despite some self inflicted wounds, such as an intercept try which effectively proved the decisive moment, Currie were able to entertain thoughts of a late counter-attack try that would have garnered a losing bonus point.
Ultimately, though, the scoreboard doesn’t lie and nobody knew it more than Currie coach Ally Donaldson whose spirits were not helped by the prospect of having to head on Saturday to champions Ayr fresh from an emphatic defeat by Melrose and sure to be already contemplating some sort of backlash.
Typically, Donaldson was able to see some positives such as the work-rate of back rowers Michael Vernal and Malcolm Peacock as well as the ball carrying of debutant No. 8, Karl Main, while recently recruited wing Callum Kerr took both tries well.
But without injured club internationalists Mark Cairns and Ross Weston as well as a contingent who have either moved away or entered the pro ranks, lack of composure and basic misunderstandings were always going to be a possibility.
Donaldson, whose side led only briefly early on and now occupy the foot of the table after the opening couple of rounds, knew it, too, admitting: “We gave away scores far too easily including when we got back to 18-20 playing into a strong wind only to concede a penalty right on half time.
“No question there are areas we can improve on and (securing) re-starts is one. We just seemed to let soft scores in – especially after we had put points on the board – and Stirling didn’t have to work all that hard for their scores which is what really disappoints me.
“We were a bit slow to react and, ok, we got four tries and a bonus but there were real opportunities to exploit; at half time there was a feeling we could win.”
Throughout the second half Donaldson was heard repeatedly telling his side not to chase the game, a sure sign of anxiety that they might take undue risks. The all-important intercept that let Ben Addison run 70 metres under the posts highlighted the inexperience in the home back-line while up front new scrummage laws that require front rows to crouch-bind-set saw frequent turn overs and both teams enjoy the upper hand in spells.
Here the unit that can adapt quickest will flourish and the prospect of Cairns and Weston returning quickly from back and knee cut injuries to exploit heels against the head gives Currie hope.
There is certainly plenty of quality advice available off the field, too, with Edinburgh pair Ben Cairns and Sean Cox now part of a coaching team that also includes ex-cap Graham Hogg and Donaldson, a former Scotland tour stand off.
The ground is well maintained with a healthy number of advertisers and marketing ploys have also seen the jersey embellished with nearly as many sponsors as an F1 driver.
It is all about how soon this team matures but Donaldson knows confidence can be fragile and time is not readily available. “Our problems are fixable and we have some really good young kids. The hope is we can stay where we are for the next couple of years and get that foundation laid,” he said.
Currie: Tries – Kerr (2), Peacock, Main. Con – Reynolds. Pens - Reynolds (2).
Stirling County: Tries – Swanson (2), Addison, Hughes, Lamb. Cons – Archibald (4). Pens – Archibald (2). Drop goal – Edwards
Currie: G Horne, C Kerr, E Pollock, J Broadley, R Smith, J Reynolds, R Snedden, J Cox, D Cherry, A Hamilton, G Temple. E Mitchell, M Vernal, K Main, M Peacock. Subs: I Miller, F Watts, A Alexander, H Elms, G Carson.
Stirling County: J Hope, G Lindsay, B Addison, B Archibald, R Hughes, S Edwards, C Turnbull, J Bhatti, A Moffat, C Hutton, R Leishman, M Larsen, S Swindall, J Swanson, S McDonald. Subs: R Kennedy, K Burney, C Deacons, B Barsanti, M Lamb.
Referee: G Gordon.