THE 2023 SUPER SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP concluded on Saturday when Stirling Wolves defeated Ayrshire Bulls at the Hive Stadium in Edinburgh to claim the title for the first time, with one of the great coaches of Scottish club and youth rugby, Eddie Pollock, at the helm.
Wolves have an experienced core to their team – Glenn Bryce, Marcus Holden, Craig Jackson, Reyner Kennedy, James Pow and Connor Gordon – who were stripped for action nearly every week, and around them promising young players – Ross McKnight, Ben Afshar, Gregor Hiddleston and Tom Smith – flourished this season to great effect.
The age profile of the team is probably ideal and for those who feel they maybe underplayed the development of young players this season, it’s worth noting 18-year-old Sam Rockley was in every single squad, and 17-year-old schoolboy Joe Roberts made three substitute appearances, including the semi-final.
TOL’s ‘Team of the Tournament’, attempts to recognise influential performances across all seven squads, based on Man-of-the-Match selections, Dream Team picks, as well as consistency over the piece, and points scored. Inevitably there is some subjectivity in it, so remember it’s just fun and if your favourite is not included – well your opinion is as valid as ours.
At full-back Glenn Bryce is the outstanding choice, with nine tries across 13 starts for the Wolves, as well as four Dream Team picks and one Man-of-the-Match. The deeper into the tournament we went the bigger the influence of the former Scotland 7s star became. Euan Muirhead made a big impression in his first championship, and his eight tries in 12 appearances for the Bears will hopefully have done enough to push him into the Scotland U20s squad this season.
On one wing, Ross McKnight is picked alongside his team-mate Bryce in the back three, reward not only for being top try-scorer with 15 tries, but also his 100 pecent squad selection (13 starts + 1 sub). Hopefully his fine season will increase his confidence, which in turn may help him to add aggression to his game, perhaps the one thing missing in both attack and defence at present.
Alongside McKnight, the Heriot’s pair George Barber (five Dream Team appearances) and Jack Blain (nine tries in just four starts and 3 Man-of-the-Match appearances) both have valid claims for inclusion, as does the Future XV star Amena Caqusau (eight tries in nine appearances for a team that never won a game), but we’ve opted for Aidan Cross of Southern Knights, who scored nine tries in 11 starts, earned four Dream Team appearances and lit up the Greenyards repeatedly with his electric pace and hunger for work. Mikey Heron of Wolves nand Lewis Wells of Heriot’s emerged from the club game this season and showed themselves up to the challenge, while Mason Cullen started 12 from 12 for the Bears, and how good was it to see Scott King who has suffered more injuries than most complete an injury free season with 13/13 starts for Watsonians.
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At outside-centre, Matt Davidson of Heriot’s made a huge impact with 10 tries in 11+1 appearances. At times he looked a class above Super Series and hopefully there will be an opportunity for him at one of the pro teams this season. There is something of Huw Jones about him, both in his pace, and in his ability to pick effective lines of attack. Ryan Southern who missed only one game for Stirling Wolves, and George Pringle who played in every game for Watsonians, and claimed four Dream Team appearances can consider themselves unlucky not to be selected after very consistent seasons.
At 12, selection depends on the type of game you want to play. Grant Hughes is a lovely playmaker, set up a lot of Davidson’s tries and is definitely in the selection mix, while Scott Robeson‘s more direct approach for the Bears (for whom he started every game) also gives him a shout, but we have opted for the vastly experienced Bobby Beattie of Ayrshire Bulls, who scored six tries, made a lot more, and was picked as Man-of-the-Match twice in 10 games. Bizarrely, the skipper of the winning team, and top championship scorer with 106 points, Marcus Holden, never won Man-of-the-Match in any of his 14 starts, and never made the Dream Team either, but he clearly had a massive influence on the Stirling side, so we have selected him on the bench.
Stand-off was a difficult selection. Newcomers Bradley Roderick-Evans and George Paul had their moments for the Bears and the Bulls, but neither dominated games consistently throughout the season. Similarly, both Gregor McNeish (10 starts + 1 sub) and Harris Rutherford (1 start + 11 subs) had moments of brilliance for Southern Knights without quite delivering the winning performances their play promised at times. At opposite ends of the spectrum, the game management of veteran Craig Jackson had huge influence in delivering the Championship to the Wolves from a fourth place finish in the league, while 18-year-old Isaac Coates showed outstanding potential for the Future XV in his eight starts. After all that discussion we are opting for Watsonians’ Jason Baggott who directed his team to good effect most of the season, won two MOM awards, and maybe tellingly was left on the bench for his team’s semi-final defeat at Millbrae.
Kaleem Barreto burst onto the Super6 scene a couple of years ago with such thrilling impact that he secured a Scotland 7s contract and is now firmly established in the Team GB VII. His return to the Bears saw him have a similar impact and he wins our scrum-half selection. Fin Campbell (Heriot’s) with eight, and Fergus Johnston (Bulls) with five both showed impressive try scoring ability for their respective teams, while Ben Afshar started the last six games for Stirling Wolves in their run to the title, and showed repeatedly he may be ready to step up into the Glasgow squad this season.
Early in the season, Bulls’ Andrew Nimmo was the outstanding loose-head with three Dream Team selections in the first four weeks of the season, and he managed to hold off Jack Dobie, who seemed to improve week on week for the Knights, in our selection. Meanwhile, Tom Banatvala returned from long-term injury for the Future XV to prove why the Academy has kept faith in him with a series of dynamic appearances. His time will surely come.
On the tight-head there were three outstanding candidates. Martin McGinley started every single game for Boroughmuir Bears, while Marius Tomasaitis proved a rock for Stirling Wolves and earned three Dream Team selections, as did Euan McLaren for Heriots. McLaren’s slightly more dynamic play in the loose earns our selection.
Hookers have become almost as prolific in try scoring as wingers these days with the line-out maul proving such a powerful attacking weapon. Among those who showed impressive credentials in this regard were Corbin Thunder of Knights (eight tries), Alex McGuire of Bulls (seven tries) and Jake Kerr of Watsonians (seven tries), but selection goes to MOM in the play-off final, Gregor Hiddleston, who scored nine tries in just eight starts, and whose absence on Glasgow duty mid-season coincided with the Wolves trickiest part of the campaign. Hiddleston may well prove to be exactly what Super6 aspired to create in the future.
In the middle-row of the scrum we’ve opted for Jack Fisher of Boroughmuir Bears for his sheer consistency in starting every game, and his continual high level of performance (five Dream Team selections). Alongside him, both the Heriot’s locks Jamie Campbell and Ronan Seydack made strong claims, enjoying purple patches throughout the season, but being outplayed in the semi-final by the Wolves locks James Pow and Tom Smith has ultimately cost them selection. The impressive Allan Ferrie was also hard to leave out, but we’ve opted for Watsonians Luis Ball, because not only did he turn out for Watsonians in every game (winning MOM once, and Dream Team selection three times) but he carried a huge workload for a Watsonians pack missing significant forwards due to injury throughout the season. Ayrshire Bulls’ Ed Bloodworth made 11 starts and never has a bad game. Somewhat perversely, we’ve put him on the bench, although in his 44 appearances for the Bulls now, he has never appeared off the bench once!
Bloodworth is almost as much a fixture in the Millbrae side’s pack as skipper Blair Macpherson who had another terrifically consistent season, starting all 14 games for his team and scoring 11 tries. The Ayrshire side have now played 60 Super6/Series games, and remarkably Macpherson has appeared in every one of them, including 58 starts. There is an argument that his opposite number in the final, Ed Hadsell, outplayed him on the day, and the Wolves certainly has a claim to be ‘Newcomer of the Season’, but despite his six tries in 13 appearances, he maybe still drifts out of games occasionally, so he has to be content with a bench spot in our team.
Finally, on the flanks we have ‘cheated’ a little with the selection of two open-sides. Connor Gordon won MOM three times for Stirling Wolves and, especially at the business end of the season, he was a class apart from most of his opponents. Beside him we’ve opted for the highly promising 18-year-old Freddy Douglas who appeared in every Future XV match, won selection for the Dream Team on four occasions and was MOM once. The next Rory Darge perhaps? His back-row team mates Oli Duncan and Tom Currie had their moments too, while fellow youngster Sam Wallace came from outside Heriots’ original squad selection to score an impressive seven tries and win two MOM’s in nine appearances.
15. Glenn Bryce (Stirling Wolves)
14. Aidan Cross (Southern Knights)
13. Matt Davidson (Heriot’s)
12. Robert Beattie (Ayrshire Bulls)
11. Ross McKnight (Stirling Wolves)
10. Jason Baggott (Watsonians)
9. Kaleem Barreto (Boroughmuir Bears)
1. Andrew Nimmo (Ayrshire Bulls)
2. Gregor Hiddleston (Stirling Wolves)
3. Euan McLaren (Heriot’s)
4. Jack Fisher (Boroughmuir Bears)
5. Luis Ball (Watsonians)
6. Connor Gordon (Stirling Wolves)
7. Freddy Douglas (Future XV)
8. Blair Macpherson (Ayrshire Bulls)
16. Corbin Thunder (Southern Knights)
17. Jack Dobie (Southern Knights)
18. Martin McGinley (Boroughmuir Bears)
19. Ed Bloodworth (Ayrshire Bulls)
20. Ed Hadsell (Stirling Wolves)
21. Fin Campbell (Heriot’s)
22. Marcus Holden (Stirling Wolves)
23. Amena Caqusau (Future XV)