Ayrshire Bulls 13
DAVID BARNES @ Millbrae
HERIOT’S completed a hat-trick of away wins in this first weekend of Super6 action thanks to a dominant pack performance and greater discipline, on a cold but crisp Sunday afternoon in South Ayrshire.
Having lost Ciaran Beattie – their initial appointment as head coach, who had done the lion’s share of the contracting for this season – back in July, Heriot’s have not had a straightforward run in to this new competition. However, with a strong backbone through the squad of players who were at the club last year, and Phil Smith returning as head coach until Andrew Kelly arrives in the New Year, there is a continuity there which stood them in good stead for this keenly contested encounter.
“We were pretty unclear about how it was going to go or where we were,” said Smith afterwards. “But we trusted that we had a good coaching team and a good bunch of players, so I didn’t doubt our ability but it [the performance] was probably a little bit more than I expected. That was probably a bit more comfortable than I would have thought.
“We thought our strength today was our bench,” he added. “We took a 6-2 forwards-backs split, which meant we were really able to bring on Chris Keen, Dan Gamble, Jack Mann, Ruaridh Leishman and Charlie Jupp to bolster the pack.”
Frazier Climo edged the Bulls into an early lead with a well-struck 40-yard penalty on five minutes, but the home team were soon on the back foot and, after flanker Graham Geldenhuys saw yellow for coming into a driven line-out from the side, Heriot’s really turned the screw with some powerful tight play which culminated in talismanic captain Iain Wilson rumbling over from close range, to set up an easy conversion for Ross Jones from right in front of the posts.
Heriot’s were straight back on the attack from the restart with James Couper and Wilson streaking down the left touchline, but when the ball was transferred across to the right the passing was first laboured and then wayward, before Jack McClean compounded the situation by gifting Tyler Beary an interception, which the New Zealander gratefully capitalised on with an unchallenged 40 yard run-in.
A fairly straightforward penalty from in front of the posts was easily despatched by Jones to square it, and then the visitors bulldozed ahead once again when that mighty maul marched its way over the line, with second-row Ronan Seydak the man to ground the ball.
Climo narrowed the gap with his second penalty of the afternoon and when Heriot’s second-row Adam Sinclair picked up a yellow for a high tackle on Harry Warr a minute later it left the match balanced on a 13-15 knife-edge at the change of ends.
This weekend’s Premiership reports:
Despite missing one of their biggest men, the Heriot’s pack power continued to cause the Bulls major problems, and it earned them a penalty try when the home side collapsed a lineout drive as it crossed the whitewash, with the hosts also losing replacement second-row Lars Morrice to the naughty step.
The Bulls rallied and spent much of the second half camped in the Heriot’s half, but didn’t really threaten to close the gap, and the game was killed off as a contest when Cameron Hutchison hit a great line to burst through the centre then fed Rory McMichael on his shoulder. The surge for the line was stopped just short, but David Armstrong picked up Ayr’s third yellow for killing the quick recycle, and Heriot’s opted to take the easy three points which stretched them 12 points clear with less than five minutes to play
“It is disappointing,” lamented Bulls head coach Peter Murchie. “It felt like we never got going. There was a number of issues. We seemed to have dominance at the scrum at the beginning of the game, but ended up being under pressure there, and our set-piece in general was an issue.
“Discipline was poor with three yellow cards against us. Defensively we were too passive, attacking-wise we never get going. You name it – we weren’t very good.
“Everyone was in the same boat, having gone so long since playing competitive games, but you try to mitigate that by working hard in pre-season. Heriot’s are probably the least changed of all the Super6 teams and they looked like a more cohesive unit today.
“The boys are down because we haven’t performed. We knew it was a big occasion and we haven’t performed the way we want to, so everyone is disappointed, but there is only one way to fix it which is by training hard and sorting it out. We’ve been there before and we just have to see a reaction. It is not panic stations yet – it is only week one – but we have to be better.”
Ayrshire Bulls: M Davidson (O Smith 61); R Nairn, T Beary, D McCluskey, C Gossman; F Climo (R Thompson 61), H Warr (D Armstrong 52); G Reid (M Scott 67), S Kitchen (L Anderson 71), N Griffiths (R Sayce 52), M Sykes (L Morrice 43), G Bordill, P McCallum, G Geldehnhuys (G Wilson 61), B MacPherson.
Heriot’s: R Jones; R McMichael, R Kay (J Couper 57-66), C Hutchison, J Couper (J Blain 49); S Edwards, A Simmers (A Ball 55); A Nimmo (C Keen 27), M Liness, S Cessford (D Gamble 50), R Seydak (R Leishman 55), A Sinclair (C Jupp 49), I Wilson, J McClean (J Mann 55), J Hill (J McLean 73).
Referee: Keith Allen.
Ayrshire Bulls: Try: Beary. Con: Climo. Pens: Climo 2.
Heriot’s: Tries: Wilson, Seydak, Penalty Try. Cons: Jones 2. Pens: Jones 2.
Scoring sequence (Ayrshire Bulls first): 3-0; 3-5; 3-7; 8-7; 10-7; 10-10; 10-15; 13-15 (h-t) 13-22; 13-25.
Yellow cards –
Ayrshire Bulls: Geldenhuys, Morrice, Armstrong
Heriot’s: Sinclair, Hutchison.
Man of the Match: Pack power won of it for Heriot’s, with their big front-five steamrollering all before them, while courageous captain Iain Wilson was a force of nature at blindside flanker. Centre Cameron Hutchison got the official gong, which was also a fair choice.
Talking point: Five yellow cards in this game make it 10 over the three fixtures during this inaugural Super6 weekend – a sign of things to come?