Super Series Sprint: Ayrshire Bulls book final place with win over 14-man Watsonians

Early Bobby Bratton sending-off takes toll on visitors late in the game

Ayrshire Bulls eventually got the better of Watsonians in the last regular-season round of the Super Series Sprint.
Ayrshire Bulls eventually got the better of Watsonians in the last regular-season round of the Super Series Sprint.

Ayrshire Bulls 59

Watsonians 24


IN the end, a straight red card made it all too easy for Ayrshire Bulls to ease their way through to next week’s FOSROC Super Series Sprint final, but don’t let that fool you. The reality was that 14-man Watsonians could have taken the lead coming up to the hour mark and it was only in the final quarter that the home side ran away with the game.

Until then, it had been a high-octane, helter-skelter game with both sides hammering away at each other for most of the match as two ambitious teams laid on a show of attacking play.

But the game was only nine minutes old when Watsonians prop Bobby Bratton had his moment of madness as he head-butted an opponent and left the officials with no option other than to order him from the field. While his team-mates did their best to rescue his embarrassment, it had its inevitable effect in the final quarter. The Myreside team will now be in next Saturday’s third-place play-off match – unless today’s Heriot’s v Stirling Wolves game is a low-scoring draw.

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“The red card was a shame, because you had two good teams going hard at it,” admitted winning coach Pat MacArthur. “Credit to Watsonians, they really stuck in and it took a bit of experience while the subs made massive impact. By the end they started to tire and we pulled away, but it took some time to shrug them off.

“We want to stretch teams and there is a fine balance between doing that and playing too loose and making mistakes. It’s a case of learning from these things. When we had their team stretched, the opportunities are there and I’m encouraging the boys to go for it. It is just a question of being able to execute it nine times out of ten, rather than 75 percent of the time.”

There was no hiding the disappointment for Steve Scott, the Watsonians coach, who had to admit it had been an utterly clear red card and in the end his side, already stretched to the limit by injuries, simply ran out of steam.

“Up until 60 minutes we were in the game, we had momentum,” he said. “We just had a couple of errors, we execute poorly, and that releases the pressure. I couldn’t question the effort from the boys, particularly after that red card. There was a huge amount of effort, a real desire and motivation to win this game.”

With so much riding on the game, both teams seemed determined to start the drama nice and early. So early, in fact, that entire matches have gone by with less incident than these sides managed to cram into the opening period alone.

Watsonians, already coping with a pile of injuries, lost another when George Pringle went off in only the second minute but, with a penalty coming, they made the position work for them. They kicked for touch, mauled and then attacked the blindside with scrum-half Murray Scott putting wing Ben Riley in for the opening try.

If Watsonians thought that would settle things a bit, Ayr had a rude awakening in store. It started as a copy of the visitors score but they did vary things by heading into the openside with Kerr Yule, the centre, rushing onto the short ball from fly-half Frazier Climo to cross.

Then came the red card, though the immediate effect seemed to be to lift Watsonians as the 14 men, calmly controlled by fly-half Jason Baggott, worked their way downfield There was an element of luck as home wing Jamie Shedden seemed to panic dealing with a routine kick over his goal line. Instead of accepting a drop-out, he tried to clear, only to mess up his kick and allow Cal Davies, the Maroon hooker, to grab the ball, dummy and touch down.

It was an unlikely lead and, like the first, didn’t last. Shedden made amends for his mistake as he carved the defence open with a strong hand-off and put centre Bobby Beattie in for the levelling try.

The Bulls soon turned that into a lead with Grant Stewart, the hooker, being driven over from a lineout maul. Then they secured the try bonus point, with Shedden crossing after Yule had made the break and Climo’s high, floated pass gave him the space.

Eli Caven, the full-back, had converted the opening three tries but missed from the touchline before his side let the visitors back into the game with an interception, run in from halfway by Baggott.

Again, that seemed to revive Watsonians, who ended a breathless, see-saw first half as the pack took control. After setting up a dozen phases on the home line, there was space for full-back Jack Brown to cross. Crucially, however, Baggott couldn’t add the extras to either of those scores and it was the Bulls who held a narrow lead at the break.

They were lucky to hold onto it when Baggott missed a penalty from about 40 metres out in front of the posts but made the reprieve pay when they turned down a kickable penalty and drove the resulting maul over the line with Stewart collecting his second.

Chasing the game added a measure of panic to the Watsonians game as they tried too many miracle plays and paid the price when first Caven collected an attempted grubber kick and ran in from 60 metres out and then prop Calvin Henderson collected another and put Lewis McNamara, the flanker, in for their seventh try.

The eighth – which broke the 50-point barrier – came when replacement hooker Alex McGuire broke off a maul and put in Archie Smeaton. Finally, Beattie added another as Watsonians’ exhaustion caught up with them.


Teams –

Ayrshire Bulls: E Caven (C Eliot); J Shedden, R Beattie, K Yule, L Bardelli; F Climo (B Roderick-Evans, 51), G Baird (B Afshar, 59); A Nimmo (W Farquhar, 45), G Stewart (A McGuire, 59), C Henderson (C Miller, 59), E Bloodworth, R Jackson (A Smeaton, 9), R Sweeney (B Jardine, 51), L McNamara, B Macpherson (C).

Watsonians: J Brown; B Riley, G Pringle (L Berg, 2), S King, A Guthrie; J Baggott, M Scott (H Patterson, 56); H Courtney (C Davidson, 71), C Davies (C), R Bratton (red card: 9), L Ball, J Berrisford (K Watt, 56), S Cecil, C Wilson (M Wilson, 18), N Irvine-Hess (J Morris, 68).

Referee: J Perriam


Scorers –

Ayrshire Bulls: Tries: Yule, Beattie (2), Stewart (2), Shedden, Caven, McNamara, Smeaton. Cons: Caven (6), Roderick-Evans.

Watsonians: Tries: Riley, Davies, Baggott, Brown. Cons: Baggott (2).


Player of the Match: Realistically this award could have gone to most of the Ayr players with Caven claiming a try and kicking well, but when the game was in the balance, it was Grant Stewart who came up with the tries that made all the difference and gets the prize.

Talking point: With 13 tries and both teams attacking with style and ambition, this could have been a perfect advert for the Super Series concept, but the red card for Bobby Bratton meant it turned into a bit of a procession.

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About Lewis Stuart 42 Articles
Lewis has been writing about rugby for almost 40 years, the last 18 as a freelance based in Scotland bringing his wealth fo experience to just about every publication in the country. These days you can hear him as well by tuning in to his Wednesday night show on Rocksport Radio.

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