Pre-season friendly: Glasgow hold on to get the better of the Bulls

Late fightback by Super6 champions just fails to produce a shock result in Inverness

Jack Dempsey was try-scorer for Glasgow Warriors in their pre-season hit-out against Ayrshire Bulls. Image: © Craig Watson -
Jack Dempsey was try-scorer for Glasgow Warriors in their pre-season hit-out against Ayrshire Bulls. Image: © Craig Watson -

Glasgow Warriors 22

Ayrshire Bulls 17

STUART BATHGATE @ the Caledonian Stadium

IN the end, this was close to an ideal first pre-season outing for Glasgow, and for Franco Smith in his first game as head coach. It was a win, with enough positive points to provide encouragement for the tougher challenges ahead. But it was also a demanding game which tested the Warriors’ powers of concentration thanks to the Ayrshire Bulls’ willingness to fight all the way to the death.

Indeed, having fought back from 22-3 behind to score two converted tries in the final ten minutes, the Super6 champions came close to pulling off an upset. It was therefore a relieved Smith who, before assessing his own team’s efforts in his post-match press conference, insisted on praising their opponents.

“I must compliment them for bringing the fight to us,” he said of the Bulls, who had only stepped in on Wednesday after Worcester had pulled out. “I want to thank them.

“I said to our boys that they helped us a lot. We needed this hit out and a bit of contact. The effort they put in actually helped.”

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Asked if he was happy with his own team, the coach continued: “No, not quite. But it’s a starting point, and you’ve got to see it in context. There was some really good stuff – I think we defended well in the first half, our scrum did well, and we drove well. Our kicking game was OK, especially in the first half. Just on the attack side of things we didn’t finish our opportunities in the first half and it became a little bit unravelled. 

“With a different team going on in the second half we had to start again. But again, compliments to the Bulls – they came out in the second half and kept the intensity up.”

Being only part-time professionals, the Bulls were not expected to provide quite the stern test for Glasgow that Worcester would have done. But one obvious factor in their favour was the fact that they are now five games into their season. And, being a month ahead of the Warriors, they seemed to be a little bit more familiar with each other at times. 

The Bulls were dealt an early blow when Bobby Beattie, a key player for them in Super6 this season and one of several former Warriors in their ranks, went off injured. They continued to take the game to Glasgow, however, and enjoyed the lion’s share of territory and possession in a scoreless first quarter.

Given the number of substitutes listed by both sides, you would expect the game to lose its shape as the changes mounted in the second half. But you would also expect it to have a little more coherence in the first half than was the case.

Glasgow did attempt a few promising forays from deep, and winger Walter Fifita provided their first real threatening moment with a burst up the left flank. Newly-appointed captain Kyle Steyn was another conspicuously busy figure for Smith’s side, mixing his game up well with some runs from deep and a couple of well-judged kicks.   

With 25 minutes gone, Fifita had another break, this time getting within a couple of metres of the line before being ushered into touch. The Warriors had got on top by that time, and they took the lead five minutes further on. Clean ball was secured from a line-out five metres from the Bulls line, and Johnny Matthews finished off with his customary aplomb. Domingo Miotti’s conversion attempt went wide.

The Bulls narrowed the gap two minutes before half-time with a 40-metre penalty from Richie Simpson, but Glasgow hit back immediately with their second try, finished off between the posts by George Horne after a rapid counter-attack. Miotti was on target this time to make it 12-3 at the break.


Some of the momentum the Warriors had gathered during those latter stages of the first half appeared to have been dissipated both by the interval and by the number of substitutions made. Even so, they remained on top, and increased their lead after 45 minutes through another line-out drive, this time finished off by Fraser Brown. Joel Hodgson had taken over the kicking duties, but his attempt on goal went wide.

Just before the hour mark, Jack Dempsey got Glasgow’s fourth try of the night, again unconverted, finishing off from close range after a break down the right by Stafford McDowall.

The Bulls stuck to their task well despite being 19 points behind, and went on to produce that late fightback. Their first came from Jamie Drummond, with a line-out again being the source. The conversion was by Will Hunt, who had started the night on the Warriors bench but came on for the Bulls.

Then, after a sustained assault on the line, Hunt dashed through a gap to touch down, and converted to make it a five-point game. There were still three minutes to play at that point, but the one chance the Bulls had to pull off a shock went a-begging when they coughed up possession from a lineout on the edge of the Glasgow 22. 


Teams –

Glasgow Warriors:  C Forbes; W Fifita, S McDowall, T Jordan, K Steyn (captain), D Miotti, G Horne; N McBeth, J Matthews, S Berghan, L Bean, R Gray, S Manjezi, T Gordon, S Vailanu. Substitutes: F Brown, M Walker, L Sordoni, A Samuel, E Ferrie, JP du Preez, R Wilson, J Dempsey, C Jones, B Afshar, J Hodgson, W Hunt, A Stirrat, R McKnight, S Cancelliere.  

Ayrshire Bulls: Liam McNamara; J Shedden, R Beattie, A Stirrat, T Glendinning; R Simpson, J Lenac; A Nimmo, J Malcolm, M Scott, E Bloodworth, A Samuel, R Jackson, Lewis McNamara, B Macpherson (captain). Substitutes: W Farquhar, A Rogers, A McGuire, J Drummond, C Henderson, E Hamilton-Bulger, T Brown, G Wilson, F Climo, C Elliot, A Tait, E Caven.

Referee: Hollie Davidson. 


Scorers – 

Glasgow: Tries: Matthews, Horne, Brown, Dempsey; Con: Miotti.

Ayrshire Bulls: Tries: Drummond, Hunt; Cons: Hunt 2; Pen: Simpson.

Scoring sequence (Glasgow first): 5-0; 5-3; 10-3; 12-3 (h-t) 17-3; 22-3; 22-8; 22-10; 22-15; 22-17.


Attendance: 3,078.

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About Stuart Bathgate 1392 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.


  1. Well that the point of the super six to showcase these players. if he was as good as you say then he’ll be moved into one of the professional sides

  2. Someone with rugby knowledge needs to have a root and branch review of the Academy set up and fast. Rory Jackson was released by the Glasgow Academy at the start of the Summer. He was outstanding in this game, he played the full 80 minutes first half at blindside and the second half in the second row. Boy did he make a point!

    • Well that the point of the super six to showcase these players. if he was as good as you say then he’ll be moved into one of the professional sides

  3. Bulls played really well, fronted up and got under Glasgows skin in the final quarter. Glasgow did some good stuff but showed the same frailties as the end of last season with poor discipline and too many penalties, dropped balls at key moments in perfect conditions, some dodgy kicking, and completely lost momentum in the final quarter. Lots to work on but that’s the point of this preseason game!

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