Super Series: Future XV push Ayrshire Bulls hard but come up short again

Shadow Scotland Under-20s side come within touching distance of first ever win

Ayrshire Bulls had to dig deep for their win over the Future XV. Image: Goerge McMillan
Ayrshire Bulls had to dig deep for their win over the Future XV. Image: Goerge McMillan

Ayrshire Bulls 26

Future XV 19

DAVID MCADAM @ Millbrae

THERE was a palpable sense of disappointment among the Future XV playing group at the end of this match, and that spoke volumes for how well they had played. They could have won this game – they haven’t been able to say that often in a difficult first season – and their disappointment was testimony to the fact that they knew they had really stepped up.

For Scott Forrest, Future XV co-coach with Fergus Pringle, how close his charges had come was a source of both pride and frustration. |On the outside, that result may have surprised a few people, but within the group it is not a surprise,” he said. “Where we have struggled all season is consistency – in the availability of players, in regular training sessions, in a run of matches – now we have gone three weeks in a row with the same group of players and we see them improving game on game. Hopefully people will see now why we are doing this XV.”

When these teams met earlier in the season, Ayrshire Bulls won 40-0 and there was an ominous start to this game for the Future XV, when after just five minutes the Bulls won their own line-out and effortlessly mauled over for a try with prop Jamie Drummond claiming the score, and the reliable Brad Roderick-Evans knocking the conversion over for a 7-0 lead.


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But the Future XV did not take long to hit back, and in doing so gave a clear indication that the narrative of this game was going to take a different course. When Johnny Morris won line-out ball at the tail, Fin Burgess spun the ball quickly to the muscular Kerr Yule at first receiver, who passed to the deeper sitting Isaac Coates, and he showed his passing skills with a long miss-pass to the prolific Amena Caqusau who finished clinically. With Coates adding the conversion it was 7-7 after 11 minutes and game on.

The Future XV were showing patience when they had ball, often going through four or five phases, before the Bulls seemed to inevitably win a turnover; when the Bulls had the ball the Future XV line speed in defence was impressive, but when Kerr Johnston sprung aggressively out of the line in the 26th minute, and missed his man, he left Luca Bardelli, intruding on his opposite wing, with the simple chance to put Thomas Glendinning over in the corner to restore Ayrshire Bulls lead at 12-7

Lewis McNamara was winning a lot of good line-out ball for the Bulls, and the home team’s scrum was proving dominant, but Morris was defending bravely at the base of a retreating set-piece, and his back-row colleagues Freddy Douglas and Tom Currie were competing bravely at the break down, as the Bulls struggled to put phases together to take control of the game.

Coates showed his full range of skills, with a 50-22 kick setting up a promising line-out for the Future XV, and a lovely grubber kick forcing Glendinning to carry over his own line under pressure from Caqusau, winning the Future XV a five-metre scrum. But despite these opportunities, the score remained 12-7 to the home side at half time.

Tom Banatvala came on at half-time for the Future XV and immediately showed his appetite for the game, with several strong aggressive carries, and a bit of a shift in momentum around the scrum. The Bulls brought on ‘the bomb squad’ five minutes into the half changing half their pack and their scrum-half, and while Fergus Johnston picked up the pace of clearances from their rucks and brought forwards and back on to the ball as willing runners, overall the replacements did not have the impact we might have expected for the home side.

After 16 minutes of the second half there was a bit of disquiet among the home crowd with more than one shouting “Come on Bulls! Raise your game!”, but it was the opposition who did that, with a line-out steal on halfway through Ryan Burke, followed by swift ball transfer through the backs’ hands to find Caqusau in the wide channel again, and from 30 metres out he again finished impressively with Coates converting his second try to give the Future XV the lead for the first time at 12-14.

 

Blair Macpherson looked a little embarrassed at this point and began to take the game to the Future XV single handedly. When substitute Rory Jackson rose highest in an attacking line-out for the Bulls, it was followed by a predictably powerful maul, from which substitute hooker Alex McGuire scored a text book try. Roderick-Evans again converted to give the Bulls a 19-14 lead with 15 minutes to go and the general feeling that the brave effort of the Future XV would end here.

But no one had told the players that, and instead they attacked at pace, first down the right side with Jerry Blyth Lafferty and Freddy Douglas both stretching the Bulls defence, and then down the left with another scintillating Caqusau break, which led to a fine try in the corner for Future XV substitute Callum Ferrie. That made it 19-19 with 12 minutes to go. Sadly in the course of setting up that try Caqusau was injured and had to leave the field prematurely.

Ayrshire Bulls had shown very little in their backs, but with 10 minutes left the sizeable Jamie Shedden at last found himself in space with the ball and headed purposefully for the line. Somehow the diminutive Jack Hocking with support from Johnston managed to keep him out and hopes of a first win for the Future XV remained a real possibility.

But it wasn’t to be: after fantastic scramble defence the Bulls won a scrum penalty in front of the posts and when Macpherson flicked the ball to Johnston, he needed no second invitation.

Both sides had used all their substitutes by this stage, which meant we had the joy of seeing the boy-man-mountain that is 17-year-old Ollie Blyth-Lafferty making an impact against the older but not any bigger Bulls forwards. He and his team-mates took the Bulls right to the wire, with Coates kicking through the defence for Fin Douglas to chase, but with the ball at his feet and the line beckoning, it just would not bounce up into arms and instead it bounced into the arms of the chasing Amino Bogidrau, who without a moment’s hesitation kicked it off the park to seal the win for a relieved home side.

Ayrshire Bulls coach Pat MacArthur was generous in his praise of the Future XV at full time. “Massive credit,” he said. “They fronted up physically with energy; there is a lot of talent in that team. They are getting better and better. The more time they spend together the better they get.”

But despite being run close by them he was not overly concerned about his own team. “We didn’t control the game properly today, which is disappointing, but we won’t be panicking,” he said. “We’ve got the home semi-final we were aiming for at the start of the season and we will be ready and firing and raring to go in two weeks’ time.”

 

Teams –

Ayrshire Bulls: C Hyde; L Bardelli, J Shedden, O Horne, T Glendinning; B Roderick-Evans, R Cullen; J Drummond, R Tanner, C Miller, E Bloodworth, O Baird, R Sweeney, L McNamara, B McPherson. Subs used: A McGuire, W Farquhar, C Henderson, R Jackson, T Brown, F Johnston, C Townsend, A Bogidrau.

Future XV: J Hocking; F Watson, K Johnston, K Yule, A Caqusau; I Coates, F Burgess; R Deans, J Blyth-Lafferty, R Burke, R Hart, T Currie, Freddy Douglas, J Morris. Subs used: M Brogan, T Banatvala, O Blyth-Lafferty, C Nolan, C Ferrie, J Beveridge, M Urwin, Finn Douglas

Referee: Finlay Brown

 

Scorers –

Ayrshire Bulls: Tries: Drummond, Glendinning, McGuire, Johnston; Cons: Roderick-Evans 3.

Futures XV: Tries: Caqusau 2, Ferrie; Cons: Coates 2.

Scoring sequence (Ayrshire Bulls first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-5; 7-7; 12-7 (h-t) 12-12; 12-14; 17-14; 19-14; 19-19; 24-19; 26-19

 

Man-of-the-Match: The whole of the back-row had their moments for the Future XV, Fin Burgess had his best game of the season in shaping their game-plan from scrum half, and Tom Banatvala raised the energy levels in the seconnd half, but double try scorer Amena Caqusau had the Bulls defence anxious every time he got the ball, and he deservedly wins man of the match.

Talking point: If Scott Forrest and Fergus Pringle had access to this squad from the start of the season and enjoyed uninterrupted game time with them, the results might have looked different. Hopefully, with some consistency of selection now, facing the larger packs of Ayrshire Bulls, Watsonians and Heriots will stand them in good stead for the physical opposition they will encounter as Scotland Under-20s in the Six Nations.


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About David McAdam 18 Articles
David has been watching club rugby round Scotland for more years than he can remember. Currently working for a charity supporting people returning to community after time in prison, Saturday afternoons are time to himself, standing behind posts, somewhere in the West of Scotland watching the progress of young Scottish players & enjoying the banter of local rugby people.

9 Comments

  1. Hi Chris , If you want an experiment to work,preparation is key . This group of young players were parachuted into this experiment with no preparation and literally thrown to the Wolves. I reckon they have done remarkably well. Of course there are posatives to be gained from them working/ playing together regularly , But getting beat every week ( hammered some weeks) is not doing them any favours. Gary Callander or Norman Morrison just needed to give me a look and my decision making got better!!

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    • I had my reservations about the Futures entering the competition but as it went on I could see the improvement, even in the big defeats. There are lessons to be learned and in my view the biggest one is to have a full strength well prepared squad if they are going to repeat this exercise. The start was disrupted at the start due to the U20’s competition prior to entering. If this was to happen again then the Futures team should maybe only play 6 games and not 12. There is no doubt they will be better prepared for this years 6 Nations, I’m not saying they will win more but hopefully they will be more competitive.
      As for being hammered every week and being bad for them, you learn in adversity and become a better player. One of my early seasons at Heriot’s we got destroyed in most games including 69/6 by Hawick and 40+ against Gala and Langholm, I learned more from these games than any others I played in, they are still fresh in my memory, I vowed it wouldn’t happen again and it didn’t.

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  2. Ian I think that could have been a good option definitely but what if this Future Team works?
    What if when they play in under 20 games, the tough defeats and tough opposition have made them and they go hard and win.
    Could that be the Future?
    Watching them progress it’s definitely a possibility.

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  3. Well done to the Futures squad. That’s an impressive performance and should be great experience to draw on when they go into the 6 nations. It’s a shame that when they get beaten heavily there is a pile on – but no comments when they do well. There seem to be a lot of supporters constantly looking for negatives and unable to celebrate the good rugby that gets played in Scotland.

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    • Whilst I don’t watch these games its encouraging to see the Futures playing better and sounds like they might have won which is a big improvement. This must be good experience for the players.

      I know that concerns have been raised about the large numbers being played over their games presumably partly due to the logistical challenges of getting a smaller group of players together all the time . This can be looked at as a positive also as your giving a bigger number of players some experience at this level which also helps with selection when you come to the U20’s Six Nations. OK it means there is not the continuity but there are always compromises.

      • Good point there, if they played 18 players all season, the voices would claim that it’s a closed shop and not fair on others. So they give a lot a chance to play and maybe impress or count themselves out. I’ve followed all the games and they are definately sifting through players and I’d say give or take a few SQ from further afield this is forming 8th the team they have going forward. There’s always room for late comers especially in the props department as lads grow. But that’s now three games they’ve been very close in… are they just where Southern Knights were in the last few comps 🤔 and yes impressive efforts tonight 🏉

    • Hi Stuart
      I want nothing more than these young players to be well prepared to play in the 6 nations. But playing them all in one team ,against more experienced teams every week is not the answer . The young players from the north should be playing for Wolves , south for Knights , west for Bulls, and east obviously one of the 3 other teams(that’s another story) . Playing alongside some experienced players, not just against them every game. The coaches Express some of the problems in the first paragraph above, these issues should have been thought about long before now. So give these young players some consistency, regular training sessions,and most importantly regular games , if they are under 21 say , they should be allowed to go back to their clubs to make sure they are getting regular game time . Tends to be very black and white on sites like this,my main gripe is we are not giving these young players the best chance to flourish and develop. S6 might have done this had it not been so hurriedly put together and poorly thought through and shockingly administered.

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      • Ian, I party agree and partly don’t. There is grey area in the middle that will be hard to get right if this experiment is to continue.

        To agree, having experience in the 15 and larger playing squad allows the young guys to learn from and see what’s expected. However, the guys to learn from are the pro’s that have played internationally or for a URC level team with the right growth mindset. They might account for this by getting that from training with Edinburgh and Glasgow.

        To counter – two points, if they have these experienced players, they are making the decisions on the pitch which is to the detriment of the young lads when it comes to the U20 comps. Two, cohesion seems to be buzz word at the moment, more time groups play together the better they are at understanding each other – the XV coaching group seems to elude to and are thinking this. You introduce pro’s, you remove that thinking to the detriment to players in the U20s comp.

        It’s an expirment that may or not work. I commend them on giving it a go. You learn from failures. First time failure is good, second time failure is stupidity, third time is ineptitude.

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      • Ian, more than a few would probably go along with much of what you suggest – not least because it looks very like a call to revert to the historically-successful tried and tested District representative system that formerly provided a direct, vertically-integrated link and traditional connections in each instance to all regional clubs. And, furthermore, would avoid placing undue / crippling administrative & financial pressures upon the unfortunate franchise-holding core clubs. There are numerous very different facets and metrics to be taken into account in all of this so-called Super Rugby arena.

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