Super Series: Ayrshire Bulls breeze past Southern Knights

Richie Simpson stars as Millbrae men maintain their 100 percent record

Richie Simpson on his way to the line for Ayrshire Bulls versus Southern Knights. Image: George McMillan
Richie Simpson on his way to the line for Ayrshire Bulls versus Southern Knights. Image: George McMillan

Ayrshire Bulls 54

Southern Knights 19


ON a glorious early summer’s afternoon at Millbrae, the Ayrshire Bulls bandwagon rolled over the top of a Southern Knights side who didn’t throw in the towel but were always up against it in terms of power and also the cohesion you can only get from having a settled squad with a strong nucleus which has played and trained together regularly over multiple seasons. 

Next up for Bulls is Glasgow Warriors ‘A’ back at Millbrae next Friday night. The pro side have struggled during this Sprint campaign, but will fancy making amends for some of the ignominy of having to call off their last game against Stirling Wolves by bringing the unbeaten table-toppers down a notch or two. It could be a cracker.

“It rolls on,” smiled Bulls head coach Pat MacArthur after the final whistle. “When we control the pace and what we do, we are a bloody good team. But if we let it get frantic and scrappy, that’s when teams get an ‘in’. Over the whole 80-minutes, we played in the correct areas and when it was controlled we looked powerful.”

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“Everyone was saying before kick-off that it was a nice day, and I was saying: ‘Yes, it is a lovely day to play rugby, but we do our basics which allows us to play an expansive game’,” he added. “It is not about just going to Hail-Mary rugby and spinning the ball about. If we get our set-piece correct, get the contact correct, then that will create space for our backs  and I think today they won the try-count, which is the biggest bone of contention in our coaching box!”

Bulls wasted no time in setting out their stall, with Tim Brown ripping possession off Robert Singer straight from kick-off and Richie Simpson scooting over on an arching run three phases later for a self-converted try, with less than a minute played.

The home side’s control was further rewarded on the scoreboard on 13 minutes when that infamous line-out maul rumbled over for an Alex McGuire try, converted by Simpson – but Knights struck right back with Jack Dobie the beneficiary of a charged down Bulls kick, with the big prop providing an exhibition of pace and delicate sidestepping to get past last-man Luca Bardelli on a 30-yard run in.

That gave Knights a boost of adrenalin, and they worked hard to take the game to Bulls, but it was a constant struggle given the ferocity with which the home side attacks every contact situation.

Slowly but surely, Bulls re-established their strangle-hold, and after letting a few scoring opportunities slip through their fingers, Simpson’s pace and balance brought try number three, scooping up his own half-blocked grubber and then dancing home from just outside the 22 like he was starring in an episode of Strictly.

And the bonus-point try was wrapped up just before half-time when Singer initially made some good hard yards in heavy traffic for Knights but then a loose pass out of contact from Dan Gamble and an aimless chip ahead from Finn Douglas handed Bulls a chance to send Jamie Shedden on a 40-yard rampage up the left touchline.



Bulls came close at the start of the second half when Simpson’s cross-kick almost found Thomas Glendinning unmarked on the right, but the bounce was just beyond the winger, so the hosts had to wait a few minutes longer for try number five, which was scored by the irrepressible Blair Macpherson, punishing Knights’ failure once again to exit their 22 in an orderly manner.

Shedden streaked over for his second a few minutes later and it was in danger of turning into a procession, so Knights deserve a tip of the hat for digging deep and just about keeping it respectable. Coach Scott Wight may also claim some of the credit because it was just after his five-man bench clearance that Allan Ferrie charged over for a confidence-boosting try.

Knights struck again by shipping the ball rightwards and creating enough of a space for Douglas to demonstrate his pace and deadly finishing ability, before Bulls got their side of the scoreboard rolling again when Marcus Kershaw slalomed into open space and then sent Bobbby Beattie under the posts.

Bulls’ replacement tight-head Rhodri Tanner brought the Millbrae faithful to their feet when he hit a deadly line to prise Knight’s defence wide open, but it didn’t lead to a try because Bardelli was squeezed out in the corner.

Knights also looked to entertain in the summer sun as the game meandered into its final 10 minutes, with Hector Patterson shooting up the middle of the park and feeding Douglas with a well-timed pass, but this time the winger was well marshalled by Shedden and Bardelli – and, with a lack of support, he ended up being forced into conceding a holding-on penalty.

It was Bulls power up front which provided the final flourish, with replacement hooker James Malcolm emerging with the ball after another line-out maul had marched over the visiting try-line.

“We’ve said all week that we need to avoid giving away penalties, we worked on our kicking game and our kick-chase to avoid the ball going out because we know that their maul is a big weapon, but unfortunately our discipline in the first half didn’t allow us to get into the game,” reflected Wight afterwards.

“We never have to question the boys’ effort and attitude, but when it’s such a short campaign and you are pulling boys in, it is really tough. Callum Crookshanks, Robbie Chalmers and Paddy Ritchie were with Edinburgh Accies until the Cup Final while only 10 boys stayed from the Championship last year.

“On the flip side, it has been good to get Yaree Fantini involved as a replacement for Monroe Job, who has done his ACL, because he is clearly a class act. We’ve got Heriot’s next week, so we’ll dust ourselves down and be ready to go again. We’re looking forward to it.”


Teams – 

Ayrshire Bulls: L Bardelli; J Shedden, A Stirrat (M Kershaw 41), B Beattie, T Glendinning; R Simpson (D McCartney, 50), R Cullen (F Johnston 41); J Shearer ( C Miller 41), A McGuire (J Malcolm), C Henderson (R Tanner 41), E Bloodworth (R Jackson 52), O Baird, L McNamara, T Brown, R Sweeney (B Macpherson 29).

Southern Knights: R Chalmers (E McVicker 48); F Douglas, A Hall (J Civil 52), E Greenlaw, R Brett (C Davidson,  57); C Grieve, H Patterson; J Dobie (Z Szwagrzak 52), H Morris (F Scott 52), D Gamble (C Crookshanks 52), A Runciman, D Cockburn (W Ferrie 52), A Ferrie, Y Fantini, B Singer (G Young 52).

Referee: Michael Todd


Scorers – 

Ayrshire Bulls: Tries: Simpson 2, McGuire, Shedden 2, Macpherson, Beattie, Malcolm; Con: Simpson 5, McCartney 2.

Southern Knights: Try: Dobie, A Ferrie, Douglas; Con: Grieve 2.

Scoring sequence (Ayrshire Bulls first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 14-5; 14-7; 19-7; 21-7; 26-7; 28-7 (h-t) 33-7; 35-7; 40-7; 40-12; 40-14; 40-19; 45-19; 47-19; 52-19; 54-19.


Player-of-the-Match: With two tries and five conversions for a total points haul of 20, plus some excellent heads-up rugby, Richie Simpson gets the nod. The former Scotland Under-20s stand-off missed the Super Series Championship with concussion, but is back and has lost none of his vision, accuracy, swagger and guts. The 21-year-old has x-factor and let’s hope he gets a chance to fulfil his potential.

Talking point: Man-of-the-match Richie Simpson is on a partnership contact with Glasgow Warriors and the big question is: who will he play for next week?

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About David Barnes 4011 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. Interesting to see this ‘Ayr’ team will compete in the Premiership next season. How will current clubs Currie, Hawick, Marr and Accies be able to compete for the league with an unstoppable force joining the league. It will be very interesting and some great match ups to look forward to, but I can’t see any current prem clubs stopping them next season.

    • Interesting to see how much of that Squad they will keep. I was at the game and on the way back to the train station, the taxi driver was telling me that his firm picked up at least eight players from the Glasgow area centrally from Catha Queens Club and took them to Milbrae and Back again for training and matches. Can’t see that continuing post Super Series.

  2. For next week – how about Ross Thompson and Richie Simpson as the respective number tens?

    Could be interesting.

    • Having watched both play for the Bulls, Simpson looks a better bet than Thompson. As you eluded to, be an interesting match up.


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