Super Series: revenge is a dish best served cold for Ayrshire Bulls versus Stirling Wolves

Home hooker James Malcolm leads the way with four tries

James Malcolm scored four tries for Ayrshire Bulls versus Stirling Wolves. Image: George McMillan
James Malcolm scored four tries for Ayrshire Bulls versus Stirling Wolves. Image: George McMillan

Ayrshire Bulls 43

Stirling Wolves 21

LEWIS STUART @ Millbrae

AYRSHIRE BULLS claimed a measure of revenge for their defeat in the Super Series Championship Final at Hive Stadium a few short months ago with a seven try rout of Stirling Wolves. In a high-intensity game highlighting just what Scottish rugby will be losing when the competition is scrapped in the summer, they had too much power and too much fight for the team that had humbled them last time out.

Despite raw memories of the last campaign, Pat MacArthur, the Bulls coach, made sure the memories of the last match were not rekindled until the final moments before kick off and it worked as a tactic.

“I didn’t mention it until the team talk before the game,” he said. “It was all tactical before then but the last thing I said was that this was the team that had stopped them winning the Super Series, so how were they going to deal with that. I think they showed the answer .


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“The thing is that I think we can get even better. There were a lot of massive positives, winning being the main one. We are such a dangerous team across the park. When we get the set-piece right we have a really good back-five, give them space and they open teams up.

“We have worked hard over the pre-season. Bobby Beattie took it and a big part of that, especially with the forwards, was a lot of wrestling and judo for the last five weeks. It was all about combat and that showed in their approach to the game.”

It was certainly too aggressive for Stirling whose forwards never really got going while the backs made too many handling mistakes under pressure to help them out.

It was a disappointing start for the Supper Series champions but Eddie Pollock, their head coach, knows they have the capacity to bounce back.

“Bulls were really physical and we didn’t cope with that,” he said. “It was a tough first hit-out of the campaign but we will regroup and get better. We got ourselves back in the game after a poor start but then gave away scores just before half-time and that really hurt us, at this level it is the really small things that count.”

Where both coaches agreed was that it had been a high-quality game, exactly the level that had been envisioned when the Super6 was first inaugurated. The irony that fans were being treated to this kind of rugby as the project is being scrapped was not lost on either of them.

While it was as showcase for the whole semi-pro project, it was also a game with some needle. It may have been five months since the Wolves upset the odds with that Super Series win but nobody in Ayr has forgotten it.

However low-key memories of the last game had been kept, the Bulls started like a team out for revenge, mauling their way upfield and when lock Rory Jackson was held up over the line, they simply reloaded. Second time round nothing was going to stop hooker James Malcolm from touching down.

Strling did hit back but their handling was letting them down every time they created space and pressure until out of the blue they suddenly got things gloriously right with skipper Marcus Holden making the break and full-back Glenn Bryce acting as a silky link man to give wing Mike Heron the chance to skip round the final tackle and score, with Holden putting his side in front with the conversion.

 

 

The lead did not last long as the Bulls kept finding space on the outside with wing Jamie Shedden a particular menace, but it was the power of their forwards that restored the home scoreboard advantage as another line-out maul rumbled over the line with Malcolm again the man to ground the ball. This time David McCartney, the fly-half, had no problem what the conversion.

By now the Bulls were dominating territory and possession with Beattie showing the threat in their backs with a superb solo break that would have brought a score but for some classy defence from Bryce. He only delayed the inevitable, though, with another penalty setting up another maul and Malcolm claiming his hat trick inside 30 minutes.

Stirling did hit back when they at last got a line-out maul to work with hooker Joseph Roberts getting the touchdown but the half ended with with Blair Macpherson, the home skipper and No8, driving over from short range to secure the try-bonus before half-time.

The pattern continued after the break with Reiss Cullen, the home scrum half, sparking the break and then providing the long pass that put wing Luca Bardelli in for another try as Bulls motored up through the gears.

There was nothing they could do when Ryan Southern, the Stirling centre, made space for himself on a mesmerising solo run that brought his side back into the game, but Bulls wasted little time in reasserting their dominance with Mason Cullen coming in on an angle off his wing to cut through and score, and the home lead was made even more luxurious when Malcolm latched onto the back of another maul for his fourth try.

It was a classy display of all-court rugby with the forwards in control and the backs finding space to make sure they kept the pressure on their opponents, but MacArthur knows it is nothing more than an encouraging start.

 

Teams –  

Ayrshire Bulls: R Orr (M Kershaw 51); J Shedden, A Stirrat, B Beattie, L Bardelli (M Cullen 54); D McCartney, R Cullen (F Johnston 51); J Drummond (J Shearer 70), J Malcolm, C Henderson (C Miller 60), E Bloodworth, R Jackson, R Sweeney (O Baird 5), T Brown (T Glendenning 70), B MacPherson (R Tanner 51).

Stirling Wolves: G Bryce; M Heron (E Cunningham 46, L Jarvie 63), R Southern, M Holden, R McKnight; C Jackson, K Mcghie (E Davey 46); L Quarm (B Cullen 60), J Roberts (D Montgomery 70), S Longwell (M Tamosaitis 60), J Pow (A Clarke 70), J Oguntibeju, R Knott, S Macdonald (M Duncan 46), E Hasdell.

Referee: R Campbell

 

Scorers –

Ayrshire Bulls: Tries: Malcolm 4, Macpherson, Bardelli, Cullen; Cons: McCartney 4.

Stirling Wolves: Tries: Heron, Roberts, Southern; Cons: Holden 3.

Scoring sequence (Ayrshire Bulls first): 5-0; 5-5; 5-7;  10-7; 12-7; 17-7; 19-7; 19-12; 19-14; 24-14; 26-14 (h-t) 29-14; 31-14; 31-19; 31-21; 36-21; 38-21; 43-21.

 

Player-of-the-Match: He may not have had to do much more than push at the back of mauls for his four tries but James Malcolm still got himself in the right places at the right time to make a real difference in a classy all-round display.

Talking Point: In terms of intensity and skill level, this was pretty much exactly what was envisioned when the Super Series experiment was launched five years ago, a demonstration to the bosses in Murrayfield of just what they are losing when the concept is scrapped.


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About Lewis Stuart 74 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.

2 Comments

  1. Aye exciting game – would be curious how the likely winners of the prem Hawick would do against Ayr – perhaps a friendly once all the games are done? That could really tell us if there is a difference in quality for young players looking to make the step up.

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    • They will be playing in the premiership next season so presumably you’ll get your wish.

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