Ayrshire Bulls 45
Stirling Wolves 17
MATT VALLANCE @ Millbrae
AYRSHIRE BULLS piled the pressure onto Heriot’s at the top of the Super Series table with this bonus point win over the Wolves, but, forget the scoreline, this game was far from the cakewalk that score might indicate.
In truth, it was won and lost in seven first-half minutes, during which Wolves lost the influential Connor Gordon to a red card, and, before they could recover their composure they shipped three tries – game over.
“There was no malice in Connor’s challenge [on the airborne Jamie Shedden] but in today’s climate it’s a red card,” said Wolves coach Eddie Pollock. “Afterwards we imploded completely and that’s what disappoints me most.
“We played a lot of good stuff, made some splendid line breaks, but we didn’t finish and I felt the score didn’t reflect the game. I’m very proud of the effort the boys put in.”
For the Bulls, Pat McArthur said: “It was a good win. Stirling has a strong set piece and we responded to that challenge well. We played some good stuff, showed our skill set and didn’t go into our shell in difficult conditions. I’m satisfied with the night.”
After subduing Wolves’ opening thrust, the Bulls went onto the attack and butchered several good chances before their pressure paid off in seven minutes when Blair Macpherson sprinted onto Reiss Cullen’s pop pass to power over, Bradley Roderick-Evans adding the extras.
But Wolves hit back five minutes later, with a somewhat fortuitous try – well, a fortuitous build-up, as Moby Ogunlaja‘s off-load ricocheted off referee Rob McDowall into Wolves’ hands. However, there was nothing wrong with the line Gordon ran to burst through and score the try, converted by Marcus Holden.
It was even-steven before, in the 20th minute, Gordon had that coming together with Shedden, right in front of assistant referee Mike Adamson. Off went the Wolf, Bulls went on the attack, and when Cullen was hit high by Craig Jackson, referee McDowall headed for the posts. Penalty try to Bulls and a yellow card for Jackson.
Bulls turned the screw further from the restart, running the ball back, and Rory Jackson‘s off-load enabled Bobby Beattie to sprint clear for their third try, converted again by Roderick-Evans. Five minutes later, Beattie was at it again, fastening onto a charged-down clearance before jinking through for an unconverted try.
However, the half didn’t end well for the home team, who had to defend in depth to keep out the rampant Wolves, as the visitors attempted to take advantage of a yellow card for Macpherson.
Bulls increased their lead just three minutes into the second half. Lewis McNamara, who had replaced Ryan Sweeney shortly before the break, finished off a bout of passing off lineout ball, with Roderick-Evans again converting.
A stream of changes from both sides meant the game lost its shape for a while, before Wolves cut the deficit in 64 minutes, Ross McKnight, who had come off the bench ten minutes before, showed great pace and power, running through two attempted tackles on a 50-metre scoring run.
However, three minutes later, Bulls cancelled out that score when Roderick-Evans, who had switched to centre after Christian Townsend replaced the injured Beattie, ran an incisive line to score in the corner. He was unable to convert, however.
Wolves felt they could secure a four-try bonus point and they indeed got a third, with eight minutes left, when solid mauling from their pack off lineout ball saw replacement hooker Sam Rainey claim the touchdown.
But, that fourth Wolves try didn’t arrive and the Bulls had the final word with an all-Welsh seventh try. Replacement hooker Rhodri Tanner carried at the back of an advancing maul, before breaking off to score, with Roderick-Evans goaling the conversion to complete the scoring.
Ayrshire Bulls: C Hyde; J Shedden, C Elliot, R Beattie, T Glendinnings; B Roderick-Evans, R Cullen; J Drummond, A McGuire, C Henderson, E Bloodworth, R Jackson, R Sweeney, T Brown, B Macpherson. Replacements (all used): Rhodri Tanner, Andrew Nimmo, Will Farquhar, Oscar Baird, Lewis McNamara, Fergus Johnston, Christian Townsend, Aminio Bogidran.
Stirling Wolves: G Bryce; S Rockley, R Southern, M Holden, M Heron; C Jackson, K McGhie; G Breese, R Kennedy, M Ogunlaja, H Ferguson, J Pow, R Knott, C Gordon, E Hasdell. Replacements (all used): Sam Rainey, Lliam Quarm, Lewis Skinner Tom Smith, Ed Timpson, Eric Davey, Cameron Scott, Ross McKinght.
Referee: Rob McDowall.
Ayrshire Bulls: Tries: Macpherson, Penalty Try, Beattie 2, McNamara, Roderick-Evans, Tanner; Cons: Roderick-Evans 4.
Stirling Wolves: Tries: Gordon, McKnight, Rainey; Con: Holden.
Scoring sequence (Bulls first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-5; 7-7; 12-7; 14-7; 19-7; 21-7; 26-7 (h-T) 31-7; 33-7; 33-12; 38-12; 38-17; 43-17; 45-17.
Yellow Cards –
Ayrshire Bulls: Macpherson (37 mins).
Stirling Wolves: Jackson (22 mins).
Red Card –
Stirling Wolves: Gordon (20 mins).
Player-of-the-Match: The official call went to Bulls’ second row Ed Bloodworth, but, for my money Bobby Beattie, with his incisive running and sumptuous off-loading, asked midfield questions which Wolves struggled to answer. He was Bulls’ top attacker.
Talking point: You have to feel sorry for the red-carded Connor Gordon, who really could do nothing to avoid the collision with the airborne Shedden. He was watching the ball. We accept safety requirements, but World Rugby really needs to look at such collisions.