AYRSHIRE BULLS are boosted by the return from injury of talismanic midfielder Bobby Beattie for tomorrow evening’s Super Series play-off clash against Watsonians at Millbrae, with fellow centre Chris Elliot and loose-head prop Andrew Nimmo also fit again to be named in the home starting XV.
Elsewhere in the side, head coach Pat MacArthur has recalled Alex McGuire at hooker, Calvin Henderson at tight-head and Rory Jackson in the second-row, while switching Ollie Horne and Jamie Shedden from the centre to full-back and wing respectively, in place of Chris Hyde (benched) and Thomas Glendinning (out the match-day squad altogether).
“Having set the goal of a home semi-final right from the start of the season, the players have worked hard to get here,” said MacArthur. “We’ve now set our sights on returning to the Championship Final and the players will give it everything to make the home advantage count. The two teams know each other well and we expect physical, full 80 min contest. With the Club XV paying before us (3pm KO) we expect it to be a busy day at Millbrae.”
Meanwhile, Watsonians head coach Nikki Walker expressed his delight and being able to add No 8 Neil Irvine-Hess as captain, stand-off Lee Millar as vicecaptain and hooker Jake Kerr as a player who has been capped by Scotland to his starting XV.
“It’s nice to have to have experienced players back from injury just in time for the play-offs,” surmised Walker. “We know Millbrae is always a tough place to play and the fans there can create a great atmosphere to play rugby in. It’s probably the most difficult place to go and get a win.
“The Bulls has a huge amount of play-off experience having been in every Super Series Final so far. As a team they know how to manage play-off games, so we’ll have to be at our best.”
Ayrshire Bulls (versus Future XV at Millbrae on Saturday at 5pm): O Horne; J Shedden, C Elliot. R Beattie, L Bardelli; B Roderick-Evans, R Cullen; A Nimmo, A McGuire, C Henderson, E Bloodworth, R Jackson, R Sweeney, L McNamara, B Macpherson©. Substitutes: R Tanner, J Drummond, C Miller, O Baird, T Brown, F Johnston, C Townsend, T Glendinning.
Watsonians: D Coetzer; G Pringle, L Berg, S King, F Owsley; L Millar, C McAlpine; C Davidson, J Kerr, G Scougall, L Ball, K van Niekerk, S Cecil, K Main, N Irvine-Hess©. Substitues: P Harrison, D Voas, B Bratton, K Watt, A Scopes, F Duraj, M McAndrew, J Baggott.
Referee: David Sutherland
Key battle: Bobby Beattie versus Scott King
Verdict: Two teams with plenty of pedigree, but home advantage plus better form over the course of the season makes the Bulls marginal favourites.
Narrow home win.