Super Series: Ayrshire Bulls blow Watsonians away after the break

Hosts' ability to stick to task key as they re-assert their title credentials

James Malcolm on the charge for Ayrshire Bulls versus Watsonians. Image: George McMillan
James Malcolm on the charge for Ayrshire Bulls versus Watsonians. Image: George McMillan

Ayrshire Bulls 46

Watsonians 7

LEWIS STUART @ Millbrae

EIGHT-TRY Ayrshire Bulls swept their way past another challenger in the Super Series Sprint to set themselves up as early front-runners in the race for the title. They were made to work hard for 40 minutes but a purple patch immediately after the break took them well clear of their opponents and allowed them to finish the game in cruise control.

What was particularly pleasing for coach Pat MacArthur was that this was a game where the forwards set things up but it was the backs who delivered the key blows, running in a trio of tries from their own half to take the match from a close contest to a walk in the park.

“A lot of it wasn’t easy at all, some of the hits were massive and you can see the physicality and the pace it was going at,” he insisted. “Once we calmed down and went back to our structure and what we practice we were dangerous. We’ve just got to stop getting carried away.


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“When we start being able to put the ball wide-to-wide but still be in control we have some dangerous players. We have a lot of threat out there. I said off the back of last week that I want to actually use space more. I do the forwards and set-piece but I also want to play expansive rugby. You see when you can marry the two of them, that’s when we get to be the team that we’re trying to be.”

For Bulls, the game was always a chance to see off one of their traditional rivals, but for Watsonians it was more a case of desperation to make amends for a sloppy performance last week.

The frustration for Fraser Brown, the head coach, is that in many ways this week showed exactly the same problems as he had seen in round one. A lot of positive stuff as long as the players stuck to their structures but 10 minutes of shambles gave away 28 points and all chance of redemption was gone.

“We battled pretty well in that first half at times, we played well and did exactly what talked about all week,” he said. “We did give away a soft score just before half time but by and large, I was reasonably pleased.

“Then it was just another crazy spell. I think we conceded 20 points in seven minutes, the same as last week. It was just crazy and the game was gone. That’s pretty frustrating.

“We just went away from what worked, from what we planned to do all week. That last 20 minutes is difficult because you’re chasing a big score but I thought we defended pretty well and hung in there at the end.

“We didn’t look after the ball well enough but did create a lot of opportunities – we just didn’t didn’t take them. Defensively, when we stuck to the structure we defended really, really well, but we also had a couple of crazy moments.”

 

 

Which pretty well sums it up. The opening exchanges mostly played out within 20 metres of the half way line with neither side able to make much headway. It meant that when the breakthrough came, almost inevitably, it arrived through a mistake, Watsonians making a mess of a rare line-out in their 22 for James Malcolm, the Bulls hooker, to pick off the loose ball and go over.

Watsonians’ reply was not long coming, though. For the first time they managed to establish a bit of territory after wing Ryan Coetzer had almost escaped with a loose ball claimed near halfway. They won a couple of mauls in the home 22, then moved the ball out to the right, where full-back and big brother Dom Coetzer stretched the defence so that when centre Fin Thomson received possession, he had space to feed his colleague Lewis Berg for the try.

With skipper Jason Baggot converting, Watsonians were ahead for the first and only time. Instead of pushing on, it was the cue for Bulls to find their attacking gear out wide. It started with the power of Jamie Shedden coming in off his wing to punch a gap thorough midfield. No 8 Blair MacPherson was there in support, with his offload to Lewis McNamara keeping the move alive. Full-back Marcus Kershaw came up with the killer pass that took out two defenders and wing Mason Cullen did the rest, racing in from 40 metres out.

Watsonians might have levelled things but Baggott’s penalty drifted just outside the posts and with time running out in the half, Bulls struck again.

The killer touch again came from MacPherson, who got up from injury treatment in midfield to collect a kick through and charge back into the fray. Again, his offloading skills kept the move alive, through prop Jamie Drummond to scrum-half Reiss Cullen, who drew the final defender and put man-of-the-match Andy Stirrat in for the try.

 

 

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While it was still close on the scoreboard at 15-7 at the break, the opening 40 minutes seemed to have sapped the power from Watsonians and four quick-fire home scores put the game to bed. The opening came from a maul as the visitors’ pack crumbled with lock Rory Jackson grounding the ball, but there were fewer excuses for the tackling problems which let in the next three.

Replacement centre Robbie Orr started it by finding a gap in midfield and running it in, and it was almost an action replay as Cullen broke from his own half and outpaced the struggling defence.

When Kershaw took advantage of some equally friendly defence to score the Bulls’ seventh try, the game was dead as a contest though Watsonians did manage to get a grip on things for a while.

But Baggott saw yellow for a deliberate knock-on in the shadow of his posts, and Bulls had a simple enough job driving the scrum for No 8 MacPherson to go over for his side’s eighth try,

By now the spark had gone out of the match. Watsonians did wrestle their way back into the contest again and with a 39 point lead, some of the fire deserted the Bulls as the game drifted to a tame finish. The contest had ended long before the hour mark.

 

Teams –

Ayrshire Bulls: M Kershaw; J Shedden, A Stirrat, B Beattie, M Cullen (T Glendinning, 58-74); D McCartney (R Orr, 41), R Cullen (F Johnston, 50); J Drummond (J Shearer, 65), J Malcolm (A McGuire, 56), C Henderson (R Tanner, 50), E Bloodworth, R Jackson, L McNamara, T Brown (O Baird, 56), B MacPherson (S Rae, 69).

Watsonians: D Coetzer (J Brown, ); R Coetzer, L Berg, F Thomson (S Clark, 57), J Mitchell; J Baggott (C), M Scott (H Flinn, 46); R Deans (C Davidson, 56), G Parry (F Duraj, 68), B Bratton (C Lamberton, 47), L Ball (A McInnes, 65), J Parkinson (K Watt, 59), S Cecil, O Gordon, K Van Niekerk.

Referee: Finlay Brown

 

Scorers –

Ayrshire Bulls: Tries: Malcolm, M Cullen, Stirrat, Jackson, Orr, R Cullen, Kershaw, MacPherson; Con: Kershaw 2, Johnston.

Watsonians: Try: Berg; Con: Baggott.

Scoring sequence (Ayrshire Bulls first): 5-0; 5-5; 5-7; 10-7; 15-7 (h-t) 20-7; 25-7; 27-7; 32-7; 37-7; 39-7; 44-7; 46-7.

 

Yellow cards –

Watsonians: Baggott (57 mins)

Player-of-the-Match: Centre Andy Stirrat got the official award but it was the forwards who laid the platform for the backs to strut their stuff and nobody showed that more than skipper Blair MacPherson, who gets our award with the moment he shrugged off the physios treating his injury to set up a try a highlight.

Talking Point: Consistency was the key difference between the teams. Bulls have a system and stuck to it until the match cracked open in their favour. Watsonians, in contrast, looked good in spells but every so often seemed to forget what they were meant to be doing and paid the price.


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About Lewis Stuart 77 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. If many of this bulls team in the prem next season…ooft… can’t wait 💣🔥level above

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  2. Watching the TV coverage, I was particularly struck by the performance of referee Finlay Brown. He communicated brilliantly with the players; was firm in his decisions and totally on top of events.

    He ought to be getting more URC games.

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    1

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