Super Series: Blair Macpherson on running with the Ayrshire Bulls and chasing Sprint glory

Millbrae skipper says loss of key men to Glasgow Warriors 'A' will fuel table-toppers

Blair Macpherson on the charge for Ayrshire Bulls. Image: George McMillan
Blair Macpherson on the charge for Ayrshire Bulls. Image: George McMillan

AYRSHIRE BULLS welcome Glasgow Warriors ‘A’ to Millbrae on Friday evening and a quick glance at the Super Series Sprint table will tell you to bet the house on a home win. 

Bulls are tearing up trees in this Sprint campaign, the only team with a perfect four from four record with a huge points difference in their favour.

Meanwhile, the ‘Wannabe Warriors’ are winless and brought general ridicule upon themselves when unable to field a side against Stirling Wolves a fortnight back. The Bulls boast 20 league points, the Warriors ‘A’, err, minus five.


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But Bulls’ breakaway and squad skipper, Blair Macpherson, is buying none of the above. At 33, the No 8 is a veteran, a ticcy older than his close buddy and rival Pete McCallum who recently binned his boots, but Macpherson is still going strong and he forecasts a tricky night ahead, not least because Glasgow have stolen two of the Bulls better players in fly-half Richie Simpson and hooker Grant Stewart.

“It’s disappointing that they have Richie and Grant who have been great for us all season,” says Macpherson through gritted teeth, before pointing out that there are some other familiar faces from Millbrae in the Warriors line-up in the form of centre Kerr Yule and the little scrummy Ben Afshar.

“There is a good blend of youth and experience [in the Warriors team] with a strong front-row on the bench. A lot of boys will be looking to put their hat in the ring for the coming weeks in the URC so that should make for an entertaining game.

“I think we won 29-12 and then we got the opportunity to play against them in Inverness when Worcester couldn’t fulfil the fixture [in pre-season of 2022] and I think we only lost by five points against a fully-loaded squad with quite a lot of international players!

“I am quietly confident … the offsideline.com verdict … a home win … surely!?”

Macpehrson will lead the Bulls from the middle of the back-row where he has been a regular feature, initially swapping in with McCallum from blindside and the middle-row, for over a decade, albeit he took a two year sabbatical with Hillhead Jordanhill following a knee injury.

Many amateur rugby players look like amateurs, Macpherson has the build of a professional. He carries an impressive 120kgs lightly, like the athlete he is. With Scotland starter Jack Dempsey at least 10kgs lighter, you can’t help but wonder what might have been if Scottish Rugby had been a little better at identifying home grown talent? Still Macpherson has done well for someone who only focused on rugby from 16 onwards after a childhood spent as an ice hockey goalkeeper.

The closest he came to making the jump into the professional ranks came in the first year of Covid. Furloughed by his employer, GE Aerospace (he makes engines for 747 Dreamliners, since you ask), Macpherson was called in to train with the Warriors only to have his dreams dashed.

“The day I was meant to start training with Glasgow turned out to be the day I had to go back to work!”

 

 

Macpherson is an engaging character. He has thoroughly enjoyed the whole Super Series experience despite the major drawback of Groundhog Day syndrome, endlessly facing the same opposition after Covid undermined any plans of expanding the concept across borders.

If Scottish Rugby had the money, he would recommend keeping Edinburgh ‘A’, Glasgow Warriors ‘A’ and the Future XV teams as part of an ongoing Super Series … none of which is going to happen after Murrayfield’s last accounts ran deep into the red.

Despite the addition of son Archie to the Macpherson family, dad has promised himself one more season, back in a rejuvenated and competitive Premiership, with one eye on the silverware. If the Super Series was worth anything at all, the Bulls, sorry Ayr RFC, should be super competitive.

“The majority of boys are hanging around, especially in the forward pack,” says Macpherson. “In the back-line, I am unsure about the Lanarkshire Lions (a reference to the trio of Mason and Reiss Cullen and Robbie Orr),but in the forwards I don’t think there is anyone who has said that he is unavailable. We should have a fairly strong team going into next year.

“I am presuming that Heriot’s are going to be largely unchanged as well, most of those boys are in Edinburgh so they have no reason to leave. If you are playing for one of the better teams you would be daft to leave. It’s one of those things, I have read a lot of comments on forums saying: ‘Surely boys will go back to their clubs?’.

“But what people forget is that some of these boys have been playing for these [Super Series] clubs for four or five years. This is their club! It’s not like it’s Glasgow Warriors and it’s your job and if that job no longer exists you will go back home. The majority of these boys live near their clubs and it is as much their club as anyone else’s. So, I am confused when I read comments like: ‘Surely these boys will just disappear?’. Where are they going to go?

“They are going to want to play for the best team that they can and try and win things. That is why we all do it. I think the squads are going to be more settled than people expect.”

 

 

As a trained engineer would do, Macpherson wants to look at the numbers before declaring the Super Series a success. He asks out loud how many pros were delivered by the Premiership clubs in the five years before Covid and how many by the Super Series in the five years since? Anyone?

Macpherson concedes that a bit of him would have liked Glasgow ‘A’ to have fielded a side stacked with talent on Friday, just for the bragging rights when/if the Bulls beat them, but he is also wary of picking up injuries to key players and then failing to make the Sprint Final which looks like it may be against the Wolves … again.

The Bulls were ambushed by Stirling in the Super Series Championship final at the tail-end if 20923, and his parting comment suggests that Macpherson is a tad wary of a repeat performance.

“I think it’s probably a bit unfair that Stirling got five points because Glasgow were unable to produce a team!”

  • Ayrshire Bulls v Glasgow Warriors ‘A
  • Friday 24th May @ Millbrae.
  • Kick-off: 7.35 pm.

Super Series round five preview: Ayrshire Bulls v Glasgow Warriors ‘A’ and Watsonians v Edinburgh ‘A’

About Iain Morrison 151 Articles
Iain was capped 15 times for Scotland at openside flanker between his debut against Ireland during the 1993 Six Nations and his final match against New Zealand at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. He was twice a Cambridge ‘Blue’ and played his entire club career with London Scottish (being inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2016). Iain is a lifelong member of Linlithgow Rugby Club. After hanging up his boots, he became rugby correspondent for The Sunday Herald, before moving to The Scotland on Sunday for 16 years, and he has also guest written for various other publications.

2 Comments

  1. Probably the best player in the super6. Dynamic , aggressive and leads from the front. Shame his opportunity at the warriors didn’t materialise. Perhaps Edinburgh should give him a look over now they’re without Mata.

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  2. I agree wholeheartedly, if only the SRU looked around hard enough. The guy is a one man wrecking ball who shows the others week in week out the passion and never say die required to win. I hope he keeps playing until there is someone better. His chances of a pro contract shouldn’t be over at 32 either when you see some of the journeymen brought in at the big 2.

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