ON a weekend when all three of TOL’s MOM awards in the Super Series Championship went to wingers, it is obvious that something is going to have to give in our TOW selection in that position.
Not only did Ross McKnight score a barrowload of tries for Stirling Wolves, and Jack Blain returned from Australia to Goldenacre with an impressive quartet of his own, but Aidan Cross picked up man-of-the-match for an inventive 80 minutes at the Greenyards in which he made a winning impact for his Southern Knights side, and on another day Mason Cullen’s effort for the Bears might have had a similar effect.
While McKnight’s ‘five-for’ has propelled him to the top of the Super Series scoring charts, the Future XV defence was sadly lacking on Friday night, and so we have judged Blain’s foursome for Heriot’s to be of more value, and he wins the left wing slot with Cross on the other flank.
Incidentally, why is it that Blain, McKnight and before them Robbie Nairn have all looked to have the physique to follow Duhan Van Der Merwe into the Scotland ranks, but none of them, so far, have made a convincing case for sustained involvement in the professional game?
At full-back, Euan Cunningham had an instant impact on his return to Super Series after a summer in Australia with his team’s first try, and he was matched in the scoring department by three other full backs in Chris Hyde, Donald Crawford and Euan Muirhead. On this occasion we are opting for Hyde as the big striding full-back continues to progress for the Bulls after stepping up this season from GHA
The centres had fewer scoring contributions han normal, but some of this season’s ‘Mr Consistents’ were to the fore with assists again. Ryan Southern caught the eye for the Wolves, especially late on with his nimble footwork setting up tries for Mikey Heron, but he misses out to the fast hands of Matt Davidson who contributed two assists for Heriot’s, and the robust defence of Scott Robeson who led by example again for the Bears.
At stand-off, Craig Jackson showed the full variation of his creative powers in setting up lots of the Wolves tries, as well as finishing their best team try at Bridgehaugh, and for that reason he holds off Gregor McNeish this week, who managed the Knights game-plan well in their comeback win, and Christian Townsend, who continued his fine form for the Bulls since his return from his Autralian sojourn (A common theme!).
A number of scrum-halves won places on the try-scoring charts this weekend for their efforts, and one of them especially, Fin Campbell, must consider himself unlucky to lose out to the classy Kaleem Barreto who orchestrated the Bears superbly again.
Alan Tait, the Southern Knights coach, made the point that his “replacements had added a lot of zip” and among those he was referring to was surely Mikey Jones, the Edinburgh loose-head, making his first appearance of the season off the bench, who enjoyed a fabulous rip and 35-yard gallop to score a try that surely breached every rule in the book for stereotypical prop play. Alongside him is team mate Corbin Thunder, who contributed his own two tries to the Knights efforts, and Euan McLaren, who carried regularly and effectively for Heriots.
It was a quieter weekend for lock forwards but Hamish Ferguson was one of the Wolves forwards who dominated the Future XV up front and for his consistency across the season he deserves his selection just ahead of the again impressive Allan Ferrie, while paradoxically his opposite number Rauridh Hart also showed up well for his courageous efforts for the Future XV at the line-out and for his valiant attempts along with Johnny Morris to stem the tide of the Wolves with a high tackle count.
Ed Hasdell has stepped up from Heriot Watt University this season to provide significant ballast for the Wolves at No 8, in place of the missing Benedict Grant. He seems to be benefiting from the Bridgehaugh fitness regime, showing impressive pace around the park this week as well as his usual muscle, and he wins his place just ahead of Harry Borthwick who was unlucky to see yellow for an attempted intercept that was adjudged a deliberate knock-on.
On the flanks, it was good to see Ruairidh Leishman back in the Heriot’s starting line-up for the first time since week two, and his experience will be crucial for them going in to the business end of the season. He could easily have been joined in our selection by his team-mate Wallace Nelson, but instead we have plumped for his opposite number Tim Brown who made his seventh start for the Bulls this season, having mostly appeared off the bench last year, and whose low to the ground style compliments the big beasts in Ayrshire Bulls back-row so well.
15. Chris Hyde (Ayrshire Bulls)
14. Aidan Cross (Southern Knights)
13. Matt Davidson (Heriot’s)
12. Scott Robeson (Boroughmuir Bears)
11. Jack Blain (Heriot’s)
10. Craig Jackson (Stirling Wolves)
9. Kaleem Barreto (Boroughmuir Bears)
1. Mikey Jones (Southern Knights)
2. Corbin Thunder (Southern Knights)
3. Euan McLaren (Heriot’s)
4. Rauridh Hart (Future XV)
5. Hamish Ferguson (Stirling Wolves)
6. Ruairidh Leishman (Heriot’s)
7. Tim Brown (Ayrshire Bulls)
8. Ed Hasdell (Stirling Wolves)