AYRSHIRE BULLS have selected a settled squad, but are boosted by the timely return of former Scotland international Grant Stewart at hooker in place of the injured Alex McGuire, for tomorrow afternoon’s Super Series Championship Final showdown against Stirling Wolves at the Hive Stadium.
The availability of Andy Stirrat at outside-centre, to link up in a a formidable midfield partnership with Bobby Beattie, is also a big boost for the Millbrae men, who are looking to reclaim the Championship title they won in 2021, having missed out to Watsonians in last year’s final. William Farquhar is also back from injury and is named as prop cover on the bench.
The men from the west coast will start the showcase match which kicks-off at 4.10pm as favourites having finished second at the end of the league section of this campaign, but will be away of their opponents who sneaked into the play-offs in fourth place but produced a performance which bristled with power and intelligence to despatch a Heriot’s team which had been the dominant force in the competition during the regular season.
“Concluding the season with a thrilling Championship Final at Hive Stadium against Stirling Wolves is truly a testament to the team’s dedication throughout the year,” enthused head coach Pat MacArthur.
“The players have tirelessly worked towards this moment, dedicating themselves in their training to improve key areas. The commitment displayed by all, including those who may have known their chances of involvement in this particular game was minimal, has been a driving force behind our preparation.
“We’re aware of the Wolves’ physicality and work at the breakdown, as seen in their match against Heriot’s last week. Having played in two finals, the players know the importance of performing at our best.
The support from our fans is evident, with numerous buses making the journey through from Millbrae. We are determined to make our supporters, the club, and ourselves proud in this crucial match.”
Stirling Wolves have also gone for continuity, with Reyner Kennedy returning from injury to take over from Joe Roberts as replacement hooker the only change to the match-day 23 from last weekend’s surprise win over Heriot’s.
“Continuity of selection has been important to our success, and I would like to thank our S&C coach Luke Guerin and our medical staff who have done a great job in having all 29 players available for selection at the most important time of the season,” said Wolves head coach Eddie Pollock.
“Everyone at the club is excited to be in our first Super Series Championship Final. As a squad the team has improved throughout the year leading to some outstanding collective performances in the last few weeks on our run to the Final.
“We beat a very good Heriot’s side last week, with a smart, physical, accurate and above all disciplined display which demonstrated not only the quality of our play but also how the coaches have developed the players ability to adapt to a different game-plan when required.
“Ayrshire Bulls are perennial finalists, who will offer us a different test. They are a very physical and direct team, with an excellent set-piece and pace to burn in their outside backs,” Pollock added. “Pat McArthur and his staff have developed a very hard-working culture at the club, and it will be extremely difficult to break them down throughout the eighty minutes.
“As such we will strive to produce our best performance of the season and I know the players will leave nothing out there on Saturday. Matches against the two sides always produce exciting rugby and I am sure this year’s Super Series final will live up to everyone’s expectations.
Ayrshire Bulls (versus Stirling Wolves at The Hive Stadium on Saturday at 4.10pm): O Horne; J Shedden, A Stirrat. R Beattie, L Bardelli; B Roderick-Evans, R Cullen; A Nimmo, G Stewart, C Henderson, E Bloodworth, R Jackson, R Sweeney, L McNamara, B Macpherson©. Substitutes: R Tanner, J Drummond, W Farquhar, O Baird, T Brown, F Johnston, C Elliot, T Glendinning.
Stirling Wolves: G Bryce; R McKnight, R Southern, M Holden©, M Heron; C Jackson, B Afshar; G Breese, G Hiddleston, M Tamosaitis, T Smith, J Pow, E Timpson, C Gordon, E Hasdell. Substitutes: R Kennedy, L Quarm, L Skinner, H Ferguson, R Knott, K McGhie, E Cunningham, S Rockley.
Referee: Ian Kenny
Key clash: Lewis McNamara versus Connor Gordon
Verdict: The Wolves threw off their sheep’s clothing last weekend to cause a major upset by beating a Heriot’s team who had established themselves as tournament favourites with their regular season form. They’ll fancy another big scalp this weekend, and if they perform at the same level as last week then there is no reason why they won’t go from finishing dead last in the 2022 Championship to winners this time round.
However, Bulls have the sort of big match experience that neither Heriot’s nor the Wolves can draw on, and with the Stirrat-Beattie partnership back in harness in midfield, Grant Stewart adding international experience at the pit-face, and a back-row triumvirate which will take no prisoners, TOL is backing Pat MacArthur’s side to get the job done.