AYRSHIRE BULLS won the Super Series Championship a couple of years back and they will do their utmost to double that tally this coming Saturday, while preventing Stirling Wolves from picking up their first trophy.
If the Bulls were ever tempted to take the threat posed by the Wolves a little lightly then last weekend’s semi-final, when Stirling mugged the league leaders Heriot’s, is a timely warning as Bulls midfielder Bobby Beattie readily concedes.
“We were kinda surprised [by the result],” he admits. “But after watching the game you can see how they won. The Wolves were so physical and they took the fight to Heriot’s, attacking the breakdown, and you can see how it unfolded. Stirling played to their strengths and we won’t take them lightly because they are coming hard at us as well.”
Beattie is an interesting character, part of the wider clan that produced his Scottish international cousin Johnnie, while at 30-years-old he is verging on veteran status, at least in Super Series.
He has been around the houses experiencing most levels of rugby that Scotland has to offer. He kicked off at Glasgow Accies in Division Two (West), before moving to Glasgow Hawks were he signed a dual contract with Glasgow Warriors but never quite made the leap into the pro ranks, instead having to settle for a few pre-season appearances.
A move to the English Championship ensued – “the Champ” as Beattie dubs it – where he played first for London Scottish and latterly with the well funded Ealing Tralifinders. He enjoyed “the Champ” and, while he concedes it is probably more physical than Super Series, he argues that the Scottish league is possibly more skilful. Whatever the truth of that, Beattie impressed sufficiently to get called into the Scotland Sevens squad, where he played several tournaments at centre, just one of his many positions.
Beattie brings flexibility to any squad, comfortable in the back-three or midfield, an adaptability that can cut both ways.
“It is a blessing and a hindrance,” he says of his versatility. “You can get chucked in anywhere or put on the bench. I have established myself as an inside centre these days. I started on the wing and worked my way back in!
“I haven’t played much at 12 since I played there for Glasgow Accies back in the day but it’s good because I feel I can get more involved in the game. We have such good attacking players …” – and he name checks the Bulls’ back three of Luca Bardelli, Jamie Shedden and Ollie Horne.
“I feel that I can contribute to the team effort by getting the ball to those guys, identifying where the space is. I am not just a runner any more, I can act a bit more as a playmaker these days.”
When asked what he brings to the team, Beattie talks about his decision-making ability and having the cool head of the older statesman who has some miles in the saddle.
When you ask the Bulls’ management about Beattie they too point to his unflustered ability to do the right thing at the right time. He is, they insist, one of those priceless players that make the others around him better just by being there. It’s a handy superpower to have and doubtless helped earn Beattie selection for last season’s TOL Super Series Team of the Tournament.
As a Glasgow man, Beattie feels he has earned the right to be part of the Bulls set-up in the South West of Scotland, built firmly on the foundations of Ayr Rugby Club. In fact, he hopes to finish his career with the Bulls and why not? They won this tournament once before and have a fighting chance of doing the same on Saturday.
In addition to his on-field heroics, Beattie also plays a key role off the field for the Bulls. He qualified earlier this year as a strength and conditioning coach and he now runs the Bulls; conditioning programmes as well as helping out with Scottish Ballet several times a week. “Artists or athletes,” he muses out loud, “it’s a fine line” … you presume he is talking about the dancers rather than the Bulls’ front five.
When asked which side will benefit most from playing on Edinburgh’s plastic pitch at the Hive Stadium his response is immediate.
“I think it will suit us!” Beattie asserts, before chuckling at his own certainty. “Look, both teams are fairly similar in the way they play. We both rely on our forward pack and are pretty physical but I think that we have better attacking threats out the back and that fast pitch will suit our fast guys. I think it will suit those guys down to a tee.”
And finally, where will the final be won and lost?
“At the breakdown, in the forwards,” he offers. “And Pat MacArthur [Bulls’ head coach] will love me for saying this, the scrums are going to be massive.
“If our forwards can get us quick, front-foot ball, and I am 100 percent sure they will, I think that’s where that game will be won and lost.”