SEMI-FINAL weekend of the Super Series Championship saw the top four teams at the end of the league season meet in straight knock-out matches. Ayrshire Bulls took full advantage of playing at home to defeat defending champions Watsonians, while number one seeds Heriot’s, who had to concede home advantage due to floodlight issues, were upset at Hawthornden in Lasswade by Stirling Wolves who produced their best performance of the season to secure their first final appearance.
Glenn Bryce showed all his professional experience in an influential performance at full-back for the Wolves. The Stirling side showed great patience in extended periods of kick-tennis, with Bryce, Craig Jackson and Ben Afshar all punting long and deep repeatedly, with faultless precision and clever game management. Dom Coetzer scored a superb interception try for Watsonians at a point when they threatened to take charge of the Millbrae game, but Bryce’s contribution ultimately proved more decisive so he takes the No 15 jersey.
On the wings, the big try scorers of Super Series, Jack Blain and Ross McKnight, had relatively quiet games, though the latter did show his growing repertoire with a poacher’s try off the side of a ruck from two yards out! From that game, George Barber actually takes one of our wing spots – he really does work inexhaustibly in both defence and attack and it was not for lack of effort on his part that Heriot’s fell at the penultimate hurdle. Both Ayrshire Bulls wings scored fine tries but, after a quieter season than last, Jamie Sheddan hit peak form at the right time of the season and his try double secures his place in our selection.
We had nearly all the form centres of the Championship on display and both Matt Davidson and Ryan Southern had typical moments of incision, but it is two less high-profile players we have selected on this occasion, with Chris Elliot, who has shown real growth this season in consistency and responsibility, taking one of the centre slots, and Lewis Berg taking the other after battling hard to keep Watsonians in the game as the Bulls pulled away in the second half.
Craig Jackson managed the prescribed tactics of the coaching team to perfection at Lasswade and wins the stand-off slot in our team, where he is partnered by Reiss Cullen who won man-of-the-match at Millbrae where his game management and pace injection proved crucial. Ben Afshar and Fin Campbell, of Heriots, both had their moments in the first semi-final and can consider themselves unlucky to lose out to the experienced Cullen this week.
In the forwards, Jamie Drummond came on at half-time for Ayrshire Bulls and, as well as scoring two tries, contributed hugely to a dominant second-half scrummaging performance by his team. The former hooker is pocket-sized and has the jackaling ability of an openside flanker, but if his scrummaging continues to improve he could yet add to the long list of small mobile loose-heads Scotland has excelled in producing in the past.
Anchoring the scrum we have chosen Lithuanian Marius Tomasaitis. So many of Stirling’s big players had big games for them, and 6ft 4ins Tomasaitisis as big as they come. Between them, Gregor Hiddleston could easily have won the hooking berth, for his impressive mobility around the park, but his line-out work was consistently interrupted by the Heriot’s locks, so we have gone for the busy Corey Tait who scored two tries and set up another for Boroughmuir Bears in their postponed final league game against the Future XV.
At lock, Jamie Campbell of Heriot’s was prominent in line-out steals and in the loose, and completed a 100 percent selection record for the season with another impressive performance. Alongside him, Luis Ball, who moved back into the boiler-house for Watsonians after several weeks in the back-row, produced another hard working performance for his side, sadly without the reward of a final appearance.
The Stirling Wolves back row was outstanding so man-of-the-match Conor Gordon and Ed Hasdell are easy selections. Gordon has performed like a man possessed since his suspension earlier in the season, and Hasdell again showed impressive power and pace in the try of the weekend. Both have clearly benefited from the coaching at Stirling.
Beside them there are a number of strong contenders to complete the back row. Blair Macpherson scored his 10th try of the season, Neil Irvine-Hess returned after a long injury absence and played his heart out for Watsonians, and Charlie Jupp was another disruptive influence at the line-out for Heriot;s. But we’ve decided to choose one of the young back-rows who have shown impressive consistency in the losing Future XV. Both Ollie Duncan and Freddy Douglas scored tries against the Bears, and both have a good claim to be included, but Douglas wins the berth not only for his efforts on Saturday, but for playing in every single one (11 starts, 1 as sub) of the 12 fixtures his team has played – an impressive workload for a young man just out of school last summer.
15. Glenn Bryce (Stirling Wolves)
14. George Barber (Heriot’s)
13. Chris Elliot (Ayrshire Bulls)
12. Lewis Berg (Watsonians)
11. Jamie Shedden (Ayrshire Bulls)
10. Craig Jackson (Stirling Wolves)
9. Reiss Cullen (Ayrshire Bulls)
1. Jamie Drummond (Ayrshire Bulls)
2. Corey Tait (Boroughmuir Bears)
3. Marius Tamosaistis (Stirling Wolves)
4. Jamie Campbell (Heriot’s)
5. Luis Ball (Watsonians)
6 . Conor Gordon (Stirling Wolves)
7. Freddy Douglas (Future XV)
8. Ed Hasdell (Stirling Wolves)