Super Series Sprint Final: Ayrshire Bulls edge past Heriot’s in game of two halves

Millbrae men battle back from 10 points down at half-time to clinch title

Ayrshire Bulls celebrate their win over Heriot's in the final of the Super Series Sprint. Image": George McMillan
Ayrshire Bulls celebrate their win over Heriot's in the final of the Super Series Sprint. Image": George McMillan

Ayrshire Bulls 19

Heriot’s 15

DAVID BARNES @ Millbrae

THIS was a proper cup final. A ding-dong battle with no quarter asked or given. In the end, Bulls were worthy winners for keeping their composure at key moments, but it very easily could have gone the other way, and when Heriot’s led by 10 points at half-time the smart money was on the city slickers.

There was two lengthy breaks in play, early in each half, while Heriot’s second-row Charlie Jupp and then their No 8, Callum Anderson, were treated on the pitch before being rushed to hospital with nasty head injuries. There was no update on either player at time of publication.

Victorious head coach Pat MacArthur wished the stricken men well afterwards, but was understandably focused on congratulating his team for finding a way to win after being knocked back onto their heels by Heriot’s during that opening 40.


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“It was a tale of two halves,” he said. “We prepared well but then got a little bit flustered in the first half. We weren’t firing in the set-piece which starts our game, and I felt the boys just took a wee step back. But we refocussed at half-time, got ourselves on the front foot, and took it on from there.

“It was a proper final,” he added.  “That’s the first really close game we’ve had this season when it has been nip and tuck all the way through, so we had to get used to it – ‘we’re in a game, relax and enjoy the challenge’ – and once we got our heads around that, got our smiles back, we were a different team in the second half. Good on the boys.”

It was was a big night for Millbrae legend Frazier Climo, who announced earlier this week that this would be his swan-song as a player at the grand old age of 36. The veteran playmaker – who arrived in the west coast of Scotland from his native New Zealand 15 years ago and is now firmly established as one of Ayrshire’s own – marked the occasion by scoring the first of his team’s three tries before being replaced 10 minutes into the second half, with the PA system rather appropriately blaring out the Tina Turner classic ‘Simply The Best’  to mark the moment.

The first 12 minutes were a stalemate, with Bulls dominating possession and territory, but running into a brick wall Heriot’s defence. Then came the first 15-minute hold-up while  Jupp – who had been his team’s best player during the opening exchanges with a couple of huge hits – was treated then stretchered off.

When the action resumed, Bulls were straight back onto the front foot, and this time they made the pressure count, with Climo firing out a long pass which released Luca Bardelli on the right, and when the whippet winger was stopped just short of the try-line, the veteran stand-off was first to the breakdown to pick-up and burrow over.

 

Heriot’s responded in quick-order, with Bruce Houston’s excellent restart putting Bulls under all sorts of pressure, leading to the visiting side’s powerful line-out maul trundling home from 15 yards, with another old-stager in Iain Wilson getting the downward pressure for his ninth try of the campaign.

With Climo having failed to convert his own try, Houston stepped up to fire home the extras for this score, which gave the city side a two-point lead with the game 20 minutes old.

Heriot’s were straight back on the offensive from the restart, and Houston’s long, searching clearance created the field position for Wilson to repeat his trick of just a few minutes earlier, although the conversion – much more straight forward than the previous one – was off target.

Ayr huffed and puffed but couldn’t make any meaningful headway, with Grant Hughes and Matt Davidson gobbling up everything in midfield for Heriot’s, and some great work by Davidson over a tackled Bulls player earned a long-range penalty which Houston stroked home to extend his team’s lead to 10 points with just under five minutes of the first  half remaining.

 

Climo rather hopefully claimed a second try at the start of the second half, but it was correctly ruled that he had collected the ball from an offside position after it had squirted loose in contact and bounced forward off Archie Smeaton’s knee. More of a concern was that Anderson was knocked out cold by a team-mate’s elbow moving at high velocity in the lead-up to that non-score.

As happened after the first long stoppage, Bulls scored immediately after the resumption, when Blair Macpherson barged over after a terrific passage of power rugby, setting up an easy conversion for Elias Caven.

With Bulls turning the screw, Heriot’s had to dig deep to first repel a close-range line-out drive, and then managed to nudge Jamie Shedden into touch as he dived for the corner, before captain fantastic Macpherson struck again, muscling under the posts to set up another easy conversion for Caven, which gave the hosts a four point lead with 15 minutes left.

Heriot’s then shot themselves in the foot when Ross Jones dropped a high ball and Cam Jones picked it up from an offside position, turning a knock-on scrum into a penalty which Bulls were able to kick to the corner to set up another period of pressure – before Sam Wallace rescued the situation for the away side with a great jackal to win an invaluable penalty. The diminutive flanker had a number of big moments like that after coming off the bench in the 58th minute.

The visitors just couldn’t keep hold of the ball long enough to build any pressure, and their coaching team were becoming increasingly animated by a series of curious refereeing decisions (or in some cases non-decisions such as the patently squint line-out throw which wasn’t picked up).

They did, however, eventually get a high-tackle decision with two minutes to go, which they kicked to the corner, before twice conceding penalties on the deck which allowed Bulls to hold out for the win.

“It is really frustrating to be 15-5 up and not able to see it out when we backed our fitness in the second half against a big physical team,” said beaten head coach Ben Cairns. “Ultimately, they managed to get the squeeze on at scrum and maul, we started to get penalised in that area, and we just couldn’t get momentum after the break.

“I feel like he [referee Ruairidh Campbell] was pretty quick to give them scrum and maul penalties, but he missed a lot of stuff in open field, which is what we do well,” Cairns added. “There was probably bits on both sides, to be fair, and it is important that we recognise that it is a team of three officials, not just the ref.”

 

Teams –

Ayrshire Bulls: E Caven; L Bardelli, R Beattie, K Yule (T Glendenning 64), J Shedden; F Climo (B Roderick-Evans 51), G Baird (B Afshar 48); W Farquhar (J Drummond 53), B Jardine (A McGuire 43), C Henderson (C Miller 53), E Bloodworth, A Smeaton (T Brown 57), R Sweeney, L McNamara, B Macpherson©.

Heriot’s: D King (R Jones 58); M Gray (A Boyle 29-36, 38), M Davidson, G Hughes, L Wells; B Houston, C Jones; J Scott (C Anderson 58), M Liness (S Wallace 58), E McLaren (C Ramsay 66), C Jupp (A McCallum 12), R Seydak, R Leishman, I Wilson©, C Anderson (C Fenton 45).

Referee: Ruairidh Campbell

 

Scorers –

Ayrshire Bulls: Tries: Climo, Macpherson 2; Con: Caven 2.

Heriot’s: Tries: Wilson 2; Con: Houston; Pen: Houston.

Scoring sequence (Ayrshire Bulls first): 5-0; 5-5; 5-7; 5-12; 5-15 (h-t) 10-15; 12-15; 17-15; 19-15.

 

Man-of-the-Match: Not for the first time, Bulls captain Blair Macpherson led from the front and stepped up with two second half tries which was key to his team’s victory.

 

Talking point: Heriot’s head coach Ben Cairns was at pains not to personalise his frustration at some of the officiating after the game, but it was clear that he, his assistants and his players were exasperated by some of the decisions. The Super Series exists to drive up playing standards in the tier just below full-time pro, and it is right that the referees and touch-judges are under the same pressure to perform at the appropriate level.


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About David Barnes 3537 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

31 Comments

  1. AngryGala. They’re 2 completely different things with the players involved having different objectives.
    Stop fighting the non existent battle and just start enjoying any and all rugby that we get in Scotland.

  2. David Barnes – don’t agree at all , the absence of any update from Heriots to their support etc about the players involved is very poor.
    As alluded the scenario with the Luton captain yesterday showed an example of a club with genuine concern and an appropriate awareness of their priorities towards player welfare.
    The fact the Heriots coach spent much of his post match comments bemoaning the refereeing team shows where his priorities were.
    How long the stoppages are were for is completely irrelevant , the fact is that Heriots supporters were completely left in the dark about the players welfare…. but they did manage to tweet a thankyou to the club sponsor instead ….get a grip !

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    • Are you talking about public relations or player welfare? I’m confused.

      There’s also the issue of medical confidentiality and whether the individual wants things publicised far and wide on social media.

      Also, why do you keep banging on about a completely different set of circumstances at Luton Town?

      I’m pretty sure the club sponsor tweet was organised before yesterday evening – do you think Heriot’s should have cancelled the tweet because two players were concussed 24 hours earlier and were now home from hospital?

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    • Hi GRob, happy to run you through the process as to why we didn’t update as per Luton Town, you can find my contact details pretty easily so please do get in touch. I really hope you never have to go through what those two players, and our management and medical team, went through on Friday night.

      Next time perhaps think before you type uninformed comments on a situation you know absolutely nothing about.

      Kind regards,

      Neil Meikle

      Director of Rugby, Heriot’s Rugby Club

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      • Neil Meikle – any uninformed comments would be a direct result of having no player welfare update at all from Heriots until well after the event despite other agencies conveying earlier detail. The fact remains that the Offside line added in a status update on the players outlining they left hospital on early Saturday morning which was still 24hrs before Heriots saw fit to do anything just confirms my point. Unfortunately the majority of Heriots supporters probably won’t subscribe to the Offside line so they continued to be left in the dark until Sunday night , so over 48 hours after the actual incident and subsequent discharge from hospital.
        Looking at the post thumbs it appears many others feel this was a relevant point so you would be wrong to suggest I raise this in isolation..
        I have no interest in hearing your process or indeed the apparent lack of it , just saying it as I see it as a concerned rugby supporter. I am very pleased to hear that the 2 players are recovering and hope they suffer no ill effects.

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      • Wrong GRob. Any uniformed comments would be the result of not knowing the facts and a an unwillingness to wait until you do. The fact that are still prepared to condemn the club despite having no interest in learning what went on says it all.

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  3. I find it very concerning that there were two Heriots players seriously injured on Friday which involved lengthy stoppages and hospitalisation yet there is no reference to either players well-being on post match comments or subsequently any of the Heriots social media sites.
    The English Championship football play offs had a similar incident yesterday where the Luton captain collapsed on the field and was subsequently hospitalised. The post match sentiment from Luton management was not about promotion but primarily about concern about their injured captain.
    Rather than moaning about the refereeing , Cairns should probably have showed a little more consideration for the two injured Heriots players. So disappointing that Heriots have not seen fit to give any update or show any concern on social media regarding the two injured players. Don’t worry though they managed to prioritise a tweet a thanks to Investec their main sponsor yesterday…. unbelievable.
    Sometimes you do have to wonder about the priorities of these clubs , rugby is just a game and should always secondary to player welfare.
    Heriots – get a grip and get your priorities right …. so disappointing
    and PS – the refereeing was not that bad …

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    • I don’t think Heriot’s tweeting or not about the two injured players (who were released from hospital overnight), or Ben Cairns discussing the game in a post match interview, is any reflection on the club’s or the coach’s attitude towards player welfare. That’s a ridiculous leap to make.

      In fact, I think the fact that there was two such lengthy stoppages was because the club’s medical team, operating under Cairns, took every possible precautionary step to ensure that the players were given the best (most thorough) treatment possible.

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      • I really hope the club’s medical team were not operating under Cairns. Their role should not be influenced at all by any of the coaching staff.

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      • Sorry but I don’t think journalists should be suggesting that medical staff are controlled by coaches. I’m sorry if that upsets you but you wrote it.

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      • It doesn’t upset me in the slightest. I’m just pointing out that you’ve deliberately misrepresented what I wrote.

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      • No I was just pointing out that what you wrote was misleading. It really is that simple. Good journalists should be able to make themselves clear and not resort to pretending they know what is in the minds of others to defend their own shortcomings.

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      • Grasping at the hope you will understand what poor journalism is?

        You’re right. It’s a lost cause but you have highlighted it enough for me.

        Shame but it’s your reputation.

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      • Of all the hills I expected my reputation to die on, I didn’t think it would be from stating the obvious, which is that a Super Series club’s medical team works under its full-time head coach, who is responsible for recruitment and creating a healthy environment in which player welfare is a priority (with the appropriate oversight from the club’s DOR and committee) *

        *I never so much as suggested that the medical team is “controlled” by the head coach, which is your deliberate misrepresentation of what I wrote.

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      • The really worrying thing is that you can’t even see your poor journalism which doesn’t bode well for your future does it?

        But if you are happy to keep highlighting it then please carry on making things up by posting that you know what is in the mind of others. It only further proves my point about your flaky journalism.

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  4. was a very good game, a good match up of contrasting styles. Ayr the more enterprising but very well defended by Heriots.
    Such a shame the attack on the officials. Were they perfect – of course not. They never are. In this game there were a few decisions I thought just wrong, but not so many and they went to both sides.
    Again, very good game, high standard and credit to all, players and officials for dealing with 2 very long injury delays, don’t think I’ve ever seen such time lost before.

    And as we all hope, I hope the 2 players injured make a full and speedy recovery

  5. Regardless of the discussions about the officiating performance from Friday, I think I speak for the majority in saying I wish a speedy recovery to both the Heriots players that picked up nasty knocks in a well contested affair.

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    • Well said, MacAttack, Both were released from hospital at around 2am after the game.

  6. I agree Charlie officials are under scrutiny and if they have not performed will be taken to task by their bosses.
    However I did not see a whole lot wrong with the officials on the night
    Also the officials are not allowed to answer back so are always an easy target. If they were as bad as the report makes then surely the Bulls coach would have said something which he did not
    It was a very difficult game with the injuries, the commentators stating that the ref had a good game under the circumstances and had a GOOD RAPPORT WITH THE PLAYERS so if he did have a good rapport how are the Heriot players exasperated as that did not come across during the game
    I think that David Barnes has made a meal out of nothing, making mischief comes to mind, and does an injustice to the game and the clubs journalism
    Just remember one thing the players are either professional or semi professional the officials have to hold down full time jobs

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  7. Completely agree referees should be under the same pressure to perform at the this level. Fair to say they have a long way to go based on Friday performance

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    • I agree Charlie officials are under scrutiny and if they have not performed will be taken to task by their bosses.
      However I did not see a whole lot wrong with the officials on the night
      Also the officials are not allowed to answer back so are always an easy target. If they were as bad as the report makes then surely the Bulls coach would have said something which he did not
      It was a very difficult game with the injuries, the commentators stating that the ref had a good game under the circumstances and had a GOOD RAPPORT WITH THE PLAYERS so if he did have a good rapport how are the Heriot players exasperated as that did not come across during the game
      I think that David Barnes has made a meal out of nothing, making mischief comes to mind, and does an injustice to the game and the clubs journalism
      Just remember one thing the players are either professional or semi professional the officials have to hold down full time jobs

  8. OK – Ben Cairns was hurting. However, I thought Ruaridh Campbell and his team gave a very-good performance.

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  9. Fair play to Ben Cairn someone had to say it. Level of referee throughout competition is awful. Referees guessing at scrum time and making blatant errors. The effort by the players undermined by poor officiating and young referees picked over experienced officials.

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  10. the tv commentators actually praised the referee on how he handled the game last night

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  11. Ben Cairns
    you cann’t beat a sore loser
    The referee did not lose the game for you it was your players
    I am a neutral supporter and saw nothing of note
    Your players had to deal with two very serious injuries which no one can plan for or know how to adapt
    So Ben retract your statement

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    • I am certainly not an Ayrshire Bulls supporter but Ben Cairns behaviour and comments are very similar to that of his brother Mark Cairns head coach at Currie Chieftains.
      Seems like a family trait.

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