Super Series Final: Ayrshire Bulls defeat Stirling Wolves to bow out on top

Millbrae men claim last available piece of silverware before semi-pro tier in Scottish Rugby is disbanded

Ayrshire Bulls celebrate defeated Stirling Wolves. Image: Bryan Robertson
Ayrshire Bulls celebrate defeated Stirling Wolves. Image: Bryan Robertson

Ayrshire Bulls 33

Stirling Wolves 19

LEWIS STUART @ Millbrae

THE SUPER SERIES concluded as it began, with Ayrshire Bulls, the first team to win a trophy in the competition, becoming the last to claim silverware. They started strongly, seized their opportunities, and when Stirling Wolves threatened a significant and memorable comeback, they found a way to regain control and secure the victory.

No shame for the visitors, who paid dearly for moments of panic but matched their opponents in most phases of play. They displayed remarkable resilience to recover from a 21-0 deficit and make it a one-score game but couldn’t find the composure to take the next step.

The regret is that both teams are now stepping down at least one level, Ayr into the Premiership and Stirling to National One. Though they both hope to retain most of their Super Series players, it’s challenging to see them getting too many chances where they will need to play with anything like the same intensity.


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For Pat MacArthur, the Bulls coach who is stepping back from his frontline role for next season, it was great to go out on such a high after his side had lost to the same opponents in the Super Series Championship last year.

“I mentioned in the week that we should have been going for a double,” he said. “I told them: ‘If you go out with that intent and ability, you will get the reward.’ Everyone says that if you can stop our forwards, you can win the game, but we have a really good backline as well. The first try, we broke it into the wide channel and then brought it back in for the forwards to do the work.”

Though the Super Series is no more, he remains confident that the club can continue to thrive in the new environment. “We will expect the same standards; this is what doesn’t change. We go out and play to a level that we can stand by and that won’t change next season.”

“The big thing is that the boys are at this club because they enjoy it so much. The club supports and looks after them as best they can, and the players give back as best they can. That’s why progression will come, and we can build off the back of this.”

Stirling have an even trickier job negotiating National One but, like Ayr, expect to keep most of their Wolves players. Eddie Pollock, the head coach who is moving to performance director, is confident he has given them a platform to build on despite the disappointment of this defeat.

Remember that when the Super Series started and Ayr became the first winners, Stirling were finishing last. They ended the experiment by competing in both of the last two finals, winning the penultimate before coming up short in this game.

“We didn’t start well; we gifted them attacking positions and against Ayr, especially at Millbrae, you will pay a price for that,” he acknowledged. “We fought back into the game and played reasonably well in the second quarter but the score at half-time was crucial. We would have been quite confident at 14-0 with the wind behind us but that score gave them a buffer.

“Then we got ourselves back to a one-score game and had a chance to win but had three or four opportunities to clear our line and just panicked and lost control. No complaints; Ayr were simply better on the day.”

“I said to the players, you can’t win everything but they should be proud because they have played some fantastic rugby over the last 12 months and are a great team to watch. Ayr could easily have run away with it but we fought really hard. We made mistakes but nobody can question our fighting spirit. It’s a strong group and most of them will stick together next year.”

 

 

The big challenge will be maintaining their own standards of skill and physicality when most of their opposition is amateur rather than semi-professional at this level. This is an example of the strides made in the now-defunct Super Series level

There had been plenty of talk in both camps about the last time they met in a final, with Stirling upsetting the odds to claim the Super Series Championship. And for the opening couple of minutes, it looked as though they might threaten a repeat. Then the rain came, and with it, Bulls started to soar.

First, it was fly-half Richie Simpson escaping from his own 22 to set up the attacking position. Then it was centre Jamie Shedden barging his way through on a run that would have earned more if he hadn’t ignored his supporting players.

Eventually, the Stirling defence cracked with a chip kick from scrum-half Reiss Cullen, forcing Stirling to carry the ball out and from the line-out maul, the backs piled in to add extra bodies and hooker James Malcolm touched down.

Bulls didn’t waste time doubling their lead with a penalty earning them a second maul. Robbie Beattie, the centre, came on a crash ball to make it within inches of the line before No8 and captain Bair Macpherson did the rest, with Simpson converting both.

When they had to work on the other side of the ball, Bulls were just as efficient. Stirling ran through all the bag of tricks that had broken most teams in the competition with the forwards hammering at the home line. Obujare Oguntibeju was held short twice, Ruaridh Knott had no more luck and when the backs were given a go, Glenn Bryce fared no better as Ayr stood firm.

Bulls broke clear and when Stirling messed up running out of defence in the final seconds of the first half, got another chance and gave the visitors a lesson in how to be ruthless in converting pressure into points as centre Shedden hammered up to the line and prop Calvin Henderson picked up to make the final inches.

 

 

It had been an efficient lesson in making the most of your pressure and during the break, Stirling seemed to have taken it on board. They came out firing after the break and this time when they got a line-out maul five out, drove for the line with flanker Knott touching down.

It looked as though Stirling might be able to mount a fightback, but as soon as they threatened they messed up, allowing Simpson to feed Thomas Glendinning for what seemed a certain try until he lost the ball in his dive for the line.

Fortunately for his side, it didn’t matter. Stirling failed to hold the ball at the back of a ruck for Reiss Cullen to swoop and feed brother Mason, the wing, to run 70 metres and score.

Any thoughts that would wrap up the game were soon dismissed as Stirling suddenly came back into the game. They drove their way upfield and after two moves after Ross McKnight had been forced into touch near the line, he hit a line between the centres to cross on for his side’s second try.

The pressure continued as Knott stole the ball at the back of a Bulls ruck to power to the line and offload to Ryan Southern for his side’s third try to make it a seven-point game going into the final 15 minutes.

That extra challenge brought out the best in Bulls as they wrestled back control and pummelled Stirling’s line with gusto. Finally, Simpson spotted a bit of a gap and zipped through it, offloading to Shedden to go all of the way for Ayr’s clinching try.

With Stirling down a man after replacement scrum-half Eric Davey was sin-binned for a professional foul on his own line, there was no way back for Wolves. Ayr played out the rest of match with reasonable comfort.

It had been a see-saw match but Ayr had won the big moments and that is what counts when it comes to winning things.

 

Teams – 

Ayrshire Bulls: L Bardelli; T Glendinning (C Elliot 76), J Shedden, R Beattie, M Cullen; R Simpson, R Cullen (F Johnston 64); J Drummond (C Miller 60), J Malcolm (A McGuire 54), C Henderson (R Tanner 50), E Bloodworth (O Baird 54), R Jackson, G Stewart (T Brown 50), L McNamara (R Sweeney 60), B Macpherson.

Stirling Wolves: G Bryce; M Heron (C Ferrie 54), R Southern, M Holden. R McKnight; C Jackson (E Cunningham 46), K McGhie (E Davey 54); L Quarm (A Rogers 76), J Roberts (B Robertson 60), M Tamosaitis (J Phelen 68), J Pow. (A Clarke 54), J Oguntibeju, R Knott, S Macdonald (M Duncan 50), E Hasdell.

Referee: David Sutherland

 

Scorers – 

Ayrshire Bulls: Tries: Malcom, MacPherson, Henderson, Cullen, Shedden; Cons: Simpson 4.

Stirling Wolves: Tries: Knott, Holden, Southern’ Cons: Holden 2.

Scoring sequence (Ayrshire Bulls first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 19-0; 21-0 (h-t) 21-5; 21-7, 26-7; 26-12; 26-17; 26-19; 31-19; 33-19.

 

Yellow card– 

Stirling Wolves: Davey (68 mins)

 

Player-of-the-Match: Grant Stewart won the official award for an all-action performance, particularly in defence, out of position at flanker instead of his usual role at hooker. The match-turning moments, however, came from fly-half Richie Simpson, and that means he is the one to get our award.

Talking point: Bulls have been the the most consistent act in the Super Series, not just all through this season but ever since the competition started in 2019. They have got it right off and on the field, so winning the final piece of silverware seems entirely appropriate.


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About Lewis Stuart 77 Articles
Lewis has been writing about rugby for almost 40 years, the last 18 as a freelance based in Scotland bringing his wealth fo experience to just about every publication in the country. These days you can hear him as well by tuning in to his Wednesday night show on Rocksport Radio.

2 Comments

  1. Congratulations to Ayr RFC and the Bulls.
    The upcoming season will be exciting, and I suspect the unintended consequences of dissolving Super Series Rugby will be interesting.

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