THE problem with a sprint is that it does exactly what is says in the name. It is a fast, explosive, competition which is over almost as soon as it begins. A bad start, and you rarely recover. An injury and there is no time to repair. So judging rugby players in a competition called a sprint is fraught with difficulties. One stand out moment can make a bigger impression than sustained excellency. Just as snooker champions that emerge over 35 frames can be shown up rudely by a young upstart in a five frame sprint, so it is possible in a short sharp rugby competition that the best players might not have time to make a lasting impact. With that caveat, here is TOL’s team of the Super Series Sprint –
Eli Caven picked up two nominations in the TOL’s team-of-the-week [TOW], scored three tries, kicked 26 points and played in six out of seven games for the Bulls. The only match he missed was the only one the Millbrae men lost in the tournament. He has added defensive solidity and kicking consistency to his game this season, while continuing to light up Millbrae with his electric pace. Glenn Bryce and Dan King both started every game for their respective teams and pushed hard for inclusion.
There are four contenders for two wing berths. Finn Douglas (Southern Knights/Edinburgh), Mason Cullen (Boroughmuir Bears), Jamie Shedden and Luca Bardelli (both Ayrshire Bulls). Cullen and Bardelli both took the move from the Premiership this season in their stride and scored four tries each over the competition. Douglas appeared in the first three rounds for Edinburgh A, before turning out in the last three games for Southern Knights. He has had a tough time with injury, and this run of games injury-free enabled him to showcase his huge potential. The Bulls continued Shedden’s development by playing him right across the back-line, and while such versatility can only be good for him personally, it meant he didn’t quite stamp his authority on the wing position. With three appearances each in the dream team, we’re opting for Bardelli and Douglas.
A very competitive position with a dozen different centres appearing in our TOW. Both Heriot’s centres Matt Davidson and Grant Hughes have their claims, while former Heriot’s centres Scott Robeson and Scott King both made welcome impacts after significant injuries. The experienced Marcus Holden and Robert Beattie are class acts at this level, and both influence games hugely every time they play, while exciting youngsters Kerr Yule and Ben Salmon both ended up with more credit in the bank at the end of this series than at the start. In the end we’ve opted for the defensively solidRobeson alongside the very tidyDavidson.
A number of the teams opted for experience at 10, while some of the younger options like Richie Simpson and Andy McLean suffered from injuries. Southern Knights should be commended for giving young 10s Callum Grieve and Harris Rutherford significant game-time in a difficult series, but Jason Baggott stood out for his consistency, creativity and command, and the Watsonian wins our starting spot.
For his half-back partner we are spoiled for choice with seven No 9s still under-20 appearing in the competition. In addition, players who have emerged at this level over the last three years came to the fore as dominant players this season, notably Cam Jones and Kyle McGhie. We’ve gone for Jones who, for both Edinburgh A and Heriots, showed a real running threat, and the exciting young Hector Patterson provides a similar threat from the bench.
In a frustratingly inconsistent sequence of games for Stirling Wolves, George Breese stood out for his consistency and claims the loose-head spot in our team, while the routinely excellent Euan McLaren added some try scoring power to his repertoire this series so fronts-up on the other side. With former Super6 players, Stevie Longwell, Sam Grahamslaw and Adam Nichol all appearing in the English Championship ‘team-of-the season’ it shows there is some serious front-row options emerging in Scotland who need playing opportunities at higher levels.
With driving line-out mauls being so favoured as try-scoring opportunities in the current game, it is no surprise that hookers scored almost 40 tries in this Sprint. They range from the vastly experience Cal Davies at Watsonians to exciting youngsters Corey Tait and Jerry Blyth-Lafferty at the Bears. We’ve opted for Scotland international Grant Stewart to lead our front row with his seven tries making him the second top try-scorer in the competition.
There was huge consistency in selection across the whole competition in the boiler-room with every team except the Knights featuring at least one lock who started every game. Every one of those six locks will have their supporters for inclusion in our team, but we have opted for the consistently hard-working Luis Ball of Watsonians, and the rangy and increasingly influential Rory Jackson of the Bulls, who both appeared in our TOW twice. Ed Bloodworth (of Bulls), Josh King, Jack Fisher (both of Bears), Ronan Seydack (of Heriot’s) and Hamish Ferguson (of Stirling Wolves) are all unlucky to miss out.
We’ve gone for a blend of experience and potential in the back-row. Iain Wilson of Heriot’s and Blair Macpherson of the Bulls represent the experience, with Wilson scoring a remarkable ten tries in his six appearances, while Macpherson started every game as he led the Bulls to the title. Beside them is the coming man Liam McConnell. Aged 18, he captained Edinburgh A in their three games before turning out for the Bears in their last two games and claiming a place in the TOW both weeks.
The contributions of back replacements Glenn Bryce, Marcus Holden and Hector Patterson have all even acknowledged above.
Jack Dobie stepped up from National One level with Melrose to start five games for the Southern Knights, and earned good reviews from his head coach Alan Tait, while Dan Gamble moved from the Edinburgh A bench to the Southern Knights starting line-up effortlessly. Gregor Hiddleston showed the benefits of his full-time training with Warriors with dominant performances for both Glasgow A and Stirling Wolves. Charlie Jupp re-emerged after a tough time with injury to start every game for Heriots and looked stronger every week before unfortunately being stretchered off in the final. Allan Ferrie battled game fully for the Southern Knights in a back-row continuously changing because of injury and deserves the final place in our selection.
15. Elias Caven (Ayrshire Bulls)
14. Luca Bardelli (Ayrshire Bulls)
13. Matt Davidson (Heriot’s)
12. Scott Robeson (Boroughmuir Bears)
11. Finn Douglas (Edinburgh A/Southern Knights)
10. Jason Baggott (Watsonians)
9. Cam Jones (Edinburgh A/Heriot’s)
1. George Breese (Stirling Wolves)
2. Grant Stewart (Ayrshire Bulls)
3. Euan McLaren (Heriot’s)
4. Luis Ball (Watsonians)
5. Rory Jackson (Ayrshire Bulls)
6. Liam McConnell (Edinburgh A/Boroughmuir Bears)
7. Iain Wilson (Heriot’s)
8. Blair Macpherson (Ayrshire Bulls)
16. Gregor Hiddleston (Glasgow A/Stirling Wolves)
17. Jack Dobie (Southern Knights)
18. Dan Gamble (Edinburgh A/Southern Knights)
19. Charlie Jupp (Heriot’s)
20. Allan Ferrie (Southern Knights)
21. Hector Patterson (Watsonians)
22. Marcus Holden (Stirling Wolves)
23. Glenn Bryce (Stirling Wolves)