Ayrshire Bulls 17
Boroughmuir Bears 0
IAIN HAY @ Millbrae
AYRSHIRE BULLS will have the chance to defend their FOSROC Super 6 title next weekend against Watsonians after getting the better off Boroughmuir Bears in a scrappy encounter at Millbrae.
Close range tries in each half and a last-ditch penalty from replacement Will Hunt was enough to see Pat McArthur’s side through as they recorded a second consecutive home shut-out before they head to Edinburgh’s DAM Stadium seeking to hold onto their crown as the best Scottish semi-pro side in the business.
“I’m happy to get the win, to get to the final is a massive achievement for the boys,” said Bulls’ chief wrangler MacArthur. “First half we didn’t convert as well as we should, with all that possession and momentum we should have converted a bit better, but on the flip-side, they didn’t get one point in the game, which shows tremendous effort across the board. It wasn’t the prettiest of games but I’m happy with the win and to move on”
“I’ve said to the boys at the end there, I thought the impact of the subs was outstanding tonight. What we’re trying to develop here is it’s a 23-man team, it’s not a starting team and everyone else, and a big turning point today was we brought a new front-row on and they got stuck in there, so I was really chuffed with them and everyone else that came on.”
As expected, Bulls dominated proceedings on their home patch where they’ve conceded only 46 points all season, but a couple of errors with their line-out saw them squander their opening two opportunities.
Referee Jonny Perriam had a big call to make only eight-minutes in when Liam McNamara rose to claim a kick and was hit in mid-air by Bears’ Adam Scott. Although there wasn’t a great deal of force in the impact, it was mistimed and the Aussie full-back landed on his head, however after discussing with his nearside assistant, the whistler decided a yellow card was sufficient.
Richie Simpson kicked to the edge of the 22, and although this time Bulls did keep hold of possession and spun it wide, Scott Robeson won a vital turnover just a couple metres short of his own line.
Although Bears discipline was excellent in the first-half, it was from one of the three penalties that they did concede where Ayr took advantage.
Missing Edward Bloodworth and Alex Samuel, the Bulls line-out didn’t function quite as well as usual, but when Bears were penalised for jumping across, Simpson nudged Bulls closer to the Bears’ try-line and they went again with Andrew Nimmo the man to finally crash over to give Bulls the lead their pressure deserved, with Simpson converting.
It was a full-blooded affair, benches roaring for penalties at seemingly every breakdown, and only a converted score down, Bears knew eventually they’d get a chance.
The man to lead the charge in that respect was Scott McGinley, a break from him took Bears into the Bulls’ half for what seemed like the first time in the match, and the flanker again went close when Elias Caven took a fresh-air swipe at a Ruaridh Swan chip over the top. He gathered and hared towards the right corner, but McNamara was able to match his pace and haul him into touch shy of the try-line.
McNamara again had to look sharp at the end of the half when Swan took a quick-tap penalty and kicked into space, but he dealt with the loose ball and chasing Bears adroitly, leaving Jordan Lenac to kick dead for half-time.
Early in the second half, Jack Bergin pushed a 40 metre penalty attempt just past the left upright, and then from a Bulls overthrow, hooker Jerry Blyth-Lafferty went on a barnstorming 60 metre run as a reminder that Bears like to do a smash and grab jobs, however, when the new Bulls front-row came on, they started to exert some scrum dominance and seal the deal.
The first time they packed down they won a penalty allowing the home team the chance to go deep. Aaron Tait was stopped from scoring in the right-corner, but a few phases later Bears were penalised for offside. The Bulls opted to scrum, started rolling forwards, and captain Blair Macpherson kept the ball under control until able to collect and dive over.
Now in the last quarter of the match, Bears really needed something, but an attacking maul was sacked, and then a thumping tackle by Jamie Shedden not only stopped McGinley in the 22, but also forced him to knock-on.
No further scoring opportunities of note followed until with the last kick of the game Hunt stepped forward to put the final gloss on the scoreboard.
“It’s our first time in these play-offs, we knew coming here was – dare I say it – a fait accompli, but it was really positive that we stuck in in the first half and managed to find ways into the game,” said Graham Shiel of the Bears afterwards.
“We didn’t take our opportunities, but we kept at it and kept plugging away, so hopefully the players will be better for the opportunity and the experience.
“We knew we were going to have to do something miraculous here today to overcome Ayr, and the guys have put in a really big shift and done well, so it’s hard to be anything other than pleased and encouraged by whats gone on today.
“Overall, it’s building blocks for us. I’m aware of where we are, where we’ve come from and where we’re moving towards. It’s been a really good 2022 for us. Can we keep our squad together? Who knows! But hopefully the guys will want to move forward and we can look at next year and get on the front-foot.”
Spotted on a recon mission was Watsonians Fergus Pringle ahead of next week’s showpiece finale, and asked if the artificial turf would make any differences to how Ayrshire Bulls would set up, McArthur added: “Ourselves and Watsonians play the same game no matter what the surface is. It will make it a bit quicker and more exciting, heavy pitches like today’s will drain it out of the boy’s legs and it’s harder to get a grip on scrums and such, so it won’t change the way we play but should make it more exciting.”
Ayrshire Bulls: Liam McNamara; A Tait, R Beattie, A Stirrat, E Caven; R Simpson, J Lenac; A Nimmo, J Malcolm, M Scott, R Jackson, A Smeaton, G Wilson, T Brown, B MacPherson©. Subs: A McGuire, W Farquhar, C Henderson, E Hamilton-Bulger, J Drummond, W Hunt, C Jones, J Shedden
Boroughmuir Bears: A McLean; K Johnston, A Scott, S Robeson, J Jenkins; J Bergin, R Swan; C Smith, J Blyth-Lafferty, L Alessandri, J Fisher, C Atkinson, J King, S McGinley, C Keddie©. Subs: C Tait, I Carmichael, M McGinley, T Andrews, P Bogie, M Johnstone, R Chalmers, C Ramm
Referee: Jonny Perriam
Ayrshire Bulls: Tries: Nimmo, MacPherson; Cons: Simpson 2; Pens: Hunt.
Boroughmuir Bears: No scorers.
Scoring sequence (Ayrshire Bulls): 5-0; 7-0 (h-t) 12-0; 14-0; 17-0.
Yellow Cards –
Boroughmuir Bears: Scott
Player-of-the-Match: Although not a game for the backs, and some impressive performances among the loose fives of both packs, the safe hands at the back of Liam Macnamara put out a couple of fires which kept Bears off the scoreboard.
Talking point: They think highly of Richie Simpson down these parts, and the youngster has, remarkably, not missed a single kick at goal yet in the Super6.