Boroughmuir Bears 17
Ayrshire Bulls 40
DAVID BARNES @ Queensferry Hub
CONSIDERING that this was the first competitive game either side had played in four weeks, that both teams were missing several players for various reasons meaning a number of ‘guest’ appearances, and that it was being played on a bitterly cold late-Sunday afternoon at an out-of-town venue, it must be said that what occurred here was a pretty entertaining 80 minutes of full-blooded rugby
Ayrshire Bulls were worthy winners, but Boroughmuir Bears gave them a run for their money. In fact, when the consistently dangerous Archie Russell launched an exhilarating break from his own 22, and then sent pacey full-back Glen Faulds in for a try which made it 17-26 with just under 20 minutes to go, it was ‘game on’. A few minutes later, Bears stand-off Chris Laidlaw cut the Bulls open in the middle of the park, and if his pass to Jordan Edmunds had gone to hand then the winger would almost certainly have scored, and that would have made it really interesting.
But the pass was just slightly too low for Edmunds to catch on the hoof and the opportunity was gone. The Bulls recovered their composure, and two late converted tries from Tyler Beary and Craig Gossman gave the visitors a comfortable cushion at full-time.
The result pushes the Bulls back ahead of Southern Knights into third in the table, and they take on second-placed Heriot’s in their final regular-season match at Goldenacre next Sunday knowing that a victory there will secure them a home semi-final in the play-offs.
“We played pretty well into the wind in the first half and took a couple of good tries, although we did give one away straight from a restart, but all in all it was a good performance considering we have played so little rugby recently,” said winning head coach Peter Murchie.
“I wasn’t expecting a perfect performance today, but the guys needed that game because they are sick of just training for four or five weeks. You try to mitigate against it by making your training sharp, and work hard to keep the focus on the fact that we are building towards something. Today was the first step ahead of a massive challenge next week as we get to the business end of the season. It’s a big four weeks for us.”
The play-offs were already out of reach for the Bears before kick-off, but even after this defeat they can still avoid the ignominy of finishing bottom of the table at the end of the regular season if they pick up a five-pointer against Stirling County at Bridgehaugh next Friday night.
While results have been disappointing for the Meggetland men during this inaugural Super6 campaign, they have played some attractive rugby and have been competitive for the most part. With a bit more power and street-smarts up front, they could become a real handful.
“Our last game was against Heriot’s [a 53-10 defeat] which was incredibly disappointing for a number of reasons, and it was really important for us to overcome that, but then we didn’t have a game for a month and this week was meant to be a down week when we had a plethora of unavailabilities, illnesses and injuries, so under the circumstances I am really encouraged by the performance,” said Bears head coach Graham Shiel.
“There are points where we don’t help ourselves, which is frustrating, but there’s ambition in the group and we want to play [expressive rugby] because at the end of the day this is about developing them as players.
“We can’t sustain pressure at the moment, but if we can play with ambition, width and excitement then hopefully we can start to connect the more basic parts of our game like defence and physicality into that. Maybe that sounds back to front, but we can’t forget about what we’re good at.”
Despite former Scotland prop Gordon Reid being caught out when the wind blew the kick-off askew, the Bulls managed to recapture possession and Beary came close when he hunted down a grubber kick up the left touchline, but the Bears’ cover defence managed to bundle him into touch just short of the line.
It was the Bears who drew first blood instead through a Chris Laidlaw ruck penalty, before a flurry of three tries inside seven minutes saw the lead seesaw three times. The Bulls struck when all-action skipper Pete McCallum finished off a Tom Jordan break, only for the Bears to regain advantage almost straight from the restart when Russell scooted under the posts, before prolific hooker Sam Kitchen scored his eighth try of the season for the visitors .
This time, the Bulls kept their foot on the accelerator, and George Bordill muscled over just past the half-hour mark to make it 10-19 at the break.
With the wind at their backs in the second half, the Bulls looked comfortable and secured the bonus point through tight-head prop Nicolas Griffiths, but the Bears wouldn’t lie down, and when Russell and Faulds combined for that 62nd-minute try it raised the prospect of a dramatic comeback from the underdogs.
It wasn’t to be, with two yellow cards – to replacement flanker Matt Walker for entering from the side, and Edmunds for a deliberate knock-on – leaving the Edinburgh side exposed to those late scores from Beary and Gossman.
Boroughmuir Bears: G Faulds; C Gray, R Kerr, A Russell, J Edmunds; C Laidlaw, M Johnstone; A McWilliam, T Francombe, N Borel, E Stewart, W Inglis, D Medjebeur, S McGinley, C Keddie. Subs: R Montgomery, C Anderson, C Arthur, T Drennan, M Walker, J Hamilton, E Fox, G Cannie.
Ayrshire Bulls: R Thompson; T Beary, D McCluskey, I McNulty, C Gossman; T Jordan, H Warr; G Reid, S Kitchen, N Griffiths, F Hastie, L Morrice, G Bordill, P McCallum, B Macpherson. Subs: A McGuire, M Scott, R Sayce, G Wilson, L Anderson, G Geldenhuys, A Schabort, J Pinkerton.
Boroughmuir Bears: Tries: Russell, Faulds. Cons: Laidlaw 2. Pen: Laidlaw.
Ayrshire Bulls: Tries: McCalllum, Kitchen, Bordill, Griffiths, Beary, Gossman. Cons: Thompson 5.
Scoring sequence (Boroughmuir Bulls first): 3-0; 3-5; 3-7; 8-7; 10-7; 10-12; 10-17; 10-19 (half-time), 10-24′ 10-16; 15-26; 17-26; 17-31; 17-33; 17-38; 17-40.
Yellow cards –
Boroughmuir Bears: Walker, Edmunds
Man of the Match: Ayrshire Bulls scrum-half Harry Warr bossed the game brilliantly, and his through the legs pass to James Pinkerton in the lead up to Craig Gossman’s try was filthy.
Talking point: The Bears are certainly easy on the eye when they get an opportunity to express themselves, but struggle to get on the front foot often enough to really cause the opposition problems in this league. The challenge Graham Shiel faces has similarities to those being tackled by his old Scotland midfield comrade Gregor Townsend at the moment.