Ayrshire Bulls 32
Boroughmuir Bears 27
IAIN HAY @ Millbrae
THE Battle of the Beastly Bs ended with victory for the home side, but the visitors struck late to earn themselves a losing bonus point.
It was a somewhat scrappy affair, punctuated by a few moments of genuine quality. Bulls suffered an early injury blow when vice-captain Blair MacPherson had to be replaced after only four minutes, Graham Geldenhuys taking his place in the back-row, but they took the lead the same amount of minutes later.
A tremendous midfield break from lock Lars Morrice set the Bulls on the charge, which was finished off by usual Glasgow Warriors duo Stafford McDowall and Rory Hughes, the latter latching onto the former’s perfectly weighted grubber.
Tom Wilson levelled matters almost instantly for Bears with a quickly taken tap penalty around the 22 which he finished off himself under the sticks, and when Ayrshire’s Sam Kitchen was pinged for not rolling away, Gavin Parker put Bears in the lead.
There wasn’t a scrum for the first quarter of an hour, but when they did arrive, Bears seemed to have the better of the initial exchanges, as they also did in the line-out thanks to the influence of towering lock Callum Atkinson. However,hey failed to capitalise on the advantages that awarded them.
Then the strange world of scrum-time struck again, and Bulls won the penalty this time with good ol’ Gordon Reid taking the plaudits.
Unlike the profligate Bears, the Bulls took the kick to touch and hooker Kitchen redeemed himself for his previous penalty infraction, the maul going like an express train to go over from all of 22 metres.
A slick backs move off a line-out further extended Bulls’ lead, with Hughes going close on the left wing after combining again with McDowall, and then Tom Lewis scoring on the other side after a crisp transfer of play.
A searing Ollie Smith break on the cusp of half-time threatened to take the game away from the Bears, but the ball was spilled forward in the ensuing ruck, so the Bulls would have been slightly frustrated to head off the paddock with a just 19-10 lead.
Another Parker penalty reduced it to a one-score game, but Bears were having real trouble keeping a hold of the pill, as Dave Rennie is keen on saying, so the Bulls were given plenty of time to sharpen up their attacking structures.
Hughes nearly scored a superb solo effort, but as he retrieved his own kick ahead his foot grazed the touchline. Then the Smith, McDowall and Hughes combo linked up for an excellent team score down in that left corner again, which also claimed the home team the bonus point.
When Bears did manage to keep hold of the ball for a while and get into the Bulls’ 22 for the first time in what seemed like an age, Aubrey Mncube spilled in contact. Then a burst from George Thornton was halted when Jordan Edmunds’ return pass went behind. It was a day of ‘could haves’ for the visitors.
The hosts rubbed the Bears’ face in it with another try down the left, Hughes this time unselfishly passing to Guldenhuys – before a late rally from Bears saw Thornton drive over from close range, and then a wonderful counter attack by Martin Cimprich was finished by Kyle McGhie, who converted both.
Bulls head coach Peter Murchie praised the impact of the 11-12 combo of McDowall and Hughes. “We had an energy and the guys trained really well this week,” he said. “We changed a lot of the backs, we looked dangerous and managed to get in behind a few times. Obviously having the two pro guys in there, just having their threat and their experience, [helped].”
Bears’ supremo Graham Shiel took a quantum of positivity from obtaining the losing bonus point. “Disappointing overall. First half I thought we did play well, second half we slipped back. We couldn’t get the ball again, couldn’t get a foothold, probably in part due to our errors. At the end of the day, they stuck in, worked hard and took something out from the game. Halfway through that second half we would have taken that at that point,” he said.
Ayrshire Bulls: O Smith; T Lewis, D McCluskey, S McDowall, R Hughes; F Climo, D Armstrong; G Reid, S Kitchen, R Sayce, L Morrice, F Hastie, G Bordill, P McCallum©, B MacPherson. Subs: L Anderson, M Scott, N Griffiths, G Geldenhuys, G Wilson, I McNulty , R Thompson, H Warr.
Boroughmuir Bears: G Parker; C Gray, J Steele, A Russell, J Edmunds; C Laidlaw©, T Wilson; M Downer, J Matthews, D Winning, E Stewart, C Atkinson, B Flockhart, T Gordon, C Keddie. Subs: T Francombe, G Thornton, M McGinley, W Inglis, G Cannie, K McGhie, M Cimprich, A Mncube.
Referee: Finlay Brown
Bulls: Tries: Hughes 2, Kitchen, Lewis, Guldenhuys; Pens: Climo; Cons: Climo 2
Bears: Tries: Wilson, Thornton, McGhie; Pens: Parker 2; Cons: Parker, McGhie 2.
Scoring sequence (Bulls first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-5; 7-7; 7-10; 12-10; 17-10; 19-10 (h-t) 19-13; 24-13; 27-13; 32-13; 32-18; 32-20; 32-25; 32-27.
Man of the Match: Bulls lock Lars Morrice was given the official nod, but for his brace and selflessness in setting up Geldenhuys, I’ll give it to Rory Hughes.
Talking Point: The two late tries certainly added some gloss for Bears, but if they’d been able to keep hold of the ball in the second half they may have snuck this one. The moment when Jonny Matthews stumbled as he was about to deliver a line-out, turning the ball over as a free-kick, summed up their afternoon.