Ayrshire Bulls 31
Southern Knights 5
IAIN HAY @ Millbrae
WHAT a difference a year makes. The two sides who played out last year’s nail-biting Super6 showpiece finale met again on Ladies Day at Millbrae, and the home side signed off the on-field action with a resounding bonus point win – which counts as double – to keep them hot on the heels of table-toppers Watsonians.
“We knew it would be a tough challenge coming to Millbrae, you see the results from their last few games and they’ve put a lot of points on. They’ve a lot of good players, and mature players who have been about a while,” said Knight’s head coach Bruce Ruthven.
“Overall, we’re pleased with how we fronted up, but to go 14 points down within the same number of minutes was pretty disappointing. We knew that if we gave them field position we’d struggle. Their catch-and-drive line-out caused us trouble all game, whereas our line-out wasn’t functioning, but I thought our defence in parts was awesome. Overall, the boys are disappointed, however in terms of fronting up, and attitude, I thought we were spot on.”
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It wasn’t a vintage performance from the Bulls, but their efficiency upon entering their opponent’s 22 was again key to victory. They always seem to come away with points.
Within seven minutes they had taken the lead, a rolling maul ate up ground before being illegally halted five metres from the Knights’ try-line. They went to touch again, and another infringement saw referee Ruairidh Campbell award a penalty try and dish a yellow card out to lock Jamie Campbell.
Another rolling maul dotted down by Blair Macpherson extended the home lead, although of slight concern to the Bulls was the sight of their talismanic captain trudging off the field in the 25th minute due to injury.
Between his try and leaving the field, Knights had a sniff of a chance to score when Sam Derrick picked off Will Hunt’s pass, but the flanker didn’t have enough turbo to outrun the covering backs from halfway.
His interception did, however, instigate a spell of pressure for the away side, and stand-off Cammy Scott tried a little dink over the top that Kyle McGhie collected, but once into the 22 the pill was spilled, meaning the Bulls were still comfortably ahead.
For once, they didn’t keep the scoreboard ticking over when back in possession. Elias Caven made a turnover break down the left but Thomas Glendinning’s basketball pass attempt to Aaron Tait went straight into touch, and then Caven could possibly have played in Glendinning after an arcing run through midfield but didn’t.
It mattered not, as a few phases later, the hosts did get the score they wanted on the cusp of half-time. Following Caven’s run, the forwards started battering at the line, until Cam Jones went a little wider to full-back Liam MacNamara, who dived under the tackle to score what would normally be a forward’s try.
In the second half, Jones himself scored a No 8’s try when the Bulls scrum went rolling over the try-line and he stooped to score, and from another close-range scrum, his partner at half-back Hunt slalomed past the challenge of Scott and was too strong to be stopped as the Bulls went past the thirty-point mark. Hunt would most likely not thank you for showing him a replay of the conversion attempt for his try, as he somehow dragged it wide from bang in front of the sticks.
Knights kept on pushing, only to find the Bulls would usually push back harder. One prolonged period of away possession nearly ended in a turnover try, as after being pushed back out of the Bulls 22, Caven got to the ball first but couldn’t control his kick ahead.
Another cute dink over the top by Scott sent Finn Douglas on his way, but MacPherson’s replacement, Lewis McNamara won a turnover pen just five-metres from his line, until Scott and the Knights eventually got themselves off the mark with a couple of minutes to play, this time kicking through low and Aidan Cross got on the end of it.
“It was a bit of a stuffy game but we came out to do a job: to get a bonus point” said Pat McArthur after watching his side do just that with their second successive big win.
“The boys stuck to task, it never looked like we were panicked, we had a couple of very good defensive sets on our line, and we managed to push them back.
“We stick to a system. Teams may know the system but as long as we keep working and keeping to what we’re supposed to be doing we come away with points.
“I didn’t think today we were as good as we have been in that danger zone but we’ll look at it and train hard Monday and Tuesday. We’ll keep working hard, that’s the biggest thing I try to tell the boys, and I won’t allow ourselves to think we’re better than we are.”
This game counted as a double header after it was decided earlier this week that there is no room in the schedule to play the postponed match between these two teams from earlier in he season, meaning Bulls picked up 10 league points for 80 minutes of work.
Ayrshire Bulls: Liam McNamara; A Tait, T Glendinning, A Stirrat, E Caven; W Hunt, C Jones; W Farquhar, A McGuire, S Berghan, E Bloodworth, A Samuel, A Smeaton, T Brown, B MacPherson, Subs: J Malcolm, J Drummond, C Henderson, E Hamilton-Bulger, G Wilson, Lewis McNamara, C Elliot, F Climo.
Southern Knights: K Clark; A Cross, K Winters, K McGhie, F Douglas; C Scott, D Crawford; G Shiells, F Renwick, I Brace, J Campbell, E Demirel, S Derrick, H Morris, R Brown. Subs: R Anderson, A Rogers, R Deans, J Miller, A Ferrie, W Nelson, B Pickles, D Colvine.
Referee: Ruairidh Campbell
Ayrshire Bulls: Tries: Penalty Try, Macpherson, Liam McNamara, Hunt, Jones; Cons: Hunt 2.
Southern Knights: Try: Cross
Scoring sequence (Ayrshire Bulls first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 19-0 (h-t) 24-0; 26-0; 31-0; 31-5.
Yellow Cards –
Knights: Campbell (6mins)
Player of the Match: Asked to play a full 80, scrum-half Cam Jones was again on form, guiding his side around the field, and getting himself a try from the scrum.
Talking point: Although the Knights side contained none of the team who featured in the final last year, there seemed to be a bit of needle between the two sides. A scrap broke out off the ball shortly after the first score featuring at least 4 players, and there were further confrontations between Alex Samuel – also involved in first fracas – and Korie Winters, and Archie Smeaton and Kyle McGhie.
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Have to say I was thoroughly amazed and disappointed to listen to Bruce Ruthven’s holier than though interview prior to the game where he extolled the Knights virtues over the other Super 6 franchises for playing young players.
To attempt to take the morale high ground when the main reason for playing youngsters is that is nobody else want to play for them was truly misguided at best.
The Knights have continued to play their strongest team throughout the process and in the Sprint series there were many of the younger squad players never got a sniff at decent game time.
It is insulting to the intelligence for BR to suggest that the fact that the Knights had played a younger team that this was in some way part of the Knights grand plan to adhere to the SRU edict for the competition. Absolute nonsense , BR has always played the strongest team he had available to him as he did at Melrose Rugby before the Knights. Just look at the teams he picks in detail , both at Melrose and then the Knights – that will show you his priorities.
Let’s be clear here the Knights were left with what remained and then had to fill squad places with younger players. The majority of seasoned players jumped ship for one reason or another.
It really annoys me to listen to the drivel he came away with during this interview and it does very little for his credibility.
This competition was designed (one assumes) to improve Scottish rugby. Instead it has made it a laughing stock.
This “making it up as they go along” manipulation of the rules is no way to properly organise and run a sporting competition.