Super6: Ayrshire Bulls defeat Southern Knights to clinch the title

Bright start by Pat MacArthur's side sets up well-deserved win but they had to dig deep at the end

Ayrshire Bulls captain Blair MacPherson lifts the Super6 trophy. Imag: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Ayrshire Bulls captain Blair MacPherson lifts the Super6 trophy. Imag: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

Southern Knights 16

Ayrshire Bulls 26

DAVID BARNES @ The DAM Health Stadium

A TENSE, sometimes tetchy and ultimately entertaining encounter concluded with Ayrshire Bulls becoming the first side to lift the FOSROC Super6 trophy after surviving a ferocious late onslaught from Southern Knights whilst reduced to 13 men during the final five minutes.

It wasn’t a match for the faint-hearted but a compelling advert for the tournament if the standard of play is the only metric that matters. Super6 now goes into cold storage for an as yet unspecified period of time and there will inevitably be plenty of analysis and discussion on how the tournament can improve and become more effective for all of Scottish rugby, both on and off the park.

“We started well and put ourselves in a good position, but there is always swings in momentum and one of the things we are trying to teach this team is how to control what you can control,” said victorious head coach Pat MacArthur afterwards. “So, that’s about about the ability to keep to your systems and keep your shape, especially in defence, and we saw at the end there that the effort the boys put in to keep the Knights out was second to none. We were down to 13 men and under pressure but not one man took a knee.”


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Bulls took an early lead when an excellent cut-out pass from Tom Jordan from a scrum on the Knights’ 22 gave Elias Caven the sliver of space he needed on the left touchline, and the winger managed to ride Jacob Henry‘s last-ditch tackle to finish brilliantly in the corner.

Jordan added the touchline conversion then sent home a rather more straightforward offside penalty to make it 10-0 with just 11 minutes played.

Knights rallied briefly with Fraser Renwick, Murdo MacAndrew and Nyle Godsmark all carrying as the Borderers battled their way into the Bulls’ 22 for the first time in the match, only for Billy Wara to give away a penalty for clearing out the defender beyond the ruck, allowing Jordan to activate the pressure release valve.

Iain Moody thought he had hauled his team right back into the match when he caught Bulls off-guard to break from a maul and gallop home from about 20 yards out – but he was rolled onto his back and prevented from grounding the ball by a sensational try-saving tackle from Matt Davidson.

Another sweeping attack orchestrated by Jordan off first-phase scrum ball almost culminated in another Bulls try when their stand-off toe-poked a grubber into the in-goal area, but Henry got the benefit of the doubt ahead of Bobby Beattie after a furious race to get to the ball as it bounced towards the dead-ball line.

Bulls had to make do instead with three points courtesy of Jordan’s right boot for an earlier penalty infringement.

As the clock ticked past the half hour, Knights finally managed to pressurise Bulls’ well-drilled and aggressive defence with Godsmark and Harry Borthwick carrying hard, and they got off the mark with an offside penalty kicked by Jason Baggott from right in front of the posts, and the stand-off doubled his own and his team’s account just a few minutes later when Yaree Fantini was penalised at a ruck.

 

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Knights pulled it level with five minutes of the second half played, when that bulldozing line-out drive which has been so effective for them this season pinned Bulls back on their own line, before the ball was shipped to the left with a nice, flat pass from Baggott sending Henry under the posts.

Ayr bounced back and Jordan kicked a high-tackle penalty, but it was nip and tuck, with Baggott cancelling out that narrow lead when Blair MacPherson was penalised for a side entry, then Jordan riposting when Dan Suddon was penalised to lying on the wrong side.

As the game got increasingly tetchy and penalty-strewn, it really needed someone to grab it by the scruff of the neck, and George Thornton decided he was going to be that man After another well-oiled attack by the Bulls off scrum ball pulled the Knights out of shape, the loose-head prop picked up from a tackle and danced past Murdo MacAndrew then motored home with Angus Runciman futilely hanging onto his shirt-tail.

Knights came back hard, and Bulls scrum-half Jordan Lenac was sent to the sinbin for taking out an opponent off the ball.

Then, after a pulsating period of pressure on the Bulls line, a loose pass bobbled along the deck to eventually reach Henry, who pinned his ears back and went for the line, but he was taken out by a wild and dangerous swinging-arm tackle from Bulls second-row Tom Everard, which caught the full-back high.

Henry was treated on the pitch for a several minutes before being stretchered off. A statement issued by Scottish Rugby afterwards said: “After the required medical assessments, Southern Knights full-back Jacob Henry has not required hospitalisation after sustaining an injury in the 76th minute of this afternoons FOSROC Super6 Final He is alert, sitting up and speaking with his mother who is with medical staff.”

Everard was rightly red-carded, meaning Knights had a two-man advantage as they tried to hunt down that 10-point deficit during the final four minutes.

The Borderers threw the kitchen sink at it, but couldn’t find a way through.

“We could have, maybe, just about got there,” reflected beaten head coach Rob Chrystie afterwards. “There was a big moment when we got level, they kicked-off and we spun the dice a little bit when we perhaps didn’t need to because we were getting them deep in there and they were struggling to exit.

“There was another big moment when they were smart at a line-out stood off to win the penalty. It was a three-point game at that point, and small margins can make a huge difference in games like that.

“We gave ourselves a lot to climb after the first 20 minutes, when we were just really ill-disciplined, which is not really like us. The penalty count was definitely in their favour and rightly so.

“But we regained a bit of control and we had an opportunity when Moody was held up, then a massive opportunity just before half-time down in the corner which we didn’t convert, so we had our chances but I think Ayrshire Bulls were a little bit more clinical and defended a little bit better than us as well.”

Chrystie added that the Knights’ season is not quite over yet, with the first leg of a double-header against Newcastle Falcons playing for the ‘Doddie Weir’s Clubs Trophy’ scheduled for the 29th October.

Turnberry Hotel

 

Teams –

Southern Knights: J Henry (S Pecqueur  76); P Anderson, N Godsmark, B Wara (C Scott 55), S Pecqueur (A Mitchell. 70); J Baggott, M McAndrew (C Jones 70); G Shiells (S Gunn 49), F Renwick (R Anderson 49), E McLaren, D Suddon, A Runciman, H Borthwick, R Knott (A Ferrie 70), I Moody (D Redpath 25).

Ayrshire Bulls: M Davidson; A Tait (H Warr 71), R Beattie, T Williams, E Cavan (G Lowe. 63); T Jordan, J Lenac; G Thornton, A McGuire (R Tanner 59), M Scott (C Henderson 76), E Bloodworth, T Everard, R Sweeney Y Fantini, B MacPherson.

Referee: Keith Allen

 

Scorers –

Southern Knights: Try: Henry; Con: Baggott; Pen: Baggott 3.

Ayrshire Bulls: Tries: Cavan, Thornton; Cons: Jordan 2; Pen: Jordan 4.

Scoring sequence (Southern Knights first): 0-5; 0-7; 0-10; 0-13; 3-13 ; 6-15 (h-t) 11-13; 13-13; 13-16; 16-16; 16-19; 16-24; 16-26;

 

Yellow cards –

Ayrshire Bulls: Fantini (44mins), Lenac (72mins)

 

Red cards –

Ayrshire Bulls: Everard (76mins)

 

Man-of-the-Match; There was heroic contributions from players on both sides across the park, but Tom Jordan‘s vision and control at stand-off for the Bulls was crucial. Not only was his kicking from hand and distribution on point, he tackled like a man possessed – and he also scored 16 of his team’s points.


Zebre v Glasgow: weary Warriors keep up winning run

About David Barnes 2679 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

14 Comments

  1. I agree with previous comments, that Ayr were worthy winners with outstanding defence throughout. The hard fought game, however, would have been an even better spectacle if it had been refereed better, 28 penalties was far, far too many (14 each, 8-8 first half, 6-6 second half). Surely a top (?) referee can control a game much better than by awarding penalties. I can hardly remember him issuing the normal instructions these days of – release, stay back etc. And watching the recording his positioning was regularly about 2 yards away from the rucks & mauls, as if he was just waiting on the inevitable penalty opportunity. I think a final like this deserved much better, Chris Paterson on commentary made comment about the number being awarded.
    A couple of comments about facilities at the new, expensive stadium –
    A score board (once it been spotted!) mounted at ground level, part-obscured by a fence rail in front of it, being updated by a person sliding in the numbers (just like my old cricketing days!).
    And echoing Colin Hill’s comment about the area at the end of the pitch – surely a larger dead-ball area could have been included, and the use of the chunky stones is diabolical & obviously dangerous, QED.
    Please someone confirm that this is not in accordance with World Rugby requirements, if not, why not, and if it is, then I despair.

    • The larger dead ball area would have reduced the capacity for the Crowd that didn’t attend!
      That and the score board just suggests incompetence from certain quarters with an eye to keeping things on the ‘Cheap’ a policy that is necessary to fund other aspects, a Bonus structure perhaps.

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      • Personally I’d put player safety ahead of packing in more (non-existent) paying customers. As it stands the ground seems unfit for purpose.

  2. Well done to the players and coaches!

    However, compared with the most obvious alternative that would spread meaningful enhanced wider benefits across the entire landscape of Scottish rugby (especially the grass roots) the attractions of this artificially-contrived “Super 6” invention are no more than skin deep.

    Despite offering a taste of (poorly-supported) higher-intensity semi-professional rugby, in comparison with the more attractive, compelling option of a comprehensive District-based, clubs-managed traditional structure for both development AND competition like this (ideally for locally-reared SQ talent) at all levels, i.e. with the effective involvement and support of area grassroots clubs, this artificially-manipulated and utterly contrived S6 gambit does little to add value to the wider basis of Scottish rugby.

    The costs of re-introducing a fully joined-up District alternative to replace the current imbalanced and fragmented SRU-controlled scenario that is destroying the domestic game would not exceed those of the current development and competition systems (including “Super 6”).

    On the other hand, the benefits of engaging the whole of Scottish rugby into a vibrant vertically-integrated District set-up, restoring strong historical, traditional allegiances, connections and Regional co-operation would be immense.

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    • I’m sorry the ‘give it a rest’ referred to the comment that preceded mine, at 1.16am according to the entry. If anything I am questioning the ‘so called’ super 6 as a somewhat suspect entity in concept and fact, I thought I had made that clear in my comment.
      For clarity I think there is still much to be discussed as to the efficacy of the somewhat cobbled together idea.

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  3. It’s been a good season of Super 6. The quality of play has been good and there has been some parity across the teams but Bulls and Knights have been the pick of the bunch showing the most consistency. Television coverage has been very good and we’ve been rewarded with good games to watch from home. Deserved bigger attendances though.

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  4. So what happens now that the Super 6 competition is over? Do the vast majority of these players go back to their former clubs i.e. Ayrshire bulls back to Ayr/Marr, southern knights back to Melrose/Hawick? If so, surely this will give these clubs an unfair advantage in their respected leagues??

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    • As I understand it, these S6 players are contracted semi pros & would have thought the rule against “playing down” would still be in place.
      It’s a covid problem as the S6 teams were meant to be playing cross border matches but the pandemic knocked that on the head.

    • It’s mid October and s6 seasons is over.
      What do the 6 squads of players do now . They can’t all train with pro clubs till next year.
      100 plus players now not playing rugby or am I missing something.
      Just think of how good premier 1 would be if Dodson hadn’t had his brain fart..
      Good players would still have been picked up for higher things

  5. The 2 players running back trying to touch down ball behind posts could have been severely injured through somebody’s negilgence.
    They must have run out of grass in dead ball area and filled it in with chipped pebbles behind metal fence so nobody would notice.
    Seriously in this day and age how has this accident waiting to happen passed health and safety.
    We’re Cowboy builders employed by SRU

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