Boroughmuir Bears 17
Ayrshire Bulls 27
DAVID BARNES @ Meggetland
THEY could’t reproduce the razor-sharp form of their three previous outings but Ayrshire Bulls kept their eye on the prize with some pragmatic rugby which earned them their first three tries through close-range line-out mauls, setting up a bonus point win to keep the pressure on Southern Knights at the top of the Super6 table.
“We won with a bonus point away from home, very well done, but I think as we grow as a team our expectations about individual and collective performance grow with us,” surmised victorious head coach Pat MacArthur, afterwards. “We’re happy that we worked out how to get a result but it is not what we expect of ourselves.”
“We need to learn how to perform at a high level every week because that is how you win the league. We managed to control the ball better in the second half, and credit to the boys for reacting to the words which were said at half-time. The bench made an impact as well, which is good to see from a squad perspective.”
Next Friday’s visit of the Knights to Millbrae promises to be a compelling match. The aim is to finish in the top two in order to qualify for the Super6 final, but both teams will be desperate for the bragging rights of being able to say they were the better team over the course of the regular season. They will also be aware that Watsonians, who play Stirling County away tomorrow afternoon, could push their way back into contention.
“Maybe its not a bad thing that not everything clicked because now we can go away and work harder as a unit with a six-day turnaround so that we do click into gear next week,” MacArthur added.
Meanwhile, Bears head coach Graham Shiel was fairly phlegmatic about his team’s sixth defeat in their eighth match of the campaign, which leaves them firmly rooted to the foot of the table.
“We made some critical errors again today,” he lamented. “Our line-out is our achilles heel for us. We get into really good positions but don’t capitalise and turn over possession. Ultimately, that’s the difference for us at the moment. The standard of our set-piece work is not where it needs to be for this competition.
“We need to be on-song in every aspect of our game to stand a chance of being competitive. We need to keep pushing on, and we are, but it is really hard when you are making gains in some areas and then making some poor choices at time.”
Bears started in lively fashion and grabbed a fifth minute lead through a Tom Pittman penalty after the Bulls front-row were penalised for popping up at a scrum.
The visitors came within a whisker of striking back when Yaree Fantini intercepted in midfield and made a bee-line for the posts, but Jordan Edmunds did brilliantly to get back and prevent the Bulls flanker from getting the ball down.
Fantini was not to be denied for long, however, and it was he who emerged a few minutes later from the pile of bodies after a penalty kicked to the corner had set-up a line-out maul which rumbled relentlessly over the Bears try-line.
The hosts had the bit between their teeth and struck right back with Robbie McCallum stepping nicely inside Fantini to make the initial break and Kaleem Barreto finishing off, with Pittman adding the extras. But they quickly fell behind again when a rushed clearance by McCallum was partially charged down, leading to a ruck penalty which the Bulls kicked to the corner, from which Fantini scored again.
After a frantic first quarter, the match fizzled out slightly during the period leading up to half-time, and there was no more scoring, with both teams struggling to hold onto the ball long enough to build any sort of momentum or pressure.
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A coruscating break by Bears early in the second half saw Rhys Tait release McCallum, who initially did well to gather the ball behind his back, but he couldn’t shake off Bobby Beattie, and the Bulls man did well to not only make the try-saving tackle five yards from his own line but then get back on his feet to jackal his way to a holding-on penalty.
The hosts were cutting some nice shapes in the middle of the park but couldn’t finish off. Meanwhile, Bulls were far from their fluid best, but they demonstrated their killer instinct by once again going to their driving maul, and this time it was replacement prop Michael Scott who got the downward pressure.
Then, the visitors suddenly clicked into gear to produce a neat try from a line-out set-move, with Finlay Callaghan streaking under the posts for the bonus point. It was his first touch of the ball after coming off the bench in place of Elias Cavan. Matt Minogue fired over the straight-forward conversion.
Callaghan got his second wide on the right with eight minutes still to go, and this game was beginning to stretch away from the Bears, but they didn’t buckle and secured a consolation try when teenager Duncan Munn galloped through midfield on arching run, with Trystan Andrews the go-between before Michael Jones finished off.
Boroughmuir Bears: G Faulds (M Cimprich 76); T Brown, D Munn, R McCallum, J Edmunds; T Pittman, K Barreto (M Johnstone 71); R Dunbar (M Jones 56), F Scott (C McKenzie, 45), M McGinley (S Habib 71), J Fisher (M Mncube 65), W Inglis (T Andrews 54), E Ferrie, R Tait (S McGinley 65), C Keddie.
Ayrshire Bulls: M Davidson; E Caven (F Callaghan 63), R Beattie, T Williams, A Tait; C Townsend (M Minogue 46), H Warr (J Lenac 46); M Scott (R Sayce 69) R Tanner (A McGuire 46), C Henderson (G Thornton 50), E Bloodworth, T Everard (R Jackson 53), R Sweeney, Y Fantini (G Wilson 64), B MacPherson.
Referee: David Sutherland
Boroughmuir Bears: Tries: Barreto, Jones; Con: Pittman 2; Pens: Pittman
Ayrshire Bulls: Tries: Fantini 2, Scott, Callaghan 2; Con: Minogue.
Scoring sequence (Boroughmuir Bears first): 3-0; 3-5; 8-5; 10-5; 10-10 (h-t) 10-15; 10-20; 10-22, 10-27; 15-27; 17-27.
Man-of-the-Match: Bulls head coach Pat MacArthur summed it up succinctly when he said: “Ryan Sweeney is a good, honest, hard-working man. He does a lot of unseen graft which is what we base ourselves on. He does the hard-yards which allows other glory players to come to life.”
Talking point: Everything is going to fall into place for one 80 minute window at some point and we’ll see the very best of their several outstanding players, but can that happen in the three games they have left in this Super6 campaign?