Boroughmuir Bears 21
Ayrshire Bulls 33
GARY HEATLY @ Meggetland
AYRSHIRE BULLS secured a bonus point victory at Meggetland to round off their regular Super6 Championship season with nine victories and just one defeat. Heading into the play-offs having finished second in the table they will start next Saturday’s re-match between these two sides as firm favourites in the play-off semi-final at Millbrae.
However, third placed Bears can take some confidence from the way their makeshift squad battled away here having gone 19-0 down at one point before eventually only losing 33-21.
They had 15 players unavailable for this match and while they will hope to have some of them back in time for the knock-out contest, it’ll still need to be their best performance of the season to cause an upset in the last four.
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This wasn’t vintage Bulls, but like Watsonians – the table toppers who will go into their own semi-final with fourth placed Heriot’s next Friday at Myreside as firm favourites too – this group of players know how to get the job done.
And with some players having been rested for this game, head coach Pat MacArthur will have some positive selection headaches ahead of him this week.
“That’s what you want as a coach, you want boys putting their hands up to be in the match-day 23 for the semi-final and I certainly have that,” he said. “This game was a tricky one I guess because play-off spots were already secured and we didn’t want to suffer any injuries, but the guys played well at times and you are always happy with a bonus point win away from home.
“It got quite feisty in the second half and that sets things up nicely for next week while we will use our training sessions in the coming days wisely and be at our sharpest for the play-offs, the senior players will make sure of that.”
Bulls took the lead in the 18th minute here when an overthrown lineout by the Bears near their try line was pounced upon by visiting hooker Alex McGuire at the tail and stand-off Will Hunt converted to make it 7-0.
A quick tap from stand-off Jack Bergin got the Bears moving and in the 25th minute they nearly scored a try from a driving maul following a line-out, but the Bulls defence held them out when there was a knock-on with the try line in sight.
In the 32nd minute the Bulls turned defence into attack to score their second try. A couple of penalties won by their forwards allowed them to gain good field position and, a couple of minutes later, centre Jamie Shedden fed winger Elias Caven who did the rest to dive in at the corner. It was his ninth try of the season and although Hunt missed the tough conversion they were 12-0 up.
And a few minutes before the break a solo break by Hunt saw him go over for try number three. He converted to make it 19-0.
Bears showed that they were not out of this one yet almost straight away when some slick hands created space for full-back Andrew McLean. The Glasgow Hawks’ loanee – a Scotland under-20 hopeful – showed good pace to outstrip the defence and score. Bergin converted and it was 19-7 at half-time.
That score gave the Bears, being captained by teenage back-row Liam McConnell for the first time, confidence and they started the second half well.
Their second try came in the 46th minute when a good break by hooker Jerry Blyth-Lafferty caused the Bulls defence to be stretched. The ball was then shipped right and centre Adam Scott scored with Bergin converting.
That made it 19-14 and everything was going on at this point with replacements aplenty being made by both sides and Bears winger Cammy Meager, on loan from Currie Chieftains, being yellow carded for a deliberate knock on.
Bulls made the extra man count almost immediately when captain Blair Macpherson bagged their bonus point fourth try. Hunt converted to give his side a 26-14 lead.
There was then a fracas on the far side of the field as things threatened to boil over before Caven showed his class in the 56th minute. He came off his wing and ran a great angle to stroll through the splintered defence and score his 10th try of the regular campaign. Replacement Richie Simpson converted to make it 33-14.
With Meager back on, there was then a flashpoint involving Macpherson and home centre Scott Robeson, the latter going down off the ball, but the referee decided a penalty was sufficient.
The Bulls did have substitute Jordan Lenac yellow-carded with 12 minutes to go for a deliberate knock-on and soon after replacement Josh King scored from a line-out for the home side. It was the Bears third try and Scott converted to make it 33-21.
That was the way it finished and Bears head coach Graham Shiel said: “The Bulls are a very good team who are tough to compete with even when we have everyone available, so to go up against them with so many guys missing was tough, but I was really proud of the way the guys stuck to their task.
“I’d like to thank all the loan players who came in at the last minute – and their clubs – for letting them play, they put in a great shift.
“We might get some of our injured guys back for next week, I am not sure yet, but we have to go to Millbrae and see it as our cup final.
“No one expects us to win, so the guys just have to give it everything – as they have done for me all season – and we will see where that gets us.”
The loan players Shiel mentions were the aforementioned McLean (although he has been with them a couple of weeks) plus Meager, Nicky Hart (North Berwick), Ross Cadzow (Edinburgh Accies), Cameron Hogg (Currie) and Jordan Miller (Southern Knights).
Boroughmuir Bears: A McLean; C Meager, A Scott, S Robeson, J Jenkins; J Bergin, R Swan; B Sweet, J Blyth-Lafferty, L Alessandri, J Fisher, C Atkinson, E Ferrie, L McConnell©, T Andrews. Subs: I Carmichael, C McFeat Smith, N Hart, J King, P Bogie, R Cadzow, C Hogg, J Miller.
Ayrshire Bulls: L McNamara; A Tait, J Shedden, A Stirrat, E Caven; W Hunt, C Jones; J Drummond, A McGuire, C Henderson, E Hamilton-Bulger, R Jackson, A Smeaton, T Brown, B MacPherson©. Subs: J Malcolm, A Rogers, S Berghan, A Nimmo, G Wilson, J Lenac, T Glendinning, R Simpson.
Referee: Michael Todd.
Boroughmuir Bears: Tries: McLean, Scott, King; Cons: Bergin 2, Scott.
Ayrshire Bulls: Tries: McGuire, Caven 2, Hunt, MacPherson. Cons: Hunt 3, Simpson.
Scoring sequence (Boroughmuir Bears first): 0-5; 0-7; 0-12; 0-17; 0-19; 5-19; 7-19 (h-t); 12-19; 14-19; 14-24; 14-26; 14-31; 14-33; 19-33; 21-33.
Yellow cards –
Boroughmuir Bears: Meager (50 mins)
Ayrshire Bulls: Lenac (68 mins)
Man-of-the-Match: Sometimes when games are ‘stop-start’ in nature and a bit fractious you need a quality finisher to open things up and Elias Caven did that for the Bulls twice to take the award.
Talking point: Do the Bears have any chance at Millbrae next week in the play-offs? Graham Shiel is playing down their chances and the form book would say no, but it is a one-off game and anything can happen. Expect the Bulls to be too strong in the end, but the Edinburgh side may as well throw the kitchen sink at this one.
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