Super6: five-try win gets Ayrshire Bulls off to a flier against Heriot’s

Ayrshire Bulls winger Elias Caven on the attack against Heriot's. Image: Scottish Rugby/SNS.

AYRSHIRE BULLS 33
HERIOT’S 17

STUART BATHGATE
At Millbrae

IT WAS touch and go for a time, particularly early in the second half when they were a man down, but in the end Ayrshire Bulls got their defence of the Super6 Championship title off to a reassuringly solid start.

The game ebbed and flowed more than the final score might suggest, and Heriot’s, although pointless after the break, were on top for large stretches of both halves. But the Bulls took their chances, scoring five tries in all, in the process reminding all of their rivals that they are the team to beat in this tournament.

“There were a couple of crucial turning points,” Bulls head coach Pat MacArthur said. “At half-time we had an honest discussion on our discipline, and in the second half there was a real turning point of a good seven-minute defensive set on our try line, with no penalties, when we were down to 14 men. That’s a lot of character, and it’s what we’re trying to pride ourselves on, not just attack.

“I was slightly anxious during the game, to be perfectly honest, especially in the first half.  But the boys stuck in there. We made a full change in the front row at half-time, those boys came on and really got stuck into it. Strength in depth is a big thing that we talk about, and it’s an area that really worked well.” 

The Bulls drew first blood in the second minute. From an advancing scrum deep in Heriot’s territory, scrum-half Jordan Lenac nipped through on the blindside then popped up the scoring pass to winger Elias Caven. Debutant stand-off Will Hunt converted to make it 7-0 with barely two minutes on the clock.

That advantage did not last long, however. A penalty to touch gave Heriot’s good position, and after a commanding drive from the lineout Sam Pecqueur crossed close to the posts, with Bruce Houston adding the two points.     

A powerful defensive riposte by the home side ensured there was no repeat when Heriot’s next had a lineout in their opponents’ 22, but the Bulls were not so sure-footed at the back in open play, as visiting captain Ruairidh Leishman proved with some lung-bursting breaks. Nonetheless, when the next score came, after 25 minutes, it went Ayrshire’s way, with Caven initiating a break and Dan King taking it on before providing the scoring pass for Bobby Beattie. Hunt converted.

Again, though, Heriot’s hit back swiftly, with Pecqueur touching down behind the posts after good work down the left initiated by a Rory Steele chip and chase. Houston tied the game at 14 apiece with his conversion, then in the few minutes left before half-time put Heriot’s ahead with a long-range penalty. The stand-off had a chance to stretch the lead in the last kick of the first 40, but this time the effort went wide.

The Bulls had enjoyed dominance in the set scrum more or less throughout the first half, but when they reemerged it was with that new front row mentioned by MacArthur, including another debutant in hooker James Malcolm. Before they could settle into their rhythm, however, they lost centre Thomas Glendinning to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle.

Heriot’s could not make use of the extra man, and they surrendered the lead just as Glendinning came back on to the field, with Malcolm scoring an unconverted try from a lineout.

Another missed penalty from 40 metres plus by Houston meant the home side still held that two-point lead going into the final quarter. Heriot’s were forced into a back-line rejig when Houston went off injured, and they were further handicapped when Leishman was sinbinned for a team offence.

The Bulls started to pile on the pressure from that point, and eventually got their reward when Malcolm crossed again. Hunt’s conversion gave his team a nine-point lead with ten minutes to play, and it stayed that way until the dying minutes, when Beattie ripped possession in a tackle to claim his team’s fifth try. Another two points from Hunt ended the contest.

Delight for the Bulls, then, and disappointment for Heriot’s, who contributed so much to a match from which they emerged with nothing. Even so, there were a lot of positives for the visitors to take from their own performance, as Leishman noted afterwards.

“It’s going to take a wee while to gel, but I thought it was a really good start,” he said. “We knew there were going to be mistakes – a third of the team were new caps. But we worked really hard, and the first half was really good.

“In the second half they got momentum back after the first ten minutes, which we didn’t make the most of. We just couldn’t quite claw it back, so we’ll have to look at that for the next few weeks.”

Scoring sequence (Bulls first): 5-0, 7-0, 7-5, 7-7, 12-7, 14-7, 14-12, 14-14, 14-17 half-time, 19-17, 24-17, 26-17, 31-17, 33-17.

Scorers: Ayrshire Blues: Tries: Caven, Beattie 2, Malcolm 2. Cons: Hunt 4.

Heriot’s: Tries: Pecqueur 2. Cons: Houston 2. Pen: Houston.

Ayrshire Bulls: Liam McNamara; J Shedden, T Glendinning, R Beattie, E Caven; W Hunt, J Lenac; W Farquhar (A Nimmo 41), A McGuire (J Malcolm 41), C Henderson (M Scott 41),  E Bloodworth, R Jackson, A Smeaton, G Wilson (Lewis McNamara 52), B MacPherson (captain). 

Heriot’s: D King (R Jones 54); F Jones (N Godsmark 47), R Steele, R Kay, S Pecqueur; B Houston (K Browne 63), J Gelderbloom; C Keen (J Scott 61), C Fenton (M Liness 54), E McLaren (D Gamble 47), R Seydak (S Johnstone 75), F Hastie (J Britton 57), R Leishman (captain), I Wilson, J Mann. 

Yellow cards: Ayrshire Bulls: T Glendinning 43. Heriot’s: R Leishman 65.

Referee: Ruairidh Campbell. 

Man of the match: Bulls captain Blair MacPherson was the official pick, but in truth any one of five or six home players must have run him close.

Talking point: Has the short close season following the Sprint Series allowed enough time for teams to rectify the failings they displayed there? On this evidence, and despite their defeat, the answer from Heriot’s has to be a resounding yes. Playing under their new head coaching team for the first time, they displayed a hunger that appeared to have abandoned them earlier in the year. 

About Stuart Bathgate 1131 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

5 Comments

  1. What a waste of money this Super 6 malarkey is .
    Please give a reason why old Premiership was binned .
    That’s where young players played every week and learnt the ropes and gained experience being up against seasoned players .
    They Don’t get that now .many don’t even get on to the pitch .what are they learning ? .nothing

    11
    8
  2. Watched this game last night and quite how it can be suggested that Ayr Bulls are complying with any type of SRU guidance regarding promoting young aspiring U20 players coming through is beyond me. This is a squad picked purely to win a “ tournament “ and very little else. The physical difference between the Bulls pack and say the Southern Knights pack that is picked to play today is stark.
    The Super 6 is shaping up as simply a repeat of the Sprint series with clear evidence the objectives set out by the SRU for aspiring / developing players in this tournament being ignored by some of the franchises.
    There is no doubt that Blair McPherson is a decent enough player at this level but is he the future of Scottish rugby … no.
    Other than Thomas Glendinning I didn’t see much evidence of promoting any of the most recent U20 squad..
    The SRU has to step in here for a couple of reasons
    1. One of the main aims of the Super 6 is to identify and promote Scottish qualified talent early. It is not to select a team of “beasts” simply designed on winning this tournament.
    2. There is a huge difference in interpretation between franchises about the main aims of the Super 6. The Southern Knights in particular appear to have been significantly disadvantaged in this.
    Unfortunately this is a franchise out of the Borders and the persistent infighting between the Borders clubs is contributing towards this. It is disappointing to see so many Borders players choose to ply their Super 6 trade with the other teams as opposed to their own local Borders franchise, make no bones about it this is almost certainly due to the persistent negative view of Melrose across Borders rugby in that players from other Borders towns will simply not play for a franchise operating out of Melrose due to outdated and parochial attitudes, most likely from their forefathers as opposed to anything they have experienced themselves.
    Make no mistake these outdated attitudes have already contributed heavily towards the demise of the Borders professional team and if they continue are likely to do likewise for the Knights franchise.
    Dodson will not be concerned about this as he has always viewed the Borders as an irrelevance and unfortunately the Borders clubs attitudes play right into his hands …
    The only way the Knights survive is that if all borders players / clubs put aside these attitudes and support the franchise. They don’t have to like it but they must see it for what it is – an opportunity for aspiring players to progress. If the Southern Knights had been pitched as the “South” it is likely that the attitude from Borders clubs would have been different , every now and then the mutterings around the resurrection of the “South “ keep resurfacing but this is a pipe dream as any sort of viable consistent process. Unfortunately the closed minds that lie within so many of the Borders clubs still choose to consistently work and influence against the Knights franchise and at a time when Borders rugby needs to pull together against our city Super 6 counterparts.
    Watching the physical makeup of the Ayr and Heriots sides last night I fear that the Knights again will be in for a tough few months but alongside that it is important that the other Super 6 franchises are made to fulfil the premis of the Super 6 and not just pick teams purely designed on winning a tournament primarily because they are bigger and more physical.

    17
    6
    • average age of the Heriots S6 squad is 3 years older than the Bulls squad. Heriots and Watsonians are the two teams with the highest average age. HTH.

      4
      2
    • They aren’t franchises. Franchising comes with very specific legal compliance clauses backed up be legislation. They are licensees

      5
      3
    • Like it or not, it looks to me that all of the SRU Stage 3 Academy boys who played in the Under 20 Summer Series of internationals, have been held back from participating in this round of Super 6. Only 8 of the Academy players played this round, and none of them were involved in the Summer Series. Only 5 players who played in the Summer Series played in this round of Super 6 – Kieron Clark, Euan Cunningham, Gregor Hiddleston, Thomas Glendinning and Duncan Hood – and none of them are Stage 3 Academy players. So I don’t think it is the ‘franchises’ not playing them, it looks like an SRU directive. Presumably it is about managing game time over the season and getting some sort of pre-season in. However it could also be viewed as the left hand is not talking to the right hand within the SRU because they are never transparent with this kind of thing.

      14

Leave a Reply

Please be respectful in your replies. Abusive language is automatically blocked. Your email address will not be published.


*