SECOND hosts first in the FOSROC Super6 Championship to get week four of action up-and-running on Friday evening when the Ayrshire Bulls take on Watsonians at Millbrae.
The Bulls will feel that they owe their visitors from Edinburgh one after losing to them 34-23 at Myreside in round two, and the last two times Watsonians have visited Millbrae – in May and June in the Sprint Series – Fergus Pringle’s men headed home with tight wins under their belts.
Since the Super6 competitions began back in 2019-20 these have been the two best sides by some distance, so this should be another cracking clash.
After last week’s thumping victory over the Boroughmuir Bears, the Bulls have been boosted by the availability of up-and-coming Glasgow Warriors second-row Alex Samuel. The former Scotland under-20 captain from St Andrews signed a pro deal in the summer at Scotstoun and his selection means that Rory Jackson moves to No 6 in place of the injured Archie Smeaton.
Elsewhere in the pack, Gavin Wilson takes over the number seven jersey with Tim Brown dropping to the bench, while the only change in the backs sees Cam Jones – who is currently training with the Warriors – replacing the benched Jordan Lenac in the No 9 shirt.
With the league’s top try scorer to date Elias Caven (four) and centre Bobby Beattie (three) having scored seven tries between them in three matches, the hosts will be keen to get the ball in their hands.
“Playing at home on Friday provides a great platform for us to raise our performance levels again for this top of the table clash,” Bulls head coach Pat MacArthur said. “Our players will be determined to build on last week and they have been working hard with lots of competition for places. This represents a chance for players to stake a claim for starting positions.”
Like the Bulls, Watsonians also have a change in the second-row. Jamie Berrisford scored two tries after coming off the bench last week in the victory at Heriot’s and is rewarded with the number five jersey. He replaces Kwagga van Niekerk who is amongst the replacements.
Neil Irvine-Hess comes in at No 8 in place of the unavailable Iain Moody with hooker Cal Davies taking up captaincy duties from Lee Millar. Joe Reynolds starts at 12 while Dom Coetzer replaces Edinburgh Rugby Academy player Harry Paterson at full-back.
Kieran Watt, Connor Eastgate, Ryan Daley and Patrick Harrison are added to the replacements
“Going down to Millbrae to play Ayr is a big challenge, but one we always relish,” Watsonians head coach Pringle said. “We know Ayr will throw everything at us and we can’t shy away from that physical battle come Friday night. Our focus is on doing the basics well under pressure and being disciplined and composed in key moments of the game.”
Ayrshire Bulls (versus Watsonians @ Millbrae, Friday 7.45pm): Liam McNamara; A Tait, J Shedden, B Beattie, E Caven; R Simpson, C Jones; A Nimmo, J Malcolm, M Scott, E Bloodworth, A Samuel, R Jackson, G Wilson, B MacPherson©. Substitutes: A McGuire, W Farquhar, C Henderson, T Brown, E Hamilton-Bulger, W Hunt, J Lenac, T Glendinning.
Watsonians: D Coetzer; L MacPherson, L Berg, J Reynolds, A Guthrie; J Baggott, R Brand; H Courtney, C Davies©, B Bratton, L Ball, J Berrisford, S Cecil, K Main, N Irvine-Hess. Substitutes: P Harrison, C Lamberton, G Scougall, K Watt, K van Niekerk, M Scott, C Eastgate, R Daley.
Referee: David Sutherland
Key battle: Bobby Beattie versus Joe Reynolds.
Verdict: The matches between these two sides are always entertaining and hard to call and this one is no different. Watsonians travel west with 15 points in the bag from 15 while the Bulls showed last weekend against the Bears what they are all about. After three recent losses to Watsonians the Bulls will want to put that right – and they may just do that here in a game that will go right to the wire.