WHAT doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. So, while last Sunday’s Super6 clash between Stirling County and Ayrshire Bulls in diabolical conditions is unlikely to be fondly remembered by any of the players involved, those hardy souls deserve credit for the fortitude they showed to produce a contest which was compelling through its grittiness, and they should take comfort from the knowledge that the weather is not expected to be quite as grim for the re-match at Millbrae tomorrow [Saturday] afternoon [2pm kick-off].
The Bulls emerged as 0-8 winners from the first leg, and back-five forward George Bordill is in no doubt that the benefit of that experience will reach far beyond the handy four points they picked up to keep pace with Watsonians at the top of the Super6 table.
“It was mental, really – It was one of those games when you come off the pitch and you know it has done a lot for the squad as a whole, because it had shown us that we are able to dog out that kind of win in awful conditions,” he said.
“It is inevitable that those conditions are going to happen from time-to-time. It could happen again next Saturday, it could happen next year when we are playing in January and February, so it is good to know that even when we are away from home, we can get behind each other and get the job done. That we’ve got what it takes to come out on top when it is an out and out battle of your mental strength.”
Bordill is clearly the type of character who relishes the sort of adversity. The no-nonsense back-five-of-scrum player was born and raised in Sandbach, Cheshire, and qualifies for Scotland through his Glaswegian mother. His brother, Will, played 19 games for Scotland Under-20s at opens-side flanker and had four seasons turning out for Ayr in the Premiership between 2013 and 2017.
The younger sibling has played for Scotland at Under-19 level but missed out on the Under-20s set-up two years ago. Now 21, he has managed to fit this inaugural Super6 season around studying for an accountancy degree at Northumbria University.
“I was looking for a placement and with Will having been at Ayr I had that contact, so I spoke to Pete Murchie on the phone and it all happened very quickly,” he explains. “Pete managed to speak to William Duncan + Co, who are long-term sponsors of the club, and they were able to set me up with my placement year, so it all fell into place from there.”
He must head back to Northumbria to complete his degree next season but thereafter Bordill says he would welcome the opportunity to commit to the Bulls longer term. “Ayr, as a rugby club on a whole, is one of the best environments I have been in, so I wouldn’t hesitate to come back here again – but it just depends on where everything lies with my career,” he insists.
Clearly, the change to a more pragmatic style of rugby compared to the BUCS Super League last season has not put him off. “In that competition, most of the pitches are 4G and it is a much faster and wider game, whereas in Super6 the forwards have more of an impact on the result of the game. It is very challenging but as a forward it is great to have that sort of influence on what happens.”
With that in mind, Bordill knows he is going to have his work cut-out tomorrow when he lines up against a Stirling County pack containing three Glasgow Warriors pros in the shape of second-row Andrew Davidson, and back-rowers Matt Smith and Adam Ashe.
The visitors are also boosted by the availability for the first time this season after recovering from a foot injury of former Edinburgh scrum-half Sean Kennedy, who is now on a partnership contract shared between County and Glasgow Warriors. He is named on the bench alongside former Scotland Under-20 prop Fergus Bradbury – brother of Magnus – who has returned to rugby after taking a break for a couple of seasons.
The Bulls are without skipper Pete McCallum, who picked up a knock last weekend, so Graham Geldenhuys comes in at openside.
Ayrshire Bulls: Ollie Smith; Tom Lewis, Danny McCluskey, Tom Jordan, Matt Davidson; Ross Thompson, David Armstrong; Gordon Reid, Sam Kitchen, Nicolas Griffiths, Marshall Sykes, Lars Morrice, George Bordill, Graham Geldenhuys, Blair Macpherson©. Subs: Alex McGuire, Michael Scott, Ruairidh Sayce, Fraser Hastie, Gavin Wilson, Harry Warr, Frazier Climo, Robbie Nairn.
Stirling County: Ewan MacGarvie; Andrew McLean, Robbie Kent, Landon Hayes, Logan Trotter; Andrew Goudie, Caleb Korteweg; Charlie Brown, Reyner Kennedy©, Murphy Walker, Andrew Davidson, Cameron Henderson, George Arnott, Matt Smith, Adam Ashe. Subs: Bryce Robertson, Adam Wood, Fergus Bradbury, James, Pow, Ollie Bartlett, Sean Kennedy, Connor Gordon, Euan Cunningham.
MEANWHILE, Heriot’s and Southern Knights re-engage at Goldenacre [also a 2pm kick-off], with the visitors desperate to bounce back from last weekend’s loss against the same opposition at The Greenyards to claim their first win of the campaign.
Knights head coach Rob Chrystie has handed a first Super6 start to Scotland Under-19s prospect Harri Morris at open-side flanker, and has shown faith in the same backline as he sent out last weekend.
Murray McCallum is not released by Edinburgh this week so Dan Gamble starts at tight-head for Heriot’s after returning from Scotland Under-19 duty in Wales, with Struan Cessford continuing to provide cover from the bench.
Southern Knights: Fraser Thomson©; Ciaran Whyte, Patrick Anderson, Gavin Wood, Joseph Jenkins; Jason Baggott, Struan Hutchison; Struan Hutchison; Shaun Gunn, Fraser Renwick, Ewan McQuillan, James Head, Angus Runciman, Neil Irvine-Hess, Harri Morris, Iain Moody. Subs: Finlay Scott, Callum Crookshanks, Grant Shiells, Dalton Redpath, Ruaridh Knott, Andrew Nagle, Thomas Galbraith, Jacob Henry.
Heriot’s: Robbie Chalmers; Rory McMichael, Robert Kay, Cameron Hutchison, Jack Blain; Ross Jones, Dan Nutton; Josh Scott, Michael Liness, Dan Gamble, Adam Sinclair, Charlie Jupp, Iain Wilson©, Jack McClean, Jason Hill. Subs: Ali Johnstone, Chris Keen, Struan Cessford, Ronan Seydak, Callum Marshall, Andres Simmers, James Spencer, James Couper.
How it stands –