AYRSHIRE BULLS head coach Peter Horne has rung the changes for tomorrow evening’s home clash against Watsonians in the penultimate round of the 2022 Super6 Sprint Series. The former Glasgow Warriors and Scotland midfielder has made eight personnel and one positional change to the start XV he sent out against Stirling County last weekend.
It is a game the Bulls must win if they are to prevent Watsonians from being crowned tournament champions with a week to spare.
In the hosts’ backline, fit again Thomas Glendinning replaces Elias Cavan on the wing, Jamie Shedden comes in at outside-centre, Bobby Beattie switches to inside-centre, while Matt Minogue and Cam Jones form a new half-back partnership. Meanwhile, in the pack, loose-head prop Andrew Nimmo, second-row Harry Murray, blindside flanker Lewis McNamara and open-side flanker Gavin Wilson are all added to the starting line-up.
“Everyone at the club is excited to see Harry Murray make his debut after recovering from injury,” said Horne. “He has shown lots of promise in training and it is great he has recovered in time to get an opportunity to show what he can bring to the Bulls jersey.
“Thomas Glendinning is back fit for the first time since an impressive debut in round one to take his place on the wing. Matt Minogue has earned an opportunity to showcase his ability and starts at 10. And it is a family affair in the front row as cousins Grant Stewart and Andrew Nimmo make their first starts together. Rhodri Tanner comes into the squad on the bench.
“The group were devastated at full time last week but as always turned up to training with the bit between their teeth, adamant to take the learnings and get better,” he added. “Although our tournament is over, I know this group have too much pride to give anything but 100 percent against an unbeaten Watsonians.
“We have the desire to right a few wrongs and if that wasn’t enough motivation it’s Rhodri Tanner’s last game for the club. Rod has been at the heart of everything on and off the field for the last 12 months. A fierce competitor and a bloody good man. I hope we can put in a performance to make him proud this weekend.”
Watsonians were 29-26 winners when these two sides met in an epic tussle at the same venue in the last match played before the split a fortnight ago, and head coach Fergus Pringle has made six personnel and one positional change to the team which started that game.
In the backline, Dom Coetzer replaces Harry Paterson at 15, Lomond MacPherson starts on the wing in place of Matt Currie and Jason Baggott replaces Joe Reynolds, with Lee Millar moving from 10 to 12. In the forwards, Edinburgh pros Mesu Kunavula and Pierce Phillips start at blindside flanker and in second-row, respectively, while Bobby Bratton comes in at tight-head prop.
Former Scotland Under-20s stand-off Connor Eastgate is named on the bench, who was previously a member of the Wasps academy and more recently has played National One level with Plymouth Albion.
“We’re really excited for our first playoff game and there’s no getting away from the fact that there’s a lot at stake,” said Pringle. “The Ayrshire Bulls are a class outfit and a very tough team to play against, especially on their home patch at Millbrae. We are focused on being accurate and disciplined in everything we do and need to be more consistent across the whole game, if we are going to come out on top.”
If Watsonians don’t win this game, the title will still be theirs to claim when they host Stirling County next weekend.
Ayrshire Bulls (versus Watsonians at Millbrae, Friday @ 7.45pm): Liam McNamara; T Glendinning, J Shedden, R Beattie, A Tait; M Minogue, C Jones; A Nimmo, G Stewart, M Scott, E Bloodworth, H Murray, Lewis McNamara, G Wilson, B Macpherson©. Subs: R Tanner, T Lambert, C Henderson, E Bulger, J Knight, F Callaghan, T Jordan, C Townsend, E Mcara.
Watsonians: D Coetzer; L MacPherson, L Berg, L Millar©, A Guthrie; J Baggott, R Brand; S Grahamslaw, C Davies, B Bratton, L Ball, P Phillips, M Kunavula, S Cecil, I Moody. Subs: E Young, A McWilliam, G Scougall, K van Niekerk, K Main, B Young, C Eastgate, G Cannie.
Referee: Ross Mabon
Key battle: Lewis McNamara versus Mesu Kunavula
Verdict: The Bulls were left deeply frustrated with how things banned out at Bridgehaugh next weekend and will be desperate to finish the campaign on a high in front of their own fans. It was very tight last time round, and it could just swing the other way this time.