BACK at the start of August, Watsonians announced their intention to carry on during this Super6 season as they had finished the last (aborted due to Covid) campaign, with a 21-26 round one victory away to Ayrshire Bulls.
It was the first of three wins on the bounce as the Myreside men set the early pace in the league, while the Bulls floundered during that first month with three defeats from four outings. However, Pat MacArthur, head coach at Millbrae, always insisted that his youthful team would be a force to be reckoned with when they hit their groove, and the former Glasgow Warriors and Scotland hooker’s faith has been vindicated with a strong run in to the end of the season.
The Bulls are chasing the sixth win on the bounce in this afternoon’s return fixture against Watsonians at Myreside and are already guaranteed a place in next Sunday’s Super6 1st/2nd place play-off. They will achieve the distinction of finishing top of the table if they pick up a bonus-point win in this final match of the regular season.
MacArthur has handed several players starts this week and an opportunity to stake a claim for involvement in the final, with second-row Ewan Hamilton-Bulger, winger Finn Callaghan and centre Tom Lanni coming in to the squad to start, while tight-head Calvin Henderson, hooker Rhodri Tanner, flankers Gavin Wilson and Rory Jackson, and stand-off Matt Minogue are promoted from the bench.
Christian Townsend, Jamie Drummond, Adam McGowan and Gavin Lowe (making his first appearance this season returning form a long term injury) come onto the bench.
“Watsonians have had a tough few weeks but will be desperate to finish the season on a high, we know from our encounter with them earlier in the season that they are a good team and we will have to play well to get a result,” said the Bulls coach. “For ourselves, it represents a chance to keep building towards the final and for players to stake a claim for final spots.”
As alluded to by MacArthur, Watsonians’ season trajectory has taken a nose-dive since those early matches, with four defeats on the bounce leaving them fourth in the table, although a losing bonus-point today would be enough to see them climb to third and secure a home draw in next Friday’s 3rd/4th place play-off.
“There are seven changes to the starting team from our game against Boroughmuir [last week],” said head coach MacArthur. “There are four in the pack where Karl Main, Cal Davies and Sam Grahamslaw return to the starting pack, and Ben Muncaster comes in to play his first game for Watsonians as a fulltime pro, having missed out on playing for us as an academy player last year. Kwagga Van Niekerk returns to the bench after recovering from injury.
“In the backs, Reiss Cullen returns at scrum-half, Scott King returns at inside centre and will be partnered by Matt Currie. It’s great to have Matt involved for the first time at Watsonians, having made his Edinburgh debut as an academy player before his Super6 debut with us.
It doesn’t come much tougher than facing an in-form Ayrshire Bulls team on Sunday at Myreside,” Pringle added. “They have won their last five games and have the best defence and attack record in the league. Pat and his coaching team have done a fantastic job to get them playing such a well balanced, effective game.
“For us, as a group, it’s a chance to test ourselves against the top team in the league, and put in a performance that we’re proud of.”
Watsonians (versus Ayrshire Bulls at Myreside on Sunday 10th August, kick-off 1.30pm): D Coetzer; H Elms, M Currie, S King, L MacPherson; J Reynolds, R Cullen; S Grahamslaw, C Davies, A Williams©, L Ball, M Badenhorst, B Muncaster, K Main, S Daly. Substitutes: R Graham, H Courtney, N Borel, K van Niekerk, C Wilson, R Frostwick, M Morrison, R Smith.
Ayrshire Bulls: E Cavan; A Tait, T Lanni, R Beattie, F Callaghan; M Minogue, J Lenac©; G Thornton, R Tanner, C Henderson, E Bulger, T Everard, R Jackson, G Wilson, R Sweeney. Substitutes: A McGuire, R Sayce, M Scott, B MacPherson, J Drummond, C Townsend, G Lowe, A McGowan.
But tickets for this match HERE.