Ayrshire Bulls 10
ANDY WHITE @ Myreside
AN assured second-half performance saw leaders Watsonians gain revenge for their defeat at Millbrae last time out and stretch their advantage at the top of the table to four points. While the Myreside men were never behind in the match, they repeated their habit in most of their previous victories of getting stronger the longer the game went on, and denied the Bulls a score after the break.
Having seen his team begin the game above Ayrshire only thanks to a slightly superior points differential, Watsonians coach Fergus Pringle was happy with the win, but also pointed out areas in which he expects his team to improve over the run-in to the regular season. “It was one of those games where there’s clearly things we didn’t do well,” he said. “Our lineout didn’t function and we made a few mistakes defensively, but there was plenty of good too, evidence of the stuff we’ve been working on starting to come through.”
Bulls head coach Peter Murchie, by contrast, simply lamented his side’s errors. “Watsonians certainly deserved their win,” he said. “We could have been more down at half-time after having a lot of line breaks against us. It’s difficult to defend when they’re getting in behind us off every phase and it was just a disappointing performance. We obviously need to be better”.
Watsonians broke the deadlock through winger Lomond Macpherson, who crossed following a sublime sidestep and turn of pace from team-mate Joe Reynolds on the 22m line, with Lee Millar adding the conversion. However, two minutes later the Bulls replied in kind, fly-half Ross Thomson having the presence of mind to switch the direction of play to find a gap for Ollie Smith, before the full-back passed to Tom Lewis who raced in past the covering defenders. Thomson added the kick to restore parity.
A few minutes later and it was deja vu as Reynolds again jinked past defenders with a sidestep in almost the same position as he had done previously, before the Bulls had a stroke of luck as a seemingly simple pass found its way forward. From there Watsonians made amends by stealing the ball back from the ensuing set piece, the first example of what turned out to be a near-perfect afternoon of scrummaging, in which Edinburgh prop Jack Stanley marked his return from injury with a performance to be proud of.
As the 20-minute mark passed, Watsonians capitalised on lazy running from the Bulls. Fly-half Millar took as much distance on his kick for touch as possible for the lineout. Down came the lineout and into a maul which was defended well initially, before man of the match Roan Frostwick changed tactic and flung the ball wide, where after another phase openside flanker Connor Boyle was waiting to go over for their second try.
Premiership Match Reports:
By the horns
It was after this, however, that the Bulls enjoyed a patch of possession and territory, and this was turned into three points when Thomson kicked at goal to put the Bulls an unconverted try away from the lead going into half time. Watsonians’ dominance in the scrum continued after the break in all areas of the pitch to force the under-pressure Bulls to resort to putting the ball into the air. Sam Kitchen, the Bulls hooker, decided enough was enough and stormed through a gap in the Watsonians defence, but was eventually hauled down on the 22m line before earning a penalty.
On 56 minutes Watsonians crossed again, with Edinburgh flanker Mesu Kunavula charging at the half gap on the fringe of the ruck, before a majestic offload left Lewis Berg with nothing to do except dot it down to the right of the sticks. The extras were added by the ever dependable Millar, and it began to look as though it was Watsonians’ game to lose.
From the kick-off it was Kunavula again, charging deep into the Bulls half, before another gentle nudge from Millar put Watsonians in a comfortable position deep in the Bulls’ 22. Clear decision-making and intelligent rugby was the barked order from the Watsonians’ dugout as the game progressed into its final quarter, Millar marshalling his team and perpetually keeping the Bulls on the back foot by pinning them deep into their own half.
When the stand-off added two penalties on 65 and 67 minutes, the game was out of sight. Despite a late rally from the Bulls the Watsonians players remained ferocious in defence, epitomised perfectly by defending a seemingly unstoppable rolling maul, before referee Ormiston declared it unplayable to the roars of the Myreside crowd with seconds to go.
Watsonians: J Forbes; L Macpherson, D Innes, J Reynolds, A Guthrie; L Millar ©,
R Frostwick; H Courtney, C Davies, J Stanley, M Badenhorst, J Hodgson, M Kunavula, C Boyle, M Inness. Subs: C Wilson, S Grahamslaw, J Gibson, K Watt, J Miller, M Scott, L Berg, R Smith.
Ayrshire Bulls: O Smith; T Lewis, S McDowall, T Jordan, L Jones; R Thomson, D Armstrong; R Sayce, S Kitchen, N Griffiths, M Sykes, L Morrice, G Bordill, P McCallum ©, B Macpherson. Subs: L Anderson, M Scott, E Davies, F Hastie, G Geldenhuys, A Shabort, M Davidson, G Anderson.
Referee: G Ormiston.
Watsonians: Tries: Macpherson, Boyle, Berg. Cons: Millar 3. Pens: Millar 2.
Ayrshire Bulls: Try: Lewis. Con: Thomson. Pen: Thomson.
Scoring sequence (Watsonians first): 5-0, 7-0, 7-5, 7-7, 12-7, 14-7, 14-10 half-time, 19-10, 21-10, 24-10, 27-10.
Man of the Match: The speed of delivery from Watsonians scrum-half Roan Frostwick to Lee Millar gave the home side a different dimension in attack.
Talking point: The Watsonians pack had an afternoon to be proud of, particularly at scrum time, driving the Bulls off plenty of their own ball to give valuable front-foot possession to their back line.