AFTER endless hours of agonising, The Offside Line team has finally managed to select its Super6 team of the season. The only ground rule for this process was that players had to be picked in the position where they had appeared regularly and excelled. There was some really tough calls, and we don’t expect everyone (or indeed anyone) to agree. So, without father ado – and with tin-hats on – here is our selection:
15. Ollie Smith (Ayrshire Bulls): Was a fringe player for Ayr in 2018-19 – which was his first season in senior rugby – as the Millbrae men marched to the final Premiership title before the launch Super6. This season he has really come of age for the Bulls, coming off the bench in their opening weekend defeat to Heriot’s and then commanding the full-back slot for the next six games before disappearing off on Scotland Under-20s duty – where he was one of the key performers in a promising Six Nations campaign. Came through the age-grades as primarily a centre but is now beginning to look like a potential long-term successor to Stuart Hogg’s Glasgow Warriors’ No 15 jersey. Jamie Forbes was a stalwart for Watsonians and is unlucky to miss out.
14. Rory McMichael (Heriot’s): Arguably the most improved player in Super6 this season. Fires a shot every time he is involved, whether by beating a defender, or running so hard at the opposing team they have to think he is a threat, hence creating space for others. His work-rate off the ball, which can eventually lead to him picking up second touches, has also been invaluable to his side.
13. Joe Jenkins (Southern Knights): Originally from Brisbane, Australia, he qualifies to play for Wales through his paternal grandmother, prompting the switch from the Gold Coast to the valleys for his final year at university, which allowed him to take on an extended trial with the Ospreys. He was then drafted into the Welsh Sevens squad and played 12 tournaments in the HSBC World Series between 2017 and 2019, before joining the Southern Knights last summer. Initially deployed on the wing by Rob Chrystie, it was when he was moved to outside centre at the halfway stage in the campaign that he really came in to his own, coinciding with the Knights launching a run of four wins on the bounce which lifted them from the foot of the table into the play-off seedings.
12. Joe Reynolds (Watsonians): If Super6 is designed to aid young Scottish players in their development, then a generous sprinkling of experience is going to be key to help that process, and this 30-year-old New Zealander is exactly the kind of individual who can deliver that. His recruitment from Currie Chieftains was perhaps the smartest piece of business the de-facto Super6 champions did before the campaign kicked-off. An excellent left footed kicking option in the middle of the park, and offers all the rugby intelligence and technique you would expect from a player who has played Mitre 10 Cup rugby in his homeland, all of which made him a key figure in Watsonians’ excellent season.
11. Jordan Edmunds (Boroughmuir Bears): A tough old season for the Meggetland men, but when they clicked they were a sight to behold, and 25-year-old Edmunds once again showed up as a player who might have been worth a shot in the pro game a few years ago. Explosive and powerful (not always the same thing), with a nose for the line, his five touch-downs in the campaign made him the only member of the top five try-scorers in the league who is not a hooker.
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10. Lee Millar (Watsonians): Played every minute of every match – as captain – for the team which finished the regular season at the top of the Super6 pile. Top scorer in the league with 84 points, and his composure under pressure was a key factor in Watsonians’ relentless ability to grind out results. At 28 years of age, he is in the prime of his career, and he has five years valuable experience of playing professionally in the English Championship under his belt, making him an invaluable asset to the well-oiled Myreside machine.
9. Andrew Simmers (Heriot’s): Played Scotland Under-20s in 2017, then disappeared to the University of Texas for a year of his mechanical engineering degree, but lost none of his sharpness. Superb service, a threat from the base, a linker in broken play, brave and, perhaps most importantly, has a genuine knowledge of the game. “Possibly the most coachable player I have come across,” says Heriot’s coach Phil Smith.
1. Gordie Reid (Ayrshire Bulls): Was playing for Scotland at the World Cup in Japan in mid-October of last year then came home and jumped almost immediately back into the next stage of his career as a part-time pro with the Bulls. It would have been a difficult transition, but you can’t fault the big man’s enthusiasm and he brought some valuable stardust to the new competition. He even saved someone from a burning house for good measure!
2. Sam Kitchen (Ayrshire Bulls): A former Shute Shield winner in his native Australia with Northern Suburbs, the 25-year-old [he turns 26 on Monday] made a big impact after signing on at Millbrae last summer, bringing a strong set-piece and a nose for the line which saw him finish the campaign as top try-scorer on eight.
3. Murphy Walker (Stirling County): Able to play either side of the scrum with unwavering excellence, the 20-year-old Dundonian has accumulated a lot of minutes over the course of a tricky season for his side.
4. Jamie Hodgson (Watsonians): Another Scotland Under-20s graduate (from 2018 season), who seemed to have nowhere to go next. He spent this season on a partnership contract with Edinburgh, but the competition in the second-row at the capital club is intense meaning his game time has been limited, but Super6 had given him an important rugby outlet this season and he has been an ever-present Watsonians’ the starting XV.
5. Marshall Sykes (Ayrshire Bulls): What they like to call a hybrid player in that he has the size and power to be an effective second-row and the ball-playing ability and athleticism to fit into the back-row. Missed his big year with Scotland Under-20s due to a knee injury, which was a massive blow to both the age-grade team and the player, but both happily bounced back during this campaign in fine style. An honourable mention also goes to Cameron Henderson, who was able to use his game time with Stirling County as a launchpad to an outstanding Six Nations campaign for Scotland Under-20s, during which he marked himself out as a player with a big future.
6. Iain Wilson (Heriot’s): Q. What do you give Superman for Christmas? A. Iain Wilson pyjamas. Or so the joke goes down Goldenacre way. A leader from the front, he is unflappable and seemingly unbreakable, and arguably the outstanding player in the league this year.
7. Jack McLean (Heriot’s): An excellent tackler, with his low challenges bringing the biggest of ball-carriers to the deck, and his ferocious appetite to get back into the game post-tackle often feels like it gives his team an extra man. He is also fantastic over the ball, which has been a valuable source of turnovers and penalties for his side this season
8. Morgan Inness (Watsonians): The New Zealander arrived on these shores just a few weeks before the campaign kicked off – coming straight from a year playing club rugby in Russia – and made enough of an immediate impact to be named vice-captain at Myreside. He validated that decision with a man-of-the-match performance as Watsonians set the tone for the season with an away win over Southern Knights in round one. Big, powerful, tough, hard-working and athletic.Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 27)
16. Fraser Renwick (Southern Knights): The battle against Russell Anderson for the No 2 jersey at The Greenyards brought the best out of him, and he became a central figure in the Borderers’ pack as they mounted a successful late charge into the play-offs, with two tries off the bench at home against Boroughmuir Bears followed teh next week by a man-of-the match performance at Ayr being the highlights.
17. Harrison Courtney (Watsonians): Another Kiwi recruit who brought a tough edge to the Watsonians bandwagon.
18. Dan Gamble (Heriot’s): A neck injury meant he took no part in Scotland’s Under-20s campaign, but before that he really stepped up to the plate in a powerful Heriot’s pack – taking on added responsibility due to Struan Cessford’s unavailability for a big chunk of the campaign due to injury. Not bad going for a teenager in his first year out of school, playing in perhaps the most physically demanding position on the park.
19. Ruaridh Knott (Southern Knights): Has been a consistent performer for a number of years at The Greenyards, with his versatility in the middle and back rows of the scrum, and relish for making a big impact, standing him out as an excellent bench option. It was a close call ahead of team-mate Angus Runciman.
20. Dean Taylor-Menzies (Stirling County): Can play right across the back-row, with high physicality and leadership qualities, so just edges out Blair Macpherson of Ayrshire Bulls.
21. Struan Hutchison (Southern Knights): Continues to develop well in his dual positions of scrum-half and stand-off, which was incredibly useful for his side this season when they suffered a number of injuries to key inside backs.
22. Cameron Hutchison (Heriot’s): Returned from his year with SRU partnership club Stade Niçois, playing in the third tier of French rugby, to make an immediate impact for Heriot’s with a man-of-the-match performance in the opening weekend victory over Ayrshire Bulls. A genuine ball-carrying threat, he has also impressed the Goldenacre coaching team with his leadership in defence and ability to make big hits that matter at key moments. Incredibly unlucky to miss out to Joe Reynolds in the starting XV.
23. Glen Faulds (Boroughmuir Bears): A few question marks may still hang over aspects of his defence, but he brings an attacking edge that few players in Scottish club rugby can match.