SUPER6 reaches the end of its second complete Championship this weekend, though with an uncompleted inaugural competition and a Sprint series also played, it is actually the fourth campaign some of the players have been involved in.
This Championship has seen 247 players stripped for action, with 30-35 of them professionals, a similar number eligible for Scotland Under-20s this season, and a similar number NSQ.
While earlier incarnations of Super6 featured lots of very close games, this series has seen Ayrshire Bulls and Watsonians dominate much more conspicuously, and many more games have been won by sizeable margins.
Both Southern Knights (using 48 players) and Stirling Wolves (54 players) have been plagued by injuries and the inconsistency of selection they have had to endure as a result has lessened their competitiveness, but on the plus side both have managed to give a significant number of young players valuable game time. Both teams have seen their coaches move on at the end of this season, so change is ahead, in one form or another.
The Offside Line has nominated a team of the week after each round of games, with 100 different players featuring in our selection from the 29 games played in the regular season, and here is our selection for team of the season.
At full-back, Dom Coetzer stands out having been selected in the TOW on four occasions. Logan Trotter might have challenged his selection if he had not won himself a professional contract at London Irish early in the season. Dan King is a silky young addition to the Heriot’s team, and might well have done enough to cement a place in the national Under-20s programme this year, though young Andy McLean, having stepped up to Hawks from school with consummate ease, took the further step up to Super6 in his stride with a few games for the Bears at the end of the season.
On the wings there are four contenders each with three nominations. Lomond MacPherson and Angus Guthrie from Watonians, Elias Caven from the Bulls, and Aidan Cross from the Knights. With ten tries from eight appearances, it was impossible to leave out the competition’s top try scorer Caven, so he takes one slot. On the other touchline, MacPherson gets the nod having played in an impressive 33 of the 38 games in total Watsonians have played in Super6, including 30 starts. That is astonishing consistency for a winger who is still only 22-years-old. Guthrie’s versatility wins him a place on the bench, just ahead of the equally versatile and fast improving Jamie Shedden.
The choice of centres is more difficult. Lewis Berg (Watsonians) and Andy Stirrat (Ayrshire Bulls) lead the way with three nominations each so are included. Robert Beattie had a fine start to the season and would surely have been included if he had stayed fit, while Conor Eastgate impressed whenever he got an opportunity for Watsonians. Playmakers Joey Reynolds and Ryan Southern both performed the second five-eighth role so beloved in New Zealand impressively, and maybe one of them should have been included to balance the more muscular contributions of our selected pair.
The half-backs are the most demanding choices of all. No player in the nine or ten jersey received more than one nomination for TOW, and every team in the competition had a player nominated in one of those positions over the season.
In the end we have gone for the neat Jack Bergin of the Bears at stand-off by virtue of him starting every game and being the top scorer in the league with 79. Bruce Houston of Heriot’s did enough to earn himself a professional partnership contract with Edinburgh and Richie Simpson emerged from the Ayr club side to have an impressive first season at this level with the Bulls, so both are unlucky to miss out.
At scrum half, every team could probably argue for the inclusion of their general, and some of them might pitch two names, but in the end we’ve opted for Watsonians’ Rory Brand simply for his ability to change the game with his breaks.
In the front row, the league was blessed with an outstanding crop of young hookers at the moment – Corey Tait, Jerry Blyth-Lafferty (both Bears) and Elliot Young (Heriot’s) all had their moments – while the two No 2s with the most nominations are Gregor Hiddleston (Wolves) and James Malcolm (Bulls) with three each. Hiddleston’s four tries edge it. and in addition the 2-year-old has won himself a partnership contract with Glasgow Warriors.
On either side of Hiddleston, we have two candidates for each prop position. Callum McFeat-Smith of Bears (three nominations) edges Harrison Courtney (two nominations) on the loose-head side, with his dynamic ball carrying perhaps attracting more attention than the solid tight play of the Watsonians number one. On the other side you can take your pick between young Heriot’s Academy prospect Dan Gamble and Michael Scott of Ayrshire Bulls, who both received two POW nominations. Scott, like MacPherson, is another Scottish club player who has improved season by season at this level (he has appeared in 34 out of 37 games played by the Bulls), but Gamble, who has shared tight-head duties with Euan McLaren, has stood out consistently whenever he has been on the park so wins the place.
Young Jamie Campbell, the Academy prospect who was transferred from Heriot’s to Southern Knights at the last minute and has started every game for the Borderers, leads the way among the locks and is paired with Jamie Berrisford of Watsonians who wins his place on the basis of his try-scoring exploits. The consistent Heriots skipper Rauridh Leishman has to settle for a place on the bench, and Alex Samuel was outstanding whenever he turned out for Ayrshire Bulls but we have opted not to include any full-time professionals in the team.
In the back-row, some of the dominant characters of Super6 are vying for a place in the team. Benedict Grant (four nominations) edges out the outstanding Bulls skipper Blair Macpherson (three nominations) at No 8. He is flanked by Watsonians pair Seb Cecil and Karl Main (both with three nominations).
These consistent performers show the value of experience, because there have been some outstanding young back-rows this season who have shown in flashes they are likely to go on to have long and impressive professional careers – Liam McConnell, Rudi Brown, Sam Derrick (both Knights), Archie Smeaton (Bulls) and Sam Wallace (Heriot’s )among them.
There have been anomalies in the competition, of course. Controversially the Ayrshire Bulls versus Southern Knights fixture counted for double points with the reverse fixture not being played. Meanwhile, props Ali Rogers, Robbie Deans and Struan Cessford all turned out for three different teams in the completion.
15. Dom Coetzer (Watsonians)
14. Lomond MacPherson (Watsonians)
13. Lewis Berg (Watsonians)
12. Andy Stirrat (Ayrshire Bulls)
11. Elias Caven (Ayrshire Bulls)
10. Jack Bergin (Boroughmuir Bears)
9. Rory Brand (Watsonians)
1. Callum McFeat Smith (Boroughmuir Bears)
2. Gregor Hiddleston (Stirling Wolves)
3. Dan Gamble (Heriot’s)
4. Jamie Campbell (Southern Knights)
5. Jamie Berrisford (Watsonians)
6. Seb Cecil (Watsonians)
7. Karl Main (Watsonians)
8. Benedict Grant (Stirling Wolves)
16. James Malcolm (Ayrshire Bulls)
17. Harrison Courtney (Watsonians)
18. Michael Scott (Ayrshire Bulls)
19. Ruairidh Leishman (Heriot’s)
20. Blair Macpherson (Ayrshire Bulls)
21. Cameron Jones (Ayrshire Bulls)
22. Bruce Houston (Heriot’s)
23. Angus Guthrie (Watsonians)