IAIN HAI @millbrae
A ROUTINE win for the Ayrshire Bulls and another collection of maximum points on offer, saw them overtake league leaders Watsonians – for now at least – and end the regular season unbeaten at home, conceding 46 points in total in the during these five Millbrae games.
The turn of the seasons has been fully felt, the showers of the last few days leaving the ground heavy and prone to churning. With a number of stoppages in the first half, it took over 50 minutes, it felt like a bit of a grind, but as they tend to show, the Bulls were capable of producing when it mattered.
“When we entered their finish area, we were clinical,” said Pat McArthur, the Bulls coach who signed a new two-year deal this week to keep him at the club. “It was tough conditions on a tough pitch, which took a huge amount of legwork. We were used to playing fast, summer rugby and tonight was a totally different change of conditions, which the boys got into. well adapted.
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“It may have looked like a bit more stuffy rugby but the most important thing for us to watch is that it was a win with a bonus point and zero on the board for Stirling. It’s something we work so hard on.
“The patience of the boys is so impressive. There’s no stress, they stick to their system, picking the right points to make dominant shots. We don’t need to overdo it and risk giving away a penalty, they will get their reward eventually.
A number of Glasgow Warriors players have taken to the pitch and mixed ballots will be given to Francois Smith. For example, Bulls hosted again Ollie Smith and Ross Thompsonthe latter being in direct opposition to Duncan Weir at 10. Alongside Weir in Wolves from fifteen was the least spotted Walter Fitaand although the Tongan giant seemed like a threat to the future, the wolves didn’t see enough possession to use it in dangerous areas of the park, and there were a few noises that might help explain why it has rarely been seen in black.
Thompson’s educated left boot helped put Bulls in the lead early. A summary pass of Jordan Lenac was turned into gold by Andre Stirrat, claiming the ball over his head and flat, he carried two defenders with him before being pulled to the ground. Space was available on the right, and Thompson’s grubber behind was hit by Aaron Tait.
Stirling’s miserable luck with injuries continued as both heads tight George Breese and lock Max Williamson had to be substituted in the first quarter but it looked like they were going to equalize on the scoreboard when Ryan South spun a tackle in midfield, dodged and slid towards the line. The cross was virtually over the try line when Tait caught it, and as he dragged Southern down Smith crossed to dislodge the ball from Southern’s grip and secure the line drop goal for Bulls.
The Thompson-Tait combo again worked to extend the lead, but with a big helping hand from Fifita, who the Bulls were obviously keen to keep spinning. Thompson’s cross kick to the outside of the boot should have been an easy claim but, after getting into position well, the ball slipped through the tall Tongan’s hands and into the path of the predatory Tait.
Not much went Fifita’s way, he was handled by a man and thrown onto the deck by alexander samuelmuch to the delight of the Millbrae crowd just after the restart, and although he got a run to show how much damage he can do in the future, and although Wolves ended the half with a line-out at five yards from the Bulls. line, they failed to break through the black and pink barrier.
The second half played out much the same as the first, although the Bulls had even more territory. Blair MacPherson grabbed a try from about a yard out, after Thompson was stopped just before as he tried to force his way to the line past three covering defenders.
After watching Thompson unlock the Wolves defense for the first hour, his replacement richie simpson tried to get in on the act, stepping in as Thompson did in Wolves 22, but was denied by a brilliant tackle from Connor Gordon. The teenage clash was also perhaps a bit unlucky to see a floating missed pass late in the game being called forward, one for TV replays to prove.
Whether it was chopping, choking or hitting, the Bulls had their defensive game locked down so Wolves simply couldn’t build momentum. Ben Salmon thought he could outrun Jamie Shedenbut the big man was quick enough for this challenge and got him in touch.
The Bulls kept coming, but, to their credit, the Wolves kept defending. Sione Vailanu – a late substitution on the bench for Tim Brown – takes a few stops, and after sitting down Euan Cunningham, Craig Robertson must have come and thrown himself in the way of Vailanu.
Stirratt and Tait, looking for his hat trick, were then stopped, but Macpherson claimed his second from very close range shortly after Fifita failed to collect a chip and chase down. Liam McNamarawhich left the Bulls unleashed.
“We had an inability to put pressure on them and didn’t keep the ball beyond a few phases in attack, and then also we didn’t really get them to work hard before we lost discipline and gave them a penalty, which invites them into the 22”, lamented Ben Cairn in his penultimate game in charge of Wolves.
“I felt we would get stronger as the game went on, if Ryan Southern scores and it’s 12-7 at half time we create a bit of pressure on the scoreboard but we just couldn’t convert when we had one or two chances in the first half and then in the second half we had a 10+ pass but the rest of the time we gave the ball away too much easily.
“Our heart is there for everyone to see, but we’re just not being specific enough at the moment and creating no pressure.”
Ayrshire bulls: O Smith; J Shedden, T Glendinning, A Stirrat, A Tait; Thompson R, Lenac J; W Farquhar, J Malcolm, M Scott, E Bloodworth, A Samuel, R Jackson, G Wilson, B MacPherson©. Subs: A McGuire, A Nimmo, C Henderson, E Hamilton-Bulger, S Vailanu, R Simpson, C Jones, Liam McNamara.
Wolves of Stirling: C Robertson; E Cunningham, B Salmon, R Southern, W Fifita; D Weir, F Burgess; C MacMillan, G Hiddleston, G Breese, J Pow, M Williamson, H Ferguson, G Arnott©, B Grant. Subs: A Fraser, J McKenna, M Walker, L Bean, C Gordon, G Christie, L Brims, C Jardine.
Arbitrator: David Sutherland
Ayrshire bulls: Trials: Tait 2, Macpherson 2; Cons: Thompson 2, Simpson 1.
Wolves of Stirling: No goalscorers
Scoring sequence (Ayrshire Bulls first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0 (ht) 17-0; 19-0; 24-0; 26-0.
Player of the game: For another pair of tries and bravely sticking to his task of stopping the giant Walter Fifita in defense, Arron Tait is tonight’s winner.
Subject of discussion: Near the prize above, and claiming it from the broadcasters, was Alex Samuel. Another Glasgow Warriors affiliate, McArthur said of the lock: “He’s the best young striker I’ve coached in the last five years.”
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