Match Report | Ayrshire Bulls 19 – 29 Stirling Wolves – FOSROC Super Series Championship Final
Stirling Wolves lifted the FOSROC Super Series Championship for the first time after a rousing final against Ayrshire Bulls at Hive Stadium tonight.
Tactically Stirling had been smart against Heriot’s in the semi-final eight days ago and with their pack once again ravenous, they gained revenge for their two losses to the Bulls during the regular season in heart-warming fashion, a tribute to the coaching of Eddie Pollock, Duncan Hodge and Scott Lawson.
Bulls had started sluggishly but into the second-half, it looked as if momentum was in their favour, only for an interception try and a clinical finish from experienced full-back Glenn Bryce to seal the deal.
The third FOSROC Super Series Championship final pitted Ayrshire Bulls, who had finished in second at the end of the regular season, against Stirling Wolves who had been fourth.
The respective teams had accounted for Watsonians and Heriot’s in last weekend’s semi-finals and, for the Bulls, they were looking to add the Championship to the Sprint Series they had captured back in May.
Craig Jackson launched proceedings for Stirling and there was an immediate knock-on from Andrew Stirrat. Off the scrum, Wolves went through the phases with Ben Afshar’s service pivotal. The scrum-half, part of Glasgow Warriors squad and a product of the Scotland U20s last season, did well to unleash his number 8, Ed Hasdell, who stormed in for the opening try. Marcus Holden converted (0-7, 2 mins).
Jamie Shedden made a barn-storming surge in Bulls’ response, but it came at a cost as he hirpled off after five minutes to be replaced by Thomas Glendinning. He was later seen on crutches.
Stirling continued to look the livelier and after Mikey Heron had danced into the Bulls’ 22, Jackson arced to the right. Just as it seemed he would trust his pace to hurtle through the Bulls defence, he passed right, and Ed Timpson could not gather.
Ross McKnight, the competition’s top try scorer with 14 going into tonight’s match, almost escaped only to be denied by a foot in touch. However, Stirling continued to press and from a belligerent surge by a deserved FOSROC Player of the Match, Gregor Hiddleston, ball was transferred slickly to the left for former Scotland 7s stalwart Bryce to slide in for their second try. Holden missed the conversion (0-12, 21 mins).
Brad Roderick-Evans, the Bulls stand-off tried to spark their attack, gathering his own perfectly flighted, audacious chip-ahead, but a turnover by the admirable Connor Gordon saved Stirling on that occasion.
Next the fast feet of Luca Bardelli rightly excited the Bulls support and bequeathed a contact penalty, but a turnover off a driving maul spiked that chance.
On the half hour, Stirling struck again. From a lineout against the throw, Hasdell caught and then released George Breese. The prop timed his pass to James Pow perfectly. Super quick ball, Jackson stabbed a kick through and McKnight, at full tilt, paused to regather and dot down for a cracking try. Holden’s conversion attempt was wide (0-17, 31 mins).
Bulls garnered their first points just minutes later. From a penalty to touch, Blair Macpherson was the target, the rolling maul bulldozed into gear and Bobby Beattie got the try. Roderick-Evans goaled (7-17, 34 mins).
HALF TIME: Ayrshire Bulls 7 – 17 Stirling Wolves
The early second-half action saw Bryce resolute in high ball takes and Stirling enjoy territorial advantage, without ever hinting at that stage that they would expand their score.
But from a penalty, from which Bulls opted for the touchline, they caught and ran patiently through their pick and go repertoire before Ed Bloodworth crashed over. Roderick-Evans converted (14-17, 51 mins).
Bulls continued to press left to right as the rain swirled overhead, but Chris Elliot’s pass was intercepted by the galloping McKnight who raced 70 metres for Stirling’s fourth try and his own second. Holden converted. (14-24, 54 mins).
That score had been somewhat against the run of play, and, into the last quarter, Bulls narrowed Stirling’s lead afresh.
From Roderick-Evans’ diagonal, Stirling’s cover could not douse the threat and Oli Horne pounced for the unconverted try (19-24, 62 mins).
From a maul collapse penalty, Bryce prodded Stirling towards the Bulls’ five-metre line. Lineout secured, cue driving mauls but then ball released, going right, for Bryce to hand off powerfully and blaze home for his second try of the final. Holden’s conversion attempt went astray (19-29, 74 mins).
But no matter, Stirling emerged victorious by five tries to three. Party time at Bridgehaugh tonight!
FULL TIME: Ayrshire Bulls 19 – 29 Stirling Wolves
Referee: Ian Kenny
AR1: David Sutherland
AR2: Bob Nevins
FOSROC Player of the Match: Gregor Hiddleston (Stirling Wolves)
Ayrshire Bulls: Bobby Beattie, Ed Bloodworth, Oli Horne
Stirling Wolves: Ed Hasdell, Glenn Bryce (2), Ross McKnight (2)
Ayrshire Bulls: Brad Rodrick-Evans (2)
Stirling Wolves: Marcus Holden (3)
Ayrshire Bulls: Oli Horne; Jamie Shedden, Andrew Stirrat, Bobby Beattie, Luca Bardelli; Brad Roderick-Evans, Reiss Cullen; Andrew Nimmo, Grant Stewart, Calvin Henderson, Ed Bloodworth, Rory Jackson, Ryan Sweeney, Lewis McNamara and Blair Macpherson CAPTAIN.
Subs: Rhodri Tanner for Stewart (59 mins); Jamie Drummond for Nimmo (40 mins), William Farquhar for Henderson (40 mins), Oscar Baird for Jackson (74 mins), Tim Brown for McNamara (59 mins), Fergus Johnston for Cullen (70 mins), Christopher Elliot for Stirrat (51 mins), Thomas Glendinning for Shedden (5 mins).
Stirling Wolves: Glenn Bryce; Ross McKnight, Ryan Southern, Marcus Holden CAPTAIN, Mikey Heron; Craig Jackson, Ben Afshar; George Breese, Gregor Hiddleston, Marius Tamosaitis, Tom Smith, James Pow, Ed Timpson, Connor Gordon and Ed Hasdell.
Subs: Reyner Kennedy for Hiddleston(74 mins), Liam Quarm for Breese (74 mins), Lewis Skinner for Tamosaitis (60 mins), Hamish Ferguson for Smith (52 mins), Ruaridh Knott for Timpson (74 mins), Kyle McGhie for Afshar (74 mins), Euan Cunningham for Jackson (79 mins), Sam Rockley for Heron (52 mins)