Ayrshire Bulls coach says Smith try was turning point in win over Watsonians

Watsonians try-scorer Mesu Kunavula is tackled by Bulls scrum-half David Armstrong on a bruising afternoon at Millbrae. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS/SRU
Watsonians try-scorer Mesu Kunavula is tackled by Bulls scrum-half David Armstrong on a bruising afternoon at Millbrae. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS/SRU
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For the first 50 minutes of this top of the table FOSROC Super6 contest Watsonians were kryptonite to a home side, more stirks than Bulls. Then a Superman moment changed everything.

“Watsonians were good in that first half, they were disciplined, while we made too many mistakes and could not break them down. But Ollie Smith’s try was a massive momentum swing to us; had he not made that interception, we would have been 15 or 17-0 down and faced with a mountain, but, as it was, we got going and our pack built the pressure for us to win,” explained Bulls coach Peter Murchie.

Having seen his side’s unbeaten start to the season ended, Sonians coach Fergus Pringle was naturally disappointed, but still able to find the positives. “In this league, it’s down to fine margins, an interception try and two push-overs – it was close,” he said. We were maybe inaccurate in a first half which we dominated, but they defended well. The first score after the break was always going to be important and they got it.

“But, we top the table going into 2020, we have gelled well, with the guys who haven’t been playing really playing their part. We have one or two things to fix, but we showed great energy and we can put these right in our next game – which is against the Bulls at Myreside in January.” Super6 games to date have not been try-festivals, and this one was no different. Watsonians dominated the first half, but repeated attacks foundered on 
sterling Bulls defence before, in the 44th minute of “real time”, Edinburgh’s Fijian breakaway Mesu Kunavula finally found a way over the try line. Lee Millar, who had earlier opened the scoring with a penalty, converted for 10-0.

Watsonians opened the second period still in the driving seat but everything changed in the 42nd minute when Ollie Smith, right, gambled, intercepted a Lewis Berg pass and scampered 95 metres, with five Watsonians pursuing him, for an unconverted breakaway try.

On that man-of-the-match clinching incident, the game turned. The home pack began to flex their collective muscle and, in 55 minutes, forced a penalty try to edge in front. Five minutes later, however, they were pinged at a ruck and Millar restored the narrowest of leads for the visitors.

The Bulls were raging now, pinning their guests back on their own line, and in 71 minutes came the game-winning try. Blair Macpherson, who had taken over the captaincy after Pete McCallum went off in the ninth minute, picked up and dived over at the back of an advancing home scrum. Ross Thompson converted for 19-13.

But, credit to Watsonians, they came back strongly. With the final hooter already sounded, Millar marched them downfield with a couple of touch-finding penalties to give them the chance to maul over the home line off a five-metre lineout. They threw backs into the drive, they did get over, but, when the heap of bodies collapsed, referee Mike Adamson, after consulting assistant Alistair Watt, ruled that since there was no evidence of Bulls having collapsed the drive and none of a definite grounding, that was that – Bulls had survived.

The result leaves the sides tied at the top of the table on 23 points, but, crucially, with a plus-50 to plus-48 points difference, the Edinburgh team will go into the second half of the season as leaders.