Super6 final: Premiership flashbacks as Southern Knights and Ayrshire Bulls compete for title

The presence of Southern Knights and Ayrshire Bulls in this afternoon’s Super6 play-off final might suggest that not much has changed since the new part-time professional league – which aims to bridge the gap between the traditional club game and the pro tier in Scotland – was set up in the Autumn of 2019.

The FOSROC Super6 trophy is pictured at the DAM Health Stadium, where the final will be played. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

These sides are, after all, the offspring of the two clubs which dominated the Premiership for the decade prior to Super6, winning seven out of nine league championships between them and seven of the previous 12 Scottish Cup Finals.

However, Rob Chrystie, head coach of the Melrose-based Knights franchise, is quick to point out that his side struggled during the first half of the inaugural Super6 season (eventually declared null-and-void in March 2020 due to Covid), which he believes illustrates that it has not simply been a case of carrying on as before.

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“We were sitting rock bottom after five games, and there was probably more of the core group [from the Melrose Premiership era] in that squad, so I suppose that shows how far we’ve come,” he said.

“If you look at the Ayrshire Bulls squad, it’s pretty different now from what was there at the start of Super6 as well, but I think what you’ll find is that the two clubs are pretty similar in terms of the personnel in the back room.

“Somebody like Mike Dalgetty is massively important for us. Ayr have got Billy McHarg and Glen Tippett who have been around for years as well. They understand what has to happen off the field as much as they do on the field. We always say the players are the most important part of the club, 100 per cent, but ultimately there’s an awful lot of other people who had got the responsibility to contribute as well.

“We’ve got two really good squads of players who have fully bought into what we’re trying to do so, hopefully, that will translate into a really good game of rugby on Sunday that shows the competition for what it’s worth.”

This afternoon’s match is at the DAM Health Stadium, Edinburgh’s new home ground on the back pitches of Murrayfield, which is a similar surface to the one the Knights now train and play on at The Greenyards – but Bulls head coach Pat MacArthur doesn’t see that being a decisive factor.

“You don’t let the pitch change your team and the way you want to play rugby,” he stated. “Yes, they are fairly used to it, they train on it and will understand how it feels under foot, but we have the ability to train on 4G pitches down by us.”

Bulls came out on top when the two sides met on a filthy Friday evening at Millbrae a fortnight ago. The conditions will hopefully be better today, but it is unlikely that this will facilitate an exhibition of champagne rugby.

“Both teams have got some really strong, dynamic players,” concluded Chrystie. “It’s going to be a bit of a battle. There will be pressure on people – on certain people more than others – and to a certain degree it will be who flinches first.”

Meanwhile, Boroughmuir Bears defeated Heriot’s 21-15 in yesterday’s Super6 5th/6th place play-off at Goldenacre thanks to a brace of tries from Kaleem Baretto and one from Tom Banatlava, all converted by Martin Cimprich. Watsonians clinched thrid spot by defeating Stirling County at Myreside on Friday evening.

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