Three former Scotland centres who now coach Super Series rugby have called for a tightening up of refereeing standards in the league to match the quality of rugby being played.

Heriot’s boss Ben Cairns – who was capped seven times in 2008 and 2009 – expressed frustration after watching his team lose 18-15 to Ayrshire Bulls in Friday night’s Super Series Sprint Final at Millbrae.

“I feel like he [referee Ruairidh Campbell] was pretty quick to give them scrum and maul penalties, but he missed a lot of stuff in open field, which is what we do well,” he said. “There were probably bits on both sides, to be fair, and it is important that we recognise that it is a team of three officials, not just the ref.

“It is really frustrating to be 15-5 up and not able to see it out when we backed our fitness in the second half against a big physical team.

“Ultimately, they managed to get the squeeze on at scrum and maul, we started to get penalised in that area, and we just couldn’t get momentum after the break.”

Meanwhile, Graham Shiel – who now coaches Boroughmuir Bears after being capped 18 times between 1991 and 2000 – echoed the sentiment when speaking after his team’s fifth/sixth place play-off victory [26-21] over Southern Knights at Meggetland yesterday.

“At the end of the day, this is about developing officials as well as players,” he said. “At the moment, the game is moving on in the way that teams are playing it and I don’t think the officiating is moving along with that.

“The refereeing of the set-piece – scrum and maul – is inconsistent. It is a really difficult area to referee, I get that, but that is what the competition is now about, and it’s not being managed well enough.

“It is the same for both teams, but it feels like we are coming off on the wrong side of a lot of these moments. It is difficult, but we’re pleased to get the win today and sign off on this Sprint series on a positive note.”

His opposite number yesterday was Alan Tait – capped 27 times by Scotland and twice by the Lions between 1987 and 1997 – who provided some more insight into the level of dissatisfaction felt amongst the coaches at the way this Super Series Sprint has been officiated.

“When you’re in a situation like the one we are in, you get used to being kicked when you are down,” he said. “But you need a little bit of luck and you need a few decisions going your way.

“It’s all the coaches, so not just me who feels there are decisions being made that we just don’t understand.

“We’ve been on the end of dominant scrums and dominant line-outs all year and been penalised, then when we find ourselves in that position we don’t get the penalties. We did now and again, but we thought there was a few others today which were definite penalties and would have given us good field position, so it’s those things that are really frustrating.

“I’m a defence coach, that’s what I love doing and I really study that area, but it is carnage out there. Everybody is getting away with everything, and if we don’t stamp it out then we are damaging what we are trying to do with this competition.

“It stops a lot of the attractive rugby – teams coming in from the side, hands on the ball, players off their feet – it is just relentless every week. It seems to be an area where they have decided not to ref it, to let it go and worry about the big things, rather than the little things that make the game attractive.

“I wouldn’t have anybody touching the ball once it as at the back of a ruck – let the game flow – there is just too much nonsense going on in that area.

“As head coaches we’ve talked to JP Doyle [Scottish Rugby’s high performance referee coach] who has told us what to expect from referees. We know they are not full time, and it is not their fault as individuals, but we’ve just got to clean up the game around the breakdown area, to let us play a bit more.”

Tait was speaking after watching his team take the lead three times against Bears at Meggetland yesterday but ultimately come up short. They had a chance to pinch their first win of the campaign at the death, but lost three line-outs on their own throw.

Their coach was clearly frustrated but congratulated his players for their resilience after a disrupted build-up to this match coming at the end of a tough two months.

“Donald Crawford is a guy who has come in through injuries, but he is a big player in terms of stature, and we were excited to see him go,” he said. “But he pulled up during the warm-up which left us with one back on the bench, so we were under pressure straight away.

“I had visions of it being a mess today, if I’m being honest, with losing Donald in the warm-up, so I’m just pleased with the way the guys stuck and we had chances to win it.”

In the third/fourth place play-off, Watsonians beat Stirling Wolves 38-15.