THREE keenly contested matches that produced three away wins, decent crowds at Meggetland, the Greenyards and Millbrae, and a genuine feeling amongst the paying public that they were witnessing something novel: Super 6 got off to an encouraging start at the weekend, both on and off the pitch.

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the three games was how close they were. Stirling County beat Boroughmuir by three points, Watsonians defeated the Southern Knights by one, and even at Millbrae, where Heriot’s beat Ayrshire Bulls 25-13 on Sunday, the outcome was in some doubt until late in the match.

One of the aims of the new competition is to raise the overall standard of the domestic game, and a key way of doing that is to throw evenly matched sides together. There are still too many mismatches down the leagues, but on early evidence Super 6 will avoid that problem.

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Another reason to be cheerful was the general standard of play, especially bearing in mind that for many of those involved this was a first competitive outing since the spring. A few months down the line, when the squads know each other better and real match fitness has set in, moves will be slicker and the tempo faster. But the fitness levels are already impressive, with none of the teams having fallen off the pace towards the end of the 80 minutes.

Of course, many of the players are still turning out for the clubs they represented in the Premiership last season, while three of the current coaches also remain in place from the last campaign – Phil Smith at Heriot’s, Rob Chrystie at the Knights and Peter Murchie with the Bulls. At least in the early weeks, continuity from last season is likely to be a significant factor in the outcome of the games, and as Murchie pointed out, the greater cohesion of the Heriot’s side thanks to that continuity was a major reason in their win over his own team.

Having said that, and despite the fact that the SRU try to insist that Super 6 is a cut above mere club rugby, some of the failings that were evident in this opening round were very reminiscent of the more pedestrian aspects of the Premiership. Even Heriot’s, arguably the most impressive performers, looked too static in attack at times, with the one try they conceded to Ayr coming from an interception after they had lost around 20 metres in one phase on their own ball – a result of the back line failing to get on the front foot so they could take passes on the run.

But there is no point in quibbling about such minor imperfections. This is a semi-professional tournament, and rather than expecting the players to emulate the skill and fitness levels of the PRO14, we should just be looking for evidence that some of them would at least be capable of making the step up.

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Off the field, too, it is to be hoped that some flaws can be ironed out over the coming weeks. It was not ideal, for example, that Boroughmuir Bears held what they had billed as a team-announcement press conference last week, but then explained to journalists who turned up that they had yet to be given permission by the SRU to announce their own team.

Similarly, at one point in Sunday’s game, a member of the Bulls staff could be heard radioing a colleague to explain that the SRU wanted him to tell some spectators to move from their position behind one goal as they were partially blocking an advertising hoarding. Yes, we appreciate that sponsors are important, but is such micro-management really something the governing body should be doing at a club ground?

Minor mix-ups such as the press conference should be easily solved by better communication. A lot of behind-the-scenes posts are just newly filled, and their occupants might simply need a bit of time to get up to speed.

By contrast, the SRU’s urge to control everything is a tendency that goes back decades. Senior figures at Murrayfield appear unaware that if they impose a stranglehold on something, the result is asphyxiation.

Rather than indulging that urge to ensure that Super 6 is run in precisely the way they want, those senior figures would be better advised to leave it to the individual clubs, coaches and players. They know what they are doing, and if they are given free rein, they might just make a success of things.