AS an advert for what Super6 could and should be all about, Sunday evening’s 2022 Championship Final was as good a spectacle as the league’s proponents could have hoped for.

Played between two sides who finished the regular part of the campaign with nine wins and just one loss (away to each other) from 10 games played, there was nothing to separate the sides after 80 minutes, meaning 20 minutes of extra time during which Watsonians eventually stretched clear of the injury-ravaged Ayrshire Bulls to secure a 43-24 win that did not truly reflect how tight the contest had been.

There was intensity, drama and no little skill on display as two superbly conditioned teams demonstrated that part-time professional rugby can be played at a level which is not a million miles away from the full-timers.

If only every game in the last Super6 season had got close to this lofty standard, but the truth is that the gulf between these two clubs and the rest of the league is so wide that at times it looked like Boroughmuir Bears, Heriot’s, Southern Knights and Stirling Wolves were playing a different game.

Don’t take my word for it. Speaking after his side lost at home against Watsonians last month, Bears head coach Graham Shiel reflected: “I think overall as a coaching team we are delighted with the way the boys played because going into it there was only going to be one winner, that is the reality.”

That is from the man in charge of the team which finished third in the league.

One of the most compelling arguments in support of Super6 in the inaugural – Covid curtailed – season was that unlike the old days of the Premiership, every team in this league could beat any other team on their day, and there were far fewer one-sided matches.

Watsonians finished top of the table in that first campaign with eight wins, two losses and a positive points differential of 69 (just under seven points per game played), whereas the same team finished top again this season with nine wins, one loss and, crucially, a points differential of 203 (just over 20 points per game played).

At the other end of the table, Bears finished bottom in that inaugural season with one win, nine losses and a negative points differential of 139 (just under 14 points per game), while this year Stirling Wolves were the weakest side suffering eight defeats with a negative points differential of 217 (just under 22 points per game).

Two supremely dominant teams and fewer tight games is the wrong direction for the league to be travelling if it is to fulfil its primary function as a stepping-stone for homegrown youngsters, imports (let’s be honest and admit that this is part of the remit) and the country’s best amateur players into the professional game.

It is also not going to help sell Super6 to a still largely ambivalent, and in many cases hostile, Scottish rugby public.

Sunday’s final attracted a crowd of 1,507, which is about 100 more than last year’s final so represents progress of sorts, but hardly points to a competition that has really captured the public’s imagination.

The timing of the game did not help. Kicking off at 4.45pm on a Sunday evening is nobody’s idea of a primetime slot for live sport, and the fact that the Scotland men’s team kicked off their Autumn Test schedule the day before meant there was minimal pre-match publicity.

There is no escaping the fact that crowds have been no bigger, and in many cases significantly smaller, than the Premiership across the whole season.

Building the fan base will be a lengthy process, but a few quick fixes can make an immediate impact.

First and foremost, the integrity of the league needs to become a priority. Emergency loans may be necessary in exceptional circumstances, but last season felt more like a game of musical chairs at times. Three props – Ali Rogers, Robbie Deans, and Struan Cessford – turned out for three different teams in the competition at various points.

The franchises should be obligated as part of their participation agreement to name full squads with which they have a reasonable expectation of getting through all their matches before the campaign kicks-off.

Heading into next season, the big challenge facing Stirling Wolves and Southern Knights – the two teams which finished lowest this season – is appointing a coach who can really drive those clubs forward, following the departure from the Greenyards of Bruce Ruthven (by mutual consent) and Ben Cairns from Bridgehaugh (four weeks before it was announced that he would be taking over at Heriot’s). These are full-time roles which are essential to the success of each franchise but finding the right candidate will not be easy.