Wednesday, 27 April 2016

George to represent the Bahamas

It's going to be an exciting couple of weeks for Ayr prop George Hunter as he heads to the Bahamas to represent them in a match against Mexico on Saturday 7th May.

George's grandfather was born on the islands and the 24-year-old got in touch with the Bahamian Olympic Commission a few months ago to find out if he could play for the country and received confirmation in March that he would be pulling on the jersey for them in a Rugby Americas North Championship tie.

'I'm really excited to be making my international debut for the Bahamas,' says George. 'It's a new experience and I'm looking forward to upholding my grandfather's heritage.'

We wish George and the Bahamas the best of luck.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Ayr 26 Heriot's 29

There was massive disappointment on Saturday at Millbrae as Heriot's beat Ayr in the BT Premiership play-off final.

On the back of their BT Cup win last week, Heriot's were determined to get the double. From the off, they were in a marauding mood and very quickly scored a try through flanker Struan Dewar. Full-back John Semple's conversion attempt hit the post. 0-5.

Ayr's stand-off Frazier Climo tried to get his troops going, with winger Junior Bulumakau, full-back Grant Anderson and centre and captain Ross Curle in support, but the ball went loose, only for Heriot's to fumble it once in their possession.

Ayr reclaimed it and it seemed to go through the hands of every forward, with Climo appearing alongside them to call the shots, but Heriot's were penalised and Ayr took the line-out.

Second row Rob McAlpine secured the ball and Ayr settled into a controlled driving maul until Bulumakau could get away. His beautiful flicked pass found Anderson and he used all of his strength to score in the corner. The angle for the conversion was so wide that Climo was amongst the spectators on the sidelines for his run-up. It was a perfectly judged kick though. 7-5.
Ayr lost Anderson after a Heriot's defender slid into him as he was scoring and accidentally caught him on the head. He was replaced by Haddon McPherson, with winger Craig Gossman moving to full-back.

The hosts began to leak penalties as Heriot's put them under pressure but they couldn't capitalise, knocking on at the line-out. The visitors' scrum, however, was another story, shored up the starting front row of Martin Bouab, Michael Liness and Struan Cessford, and then the hugely influential presence of Edinburgh hooker Neil Cochrane.

A Heriot's kick landed in the bread basket for Ayr scrum-half David Armstrong, who fought his way through the defence to release centre Danny McCluskey. He found Gossman who slipped the tackles and shot off on a spectacular break. Curle was in support and motored over for the score. Another fantastic strike by Climo curled the ball over the crossbar. 14-5.

Curle looked like he would be in for another after energetic work in the loose by flanker Will Bordill, hooker James Malcolm and prop George Hunter, but the speedy centre ran out of space.

Heriot's sturdy number eight Jason Hill was always going to be one of the danger men and when he wasn't bundling up Ayr attackers, he was on the hoof himself, and he would have got away were it not for the attentions of Armstrong.

Hill almost got himself on the score sheet moments later when he flung himself over the line but Ayr him held up. It was winger Charlie Simpson who got the try, flying over in the far corner. Even though he had a bit of trouble grounding, the score was given and Semple's perfect conversion seemed to sail through the air in the slow motion. 14-12.
Heriot's had the final say of the first half when Cochrane bulldozed his way over for an unconverted try. 14-17.

The tension was beginning to tell at the resumption, with both teams making errors, but Ayr seemed to be taking charge, number eight Pete McCallum making his now trademark galloping breaks from the back of the scrum and Malcolm and second row Scott Sutherland getting stuck into attack too.

A lovely inside pass from Armstrong to Bulumakau let the Scotland 7s cap race away with Macpherson and McCluskey in support, but they were well wrapped up by Heriot's.

An overthrow at the line-out by the Goldenacre side let prop Javan Sebastian, on his last appearance for Ayr before returning home to Wales, blast his way up the pitch. Bulumakau, Hunter, McCluskey and Climo took it on but again there was no space for them to do any damage.

They took their chances at a line-out from a penalty and Macpherson used all his bulk to muscle his way over for a try. This time, Climo couldn't convert. 19-17.

Bulumakau had had an industrious afternoon and limped off to be replaced by Richard Dalgleish.
The game ebbed and flowed for a short period, before Curle suddenly emerged with the ball in his hands from a wall of blue and white shirts and streaked away for a pulsating interception try. Climo converted from in front of the posts. 26-17.

Heriot's centre Cameron Ferguson has the dancing feet to match Curle but not the hands and his fine break was spoiled when he dropped the ball. It went backwards and was retrieved by stand-off Gregor McNeish, who might be a bit sure today after being floored by Gossman. He still managed to get the ball away and it was Simpson again who displayed tremendous speed to claim the try. Semple couldn't convert, with McPherson and Dalgleish almost charging down the kick. 26-22.

There was warm applause from the packed stand and touchlines as flanker Andrew Dunlop took to the field for his final appearance for Ayr after nearly ten years at the club. He'll certainly be missed on and off the field.

He got stuck straight into the action with fellow substitute D'arcy Rae, as Heriot's mopped up a misfiring Ayr line-out and moments later got themselves a penalty. It all went downhill for Ayr from there, as several metres away from the line, McCallum was penalised for illegally preventing a possible score, finding himself in the sin bin. The referee did the dreaded trot to the posts, with arm in the air and whistle in mouth to award a penalty try. Semple converted. 26-29.
Just a minute or two left on the wonky Millbrae clock, and it was do or die for Ayr. McCluskey, Gossman and Curle combined well to get into Heriot's half. But those big, wily forwards from the capital somehow turned over.

Ayr couldn't regain possession and Heriot's booted the ball off the pitch to spark wild celebrations as they got their names on the trophy after their exemplary never-say-die attitude took them from third place in the standings to league winners.

For Ayr, they top the league with fourteen wins from eighteen, ten try-bonus points and a points difference of 240. It's still been a great season, with memorable wins and spectacular tries, and they'll be back in four months' time to do it all over again.
- Elena Hogarth.

Photos courtesy of George McMillan.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Ayr v Heriot's - BT Premiership final preview

On the day that marks 400 years since the death of the world's greatest playwright, William Shakespeare, there will be no shortage of drama on Saturday as Ayr face Heriot's in the BT Premiership play-off final at Millbrae.

A huge crowd is expected to watch the culmination of yet another wonderful season of BT Premiership rugby. Third-placed Heriot's will be full of confidence after their BT Cup win last week, but table-toppers Ayr are entirely focussed being crowned champions.

'Our preparation for this match has gone well,' says Ayr head coach Calum Forrester, 'and the players can't wait to get out and play in front of the home fans. Both teams like to play with ball in hand and with a number of the outstanding players in the BT Premiership on show, this Saturday is set to be a great spectacle of Scottish club rugby.'

After the stellar performance against Melrose in the semi-final, all but one keep their place in the starting XV. Hooker David Young misses out after sustaining a farming-related injury, with recent Glasgow Warriors signing James Malcolm taking his place.

Scotland U20s cap Lewis Anderson and Warrior D'arcy Rae are on a dynamic-looking bench alongside back rower Andrew Dunlop, who makes his final appearance in an Ayr squad after ten seasons with the club.

15. Grant Anderson; 14. Junior Bulumakau, 13. Ross Curle (c), 12. Danny McCluskey, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Frazier Climo, 9. David Armstrong; 1. George Hunter, 2. James Malcolm, 3. Javan Sebastian; 4. Rob McAlpine, 5. Scott Sutherland; 6. Blair Macpherson, 7. Will Bordill, 8. Pete McCallum.

16. Lewis Anderson, 17. D'arcy Rae, 18. Craig Stevenson, 19. Andrew Dunlop, 20. Archie Russell, 21. Richard Dalgleish, 22. Haddon McPherson.

15. John Semple; 14. Charlie Simpson, 13. Liam Steele, 12. Cameron Ferguson, 11. John Rae; 10. Gregor McNeish, 9. Tom Wilson; 1. Martin Bouab, 2. Michael Liness, 3. Struan Cessford; 4. Russell Nimmo, 5. Jack Turley; 6. Straun Dewar, 7. Jason Hill, 8. Alex Henderson.

16. Neil Cochrane, 17. Murray McCallum, 18. Roan Van Heerden, 19. Jamie Syme, 20. Hugh Fraser, 21. Glenn Bryce, 22. Max Learmonth.

Kick-off 3pm! Follow the scores live on Twitter or watch live on YouTube.

Admission: £10 for adults, £5 for over-60s and U18s free!

Ayr Ladies U15s and U18s get play underway at 12pm and 1pm against their counterparts from Annan RFC. Then, entertainment will be provided by Elite Pro Dance, Ethical Ales will be serving locally-produced ale, lager and IPA, and there will be post-match music and food from 6.30pm in the clubhouse.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Millbrae 17 Aberdeen University 15

It was an intense, absorbing and nerve-wracking match between Millbrae and Aberdeen University as they battled it out at BT Murrayfield to see who would be crowned BT National Bowl champions on Saturday.

Millbrae had the best of the early play, centres James Armstrong and Nigel Howard showing their intention to attack early on. The forwards were on song too, the scrum putting the student team under real pressure. Armstrong stepped up to the tee for the first chance at points but pushed the kick wide.

A young, vivacious squad, Aberdeen were keen on attacking too, and their speedy winger Max Stobbs looked to be streaking away for a try until Millbrae captain Josh Currie hauled him into touch.

There were some tremendous defensive efforts throughout the game from both sides, and the men from Ayrshire had to be on their guard, especially when the university team were being creative near the try-line. A chip into Murrayfield's huge dead ball area looked to be a certain try until the Millbrae defence just got to it and batted it away from an Aberdeen hand.
They wouldn't be denied for long though, and their scrum-half Thomas Forson dashed over from a line-out for an unconverted try. 0-5.

Millbrae had good attacking opportunities after steadily working their way into Aberdeen's half, but they couldn't turn pressure into points, with some loose passes thrown by possibly nervous hands on such a big occasion.

They regained their composure, however, and flanker Alan Drennan led the way in the loose, superbly backed up by prop Ben Paterson, hooker Jim Lymburn and half-backs Max Pickles and David Courtney. 

Possession flipped and flopped between the two sides and there were perhaps nerves all round as a spate of handling errors ensued.

Millbrae managed to pin the students into their own half for a considerable period of time, and again the centre pairing of Armstrong and Howard were making metres. Aberdeen got some breathing space thanks to a penalty but having opted for the line-out, they were out-foxed in the air and later penalised themselves, giving Armstrong another shot at goal. He was wide again.
Millbrae were desperate to get to the try-line, with Howard shooting off, second row Jack Brown in support. Courtney put in a neat little chip for Armstrong and winger Scott Cunningham to chase but Aberdeen got there first.

There was a short delay as Lymburn was helped from the field with a painful-looking shoulder injury. He was replaced by Ruairidh Sayce.

Pickles and Courtney headed for the line but the ball went loose and Aberdeen number eight Graham McKittrick found himself in the sin bin.

The university scrum couldn't cope without him, and under immense pressure on their own five-metre line, they sufficiently infringed to give Millbrae a penalty try. Armstrong's swift conversion brought the first half to an end. 7-5.

It was a shaky start to the second half with Millbrae's kick-off not going ten metres, and they lost speedster Armstrong to injury. But they settled down, with replacement back Gibson Siwo blasting his way through the defence.

The pink and black scrum was still dominant and Pickles broke away for the line with winger Chris Smith in support. They stayed patient and eventually number eight Keith Hunter forced his way over for a try. Replacement Craig Steel took over kicking duty and converted. 14-5.

Back to their full complement of players, Aberdeen put on an exciting display of running rugby fitting to the surroundings. Full-back Jonathan Bain made a beautiful break and a team-mate carried on up the wing, but Millbrae pinned their ears back and tracked him down before any damage could be done.

Another two forays to the line brought no tries for the university team. Millbrae full-back Lee Mayne put in a flying tackle and soon they had turned over in spectacular fashion.

That creativity of Aberdeen University was bound to bring results and a deft chip was collected by Stobbs, who threw himself under the posts for an excellent try. Stand-off William Kelly converted. 14-12.
Paterson and Sayce were throwing themselves about too, both in defence and attack, but Millbrae gave away a penalty and Aberdeen's Patrick Clark booted it over the crossbar to sneak ahead. 14-15.

The tension was palpable, even in that huge stadium, and the pink and black army roared on their team. It looked like they would claw back the lead but Steel's penalty attempt was wide.

Aberdeen seemed to have all the belief now, holding strong at the scrum and launching another attack. But Millbrae were ready to force them off the field.

Just as it appeared Aberdeen were on the up, they let themselves down by trying to trip Pickles as he attempted to tap and go. Marched back ten metres, they brought Steel within range of the posts. It was still a long-range kick, and with just two minutes left on the clock, it might have been Millbrae's last chance. Steel judged it perfectly, the ball seemingly floating through the air and dropping nicely over the crossbar. 17-15.
But moments later, the joy in the crowd turned to despair as Millbrae gave away a penalty in their own half. This was surely the dream over, until Kelly nudged the kick wide.

Play continued with seconds remaining. Aberdeen camped out on Millbrae's five-metre line, desperate for any points at all. But the men in pink and black drove them back until the ball was theirs and they booted it off the park to end the game and start the party.

Final score: Millbrae 17 Aberdeen University 15.

- Elena Hogarth.

Photos by Jim Gemmell.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Millbrae v Aberdeen University - BT Bowl final preview

Millbrae RFC's big day out to BT Murrayfield is nearly here, and they are ready to face Aberdeen University on the main pitch of the national stadium to battle it out for the BT National Bowl.

Currently top of BT West Division 3, the Alloway team take on the university side who are in third place in BT Caledonia Division 3 North, but league standings are nothing to go by when silverware is up for grabs.

The students from the north beat Earlston 22-0 in the semi-final after just pipping Deeside 29-27 to the BT Caledonia Bowl North in January, and will be keen to get their hands on another trophy.

But the men in pink and black are just as eager to bring home the national bowl to add to the BT West Bowl they claimed in February by beating Police Scotland Glasgow 11-0.  They then went on to a 14-3 win against Grangemouth Stags in March to seal their place in tomorrow's big final.  

With an excellent mix of exuberant youth and cool, calm, collected experience in the squad, Millbrae will be confident they can put on a great show for their travelling fans at Murrayfield.

Millbrae RFC:
15. Lee Mayne; 14. Chris Smith, 13. James Armstrong, 12. Nigel Howard, 11. Scott Cunningham; 10. David Courtney, 9. Max Pickles; 1. Ben Paterson, 2. Jim Lymburn, 3. Connor Mackie; 4. Josh Currie, 5. Jack Brown; 6. Alan Drennan, 7. Aiden Boyd, 8. Keith Hunter.

16. Ruairidh Sayce, 17. Alan McConnachie, 18. Alan MacGregor, 19. Gavin White, 20. Craig Steele, 21. Gibson Siwo, 22. Martin Watson.

Kick-off 11am! Follow the scores live via Ayr RFC's Twitter page (you don't have to join Twitter to see the scores!), and there will be updates via Facebook too. 

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Ayr and Ayr Ladies at Melrose 7s

The Melrose 7s is always a day not to be missed as thousands descend on the picturesque Borders town for the famous tournament, and it will be a special day for Ayr RFC as both men and women in pink and black get to play at the Greenyards for the first time.

The men, who have reached the semi-finals in the past and lost out to eventual runners-up Germany in last year's competition, have a bye into the second round and will face either Howe of Fife or Edinburgh Accies.

While the men compete for the Ladies' Cup, Ayr Ladies will play Melrose Ladies for the Gentlemen's Cup before the men's final after being invited to take part by the hosts. The Millbrae side can't wait to showcase women's rugby in front of such a huge crowd.

Ayr field a youthful squad for the men's competition, with Iain Renwick named captain and Gordon Kotze leading the coaching team.

Look out for coverage on the BBC.

1. Aidan Holland, 2. Gregor Henry, 3. Craig Brown, 4. Craig Stevenson, 5. Graham Hunter, 6. Iain Renwick (c), 7. Paddy Dewhirst, 8. James Pinkerton, 9. Gregor Paxton, 10. Mark Conlan.

Ayr Ladies:
1. Catherine Shennan, 2. Kelsey Swift, 3. Phoebe McDowall, 4. Lynsey Turner, 5. Lauren McBride, 6. Linsey Bunten, 7. Lynda Morgan, 8. Lisa Main, 9. Mairi McDonald, 10. TBC.

Robbie signs with London Scottish

London Scottish announced today that Robbie Fergusson has signed a permanent contract with them after spending most of the season on loan at the English Championship club, and everyone at Ayr RFC is delighted to see his career progressing.

A regular in the Ayr 1st XV since he was a teenager, Robbie was also a coach with Ayr Rugby Academy and Ayr Ladies, so his presence will be missed on and off the pitch at Millbrae.

But we're very proud of his achievements thus far and wish him well for the exciting times ahead.

Read the full story from London Scottish.