Sunday, 19 February 2017

Ayr 48 Watsonians 12

Ayr ran away with their last regular BT Premiership game of the season at Millbrae on Saturday, scoring eight tries against Watsonians on a busy day in Alloway.

Before kick-off, the two teams, match officials and fans had a minute's applause in memory of Watsonians' club stalwart Martin Macari, who recently passed away.

It was the visitors who got off to a flying start, winger Keith Young taking advantage of a loose Ayr pass to motor away for a try, which stand-off Ewan Scott converted. 0-7.

Ayr got stuck into attack, eventual man of the match Blair Macpherson leading the charge, with centre Ross Curle and full-back Grant Anderson in support.

Ayr took a line-out from a penalty and after driving on a short distance, hooker Lewis Anderson appeared with ball in hand and barged over the try-line with Watsonians defenders clinging on. He successfully grounded and stand-off Frazier Climo converted. 7-7.
It was a torrid time for Watsonians, getting turned over, with Ayr captain Pete McCallum leaping into the air to claim the ball after it came firing out of a white and maroon hand in an upward trajectory.

Curle, his centre partner Archie Russell and prop Steven Longwell moved proceedings on, and second row Robert McAlpine showed a deftness of touch to fire the ball in the direction of Danny McCluskey, who raced away for a try. It was in the corner, giving Climo a difficult angle to convert from and he couldn't make it. 12-7.

Ayr were unlucky to lose second row colossus Scott Sutherland to injury. Macpherson moved to lock, with Will Bordill coming off the bench and putting in a power of work at flanker alongside Gregor Henry.

Watsonians had a decent amount of possession but they couldn't do anything with it. Ayr were sturdier in the muddy conditions, and the Myreside men were being bullied all over the park, Climo flattening one of them with a crunching tackle.

McCallum bulldozed through the defence, with prop George Hunter in the thick of the attack, Macpherson and Longwell in support. From the back of a strong scrum in Watsonians' twenty-two, scrum-half David Armstrong danced round the defence, sold a dummy and dived over for a try. Climo converted. 19-7.
Watsonians full-back Andrew Chalmers caught a clearing kick that didn't go far enough and set off on an excursion only to be unceremoniously halted by Armstrong and winger Craig Gossman.

Fisticuffs broke out but referee Neil Muir resolved matters without reaching for any cards.

A couple of wobbles at the line-out didn't faze Ayr and soon Macpherson had put his foot down and galloped over the line. It was another conversion attempt from out wide but Climo made it. 26-7.

It was a quick first half, and Ayr finished it up with pacy performances from both Andersons, McCluskey, Hunter, Bordill, McCallum, Climo, Russell and Curle. No more points were to be had until the resumption though.

During half-time, the family of Gordon Strachan unveiled a bench at the side of the pitch in memory of the former club captain, coach and Scotland cap who passed away last year.
McCluskey got his second of the day not long into the second half after McAlpine and Climo had launched themselves through the Watsonians defence. Climo couldn't convert. 31-7.

After an energetic display, Lewis Anderson was replaced by David Young, with Paddy Dewhirst taking over from Climo, who would make a reappearance later. Jamie Bova had also joined the ranks in the backs.

Watsonians captain Rory Drummond was leading by example with many a barging run but his efforts were thwarted by handling errors. They pressed on though, keeping Bordill, Bova and Macpherson busy in defence for a time. But again, the big hits from Ayr were too much for the visitors, Russell using all his bulk to bring an attacker to a sudden halt.
Watsonians were determined though, just as they have been throughout the season. Scott cleverly dodged his way round the pink and black defence until Martin Christie scored a well deserved try. The stand-off couldn't add the extras though. 31-12.

It had been a tiring afternoon for both teams but Ayr still had gas left in the tank. Full-back Anderson powered into the Watsonians half and Bova sped up the touchline to score. With Climo still on the sidelines, Anderson took the conversion kick and missed, much to the amusement of his own team-mates. 36-12.

Ben Paterson replaced Hunter, emptying Ayr's bench, and was soon scrumming down with Young and Longwell.

Climo returned and no sooner was he messing up the attacking plans of Watsonians than he had his hands on the ball, pinned his ears back and threw himself over the line. He converted too. 43-12.

Another try was on its way. McCallum broke from the back of the scrum with Bordill in support. Armstrong had the pace and the space to go over but he passed to Bova to give the wing his second score of the game. Climo probably wished he hadn't, as it meant another conversion attempt near the touchline and he missed. 48-12.
Armstrong took his leave, with Anderson moving to scrum-half. Ayr were still full of energy as the wonky Millbrae clock ticked to full-time, and Longwell and Young crashed through weary Watsonians defenders.

The final whistle was sounded though, sending Ayr players and fans into the clubhouse happy with a strong end to the league. They are currently top of the table, with second-placed Melrose still a game to play, but a BT Premiership home semi-final is secured. Next up is the BT Cup quarter-final against Jed-Forest on Saturday 4th March at Millbrae.

Final score: Ayr 48 Watsonians 12.
- Elena Hogarth.

Photos courtesy of George McMillan. Please seek permission before reproducing for commercial purposes.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Ayr v Watsonians preview

It's the final round of regular games in the BT Premiership on Saturday, with Ayr welcoming Watsonians to Millbrae, kicking off at 3pm.

Ayr have a one-point lead at the top of the table over Melrose, although the Borders side have a game in hand, and are hoping to put in a strong performance against Watsonians after a good six-try win against Glasgow Hawks last week and ahead of the play-offs next month.

However, the visitors have already shown Ayr and the rest of the league what they are capable of since their promotion into the top flight and the Millbrae men are ready for a battle.

"We know just how dangerous Watsonians can be," says Ayr head coach Calum Forrester, "having lost at Myreside earlier in the season. Marcus and Simon (Di Rollo and Taylor, Watsonians' coaches) have them playing an exciting, attacking brand of rugby. For us, we are looking to build on last week's performance."

In the squad, flankers Gregor Henry and Will Bordill switch places from bench to starting line-up, and hooker Lewis Anderson makes up a strong and speedy front row with George Hunter and Steven Longwell.

Ayr
15. Grant Anderson; 14. Danny McCluskey, 13. Archie Russell, 12. Ross Curle, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Frazier Climo, 9. David Armstrong; 1. George Hunter, 2. Lewis Anderson, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Robert McAlpine, 5. Scott Sutherland; 6. Blair Macpherson, 7. Gregor Henry, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

Replacements
16. David Young, 17. Adam Prentice, 18. Will Bordill, 19. Paddy Dewhirst, 20. Jamie Bova.

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

Ayr 2nd XV v Watsonians 2nd XV kicks off at 3pm at Millbrae.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Ayr Rugby Academy media training

Ayr Rugby Academy isn't just about improving what you do on the pitch; the youngsters who attend sessions also learn skills that are useful for life away from rugby, and on Wednesday afternoon, the U16 boys undertook some media training.

Laura Hamilton, a media trainer and freelance writer, has worked with school children, university students, graduates and employees from international companies on how to present themselves professionally in on-camera interviews, job interviews, meetings and press conferences.

As well as giving tips and advice on how to appear confident and natural in front of the camera, Laura also spent time discussing the perils and pit-falls of social media and how people can use it responsibly.

The boys then conducted video interviews with Ayr RFC media co-ordinator Elena Hogarth before holding a mock press conference, with academy director Stuart Fenwick taking on the role of journalist and asking the boys some difficult on-the-spot questions.

The academy players enjoyed the afternoon and thanked Laura for her help and assistance.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Ayr-Wellington U18s 10 Stirling County U18s 22

It was a night for battling at BT Murrayfield as Ayr-Wellington U18s followed in the footsteps of their U16 club-mates and didn't give up as they took on Stirling County in the National Youth League Cup final.

Ayr had their hands full from the off, County putting them under pressure at the set piece and scampering about in attack. The Bridgehaugh side had an early opportunity to get points on the board but full-back Kieran Gammie missed the penalty kick.

Ayr soon settled down at the scrum, the front row of Logan Richardson, Seth Rae and Craig Miller looking immovable. All three would later make their presence known in attack too.

County tried to get their attack going again but Ayr harried them at every turn, captain Cameron Reece and his fellow back-rowers Mitchell Wyllie and Calum Gaw always at the ready with tackles.

Half-backs Ross McCorkindale and Cameron Black organised the Ayr backs, with centre Harry Lynch selling a dummy to break away, and full-back James Baird, wingers Rory McMurray and Mac MacInnes, Reece and Miller showing their pace too.

It was a case of anything-you-can-do-I-can-do for each team, as they constantly tried to outfox each other in an absorbing yet scoreless first half hour. It was County who eventually got the scoreboard moving, Gammie nailing the penalty. 0-3.

Ayr centre Jack Gaw had the chance to reply after half-time but his kick was just wide.

MacInnes and Baird were busy in attack and defence, as were second rows Euan Hamilton and Declan Bryce, but County number eight Wallace Nelson squeezed through a gap and galloped off up the wing for a try, which Gammie converted. 0-10.

Hamilton and Miller launched Ayr back into the opposition half but some big hits by County kept them at bay, and it wasn't long before they had reclaimed possession and centre Andrew McLean scored. Gammie couldn't convert this time. 0-15.

Ayr hit back quickly, Lynch starting things off before the ball was swiftly moved through the hands to Richardson, who claimed the try. Jack Gaw converted. 7-15.

Rae and replacement back Craig Hunter set off on a couple of exciting runs before Gaw stepped up to the tee again to add a penalty. 10-15.

Gammie then had a kick at goal but missed. His team-mates were soon back up at Ayr's five-metre line but some sterling defence by Rae meant they didn't get over immediately. The Millbrae team were tackling their hearts out but County flanker Cameron Blackmore claimed a try, with Gammie converting. 10-22.

With just a minute remaining, Ayr-Wellington were beaten but unbowed, taking the quick penalty with hopes of more points. County, though, snaffled back possession and it was all over.

Final score: Ayr-Wellington 10 Stirling County 22.

- Elena Hogarth.

Ayr-Wellington U16s 10 Hawick Albion 13

Ayr-Wellington U16s did themselves and the club proud on a cold Friday night at BT Murrayfield as they battled to the end in their National Youth League Cup final against Hawick Albion.

Both sides were ambitious with ball in hand, Ayr full-back Jake Jacobson, wingers Chris Easton and Jonathan Easton and centre Chris Bain hitting every ball at pace. But Hawick were just as lively, centre and captain Andrew Mitchell making a terrific break early on.

There were plenty of kicks, hacks and chips as each team searched for a way through two tough sets of defenders. They were matching each other at the set piece too, but Ayr just had the upper hand in the loose, scrum-half Craig Doolan and flanker and captain Olly Mossie pushing their troops on into Hawick's twenty-two.

Mossie and second rows Euan Bulloch and Dylan Wilson led from a line-out and after a solid drive, it was hooker Scott Clelland who powered his way over for the opening score. It was a tricky angle for the conversion out on the touchline and Jacobson couldn't make it. 5-0.

Hawick were threatening in attack but a crunching tackle by Ayr flanker Harry Ledgerwood dislodged the ball and the Millbrae team were soon away, Clelland on the charge again. Centre Tom Lanni took it on with Bain and Chris Easton in support but the ball bobbled out of play.

Hawick got their first points on the board thanks to a penalty by their full-back Bailey Donaldson. 5-3.

The Borderers could scent more points, and winger Finnan Gordon Woolley would have been away were it not for a excellent covering tackle by Chris Easton.

Ayr turned the screw at the scrum, the front row of Clelland, Ben Cree and Conlan McLuckie working hard. They managed to push Hawick off the ball, and even when the Mansfield side held firm, Doolan, number eight Stephen McLarty and stand-off Andy Morrison were ready to pounce on anything that wasn't closely guarded.

The Easton brothers got the second half off to a flier, Chris catching a high ball whilst running backwards, turning and shooting off through the defence on one wing, while Jonathan showed tremendous pace to race away along the other.

But Hawick had a sense of purpose at the resumption and despite the defensive efforts of Wilson and his fellow forwards, there was no stopping centre Mully Bannerman from scoring from a charge-down. Donaldson added the conversion. 5-10.

Clelland, Jacobson, both Eastons and replacement back Jason McGuinness continued to stretch their legs but the Hawick defence had gone up a notch.

Donaldson hit another well-struck penalty. 5-13.

The clock was ticking towards full-time, but Ayr-Wellington got stuck into some hard work in both defence and attack, Clelland, McGuinness and Mossie all fending off tacklers to get their team back into Hawick's half.

They stayed strong in the scrum until McLuckie spotted a gap and bulldozed over the line for an unconverted try. 10-13.

There was one final play of the game, but Hawick were awarded a penalty and happily booted the ball off the park to claim the trophy, much to the delight of their enthusiastic travelling support.

Final score: Ayr-Wellington U16s 10 Hawick Albion 13.

- Elena Hogarth.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Glasgow Hawks 7 Ayr 36

Ayr scored six tries on a cold day at Old Anniesland to put west coast rivals Glasgow Hawks to the sword and climb to the top of the BT Premiership table with one round of regular fixtures to go.

The home side showed their attacking intent from the off, wingers Kerr Gossman and Junior Bulumakau - both former Millbrae men - zooming about here, there and everywhere. But they had to contend with the tackling of Ayr stand-off Frazier Climo and flanker Will Bordill.

Ayr scrum-half David Armstrong was his usual lively self, leaping into the air to keep a Hawks kick for the corner in play. Winger Danny McCluskey couldn't take the ball on, and soon Gossman was dodging his way through tacklers again, with hooker Cammy Fenton in support until he was brought to a halt by Ayr prop Steven Longwell.

Climo was leading the way in defence, with captain Pete McCallum, centre Ross Curle and second row Robert McAlpine getting stuck in. Hawks spilled the ball and McCluskey sprang into action, kicking on and chasing and then repeating until it found the hands of Ayr winger Craig Gossman, who released centre Archie Russell on the wing to score. Climo missed the conversion. 0-5.

The visitors had their hands full trying to contain Hawks' trundling full-back Jack Steele, but Russell, Macpherson and prop George Hunter managed to stop him before he could do any damage.

From an Ayr scrum, McCallum launched Armstrong on an attack, the scrum-half selling a dummy to shoot through a gap in the defence. He and McCluskey exchanged passes before Armstrong found himself charging into Hawks' twenty-two. He was dragged down, but wriggled around, legs in the air, so as not to be pulled into touch.

Ayr hooker David Young and Macpherson worked well together at the line-out, before Longwell and Climo pushed on for Hawks' line. A couple of set pieces later and it was Armstrong who took the ball from the scrum and scampered between the posts for a try, which Climo converted. 0-12.

Steele and Kerr Gossman were trying to get something going for Hawks but they kept losing possession, and before anyone knew it, Curle had shot off up the wing. Hunter, Longwell, McAlpine and full-back Grant Anderson got Ayr into a good position but they were pinged for holding on.

Curle found himself on the sidelines for ten minutes, but Hawks couldn't make the man-advantage work in their favour.

The home team began the second half with gusto, flanker Stephen Leckey and stand-off Hagen Schulte on the charge but Ayr were harrying them constantly, Climo, Armstrong, McCluskey and Macpherson there to spoil their plans at every turn.

It had been an even-tempered match so far but things boiled over and the referee laid down the law to both captains. Another sin-binning was on its way but not as a result of this incident. It was a high tackle by Kerr Gossman on his brother Craig (they made up at full-time) that had the referee reaching for the yellow card.

Ayr took advantage of the Hawks' hot-stepper's absence to get their third try, no-one being able to catch Curle. Climo added the extras. 0-19.

Gossman the elder was no worse for the earlier high tackle, darting about this way and that, and even crossing the try-line only for the referee to call him back.

Hawks knuckled down to some patient phases of attack and Hunter, Armstrong, Gregor Henry (on for Bordill) and Lewis Anderson (on for Young) were very busy in defence, as were McCallum, Macpherson and second row Scott Sutherland.

It was a huge tackle from Craig Gossman that dislodged the ball from Hawks hands, Armstrong and replacement prop Adam Prentice taking it on. Possession changed twice in very quick succession until Climo hacked on, retrieved and fired the ball across the pitch to McCallum. He found Gossman but the winger just couldn't get to the line, handing back to his captain who dotted down for the bonus-point try. The conversion angle was too wide for Climo. 0-24.

Hawks kept their heads up, and Ayr giving away two penalties for offside in quick succession gave them a boost. Steele would have been away were it not for a hefty tackle from Russell, and McAlpine also put in some tough work to stop Fenton.

It had to be Kerr Gossman who scored for the home team, his electric pace and mazy running taking him over in the corner, Schulte adding a superb conversion from the touchline. 7-24.

The last ten minutes went in a flash, Ayr getting back into Hawks' half and staying there. McCallum and Russell combined to pop the ball to replacement Jamie Bova and he put his foot on the gas to grab try number five, with Climo getting the extra two points. 7-31.

Steele was once again Hawks' battering-ram-in-chief but he couldn't get very far with Armstrong clinging on to his ankles. Sutherland and Lewis Anderson tackled with precision and soon Ayr turned the ball over.

Armstrong spotted a big gap and put in a cross-field kick that looked like it would bounce straight into Hawks' hands. But it didn't. It sprang into the waiting arms of McCluskey and he cruised over the line for the final try. Climo's conversion attempt hit the post. 7-36.

There is now only one regular league fixture left for Ayr - Watsonians at home next week - but Melrose, who Ayr leap-frogged into top spot, have a game in hand and are just one point behind as the play-offs loom.

Final score: Glasgow Hawks 7 Ayr 36.

Man of the match: Craig Gossman.


- Elena Hogarth.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Glasgow Hawks v Ayr preview

It's the penultimate round in the BT Premiership, and Ayr travel to Old Anniesland to take on Glasgow Hawks on Saturday, kicking off at 3pm.

The home team have been chasing the visitors up through the table for much of the season, and with just a handful of points between the two, tomorrow's game will be an important one for both in terms of securing home semi-final play-offs.

Ayr head coach Calum Forrester is looking forward to the trip to the west end of Glasgow.

"It's set to be an exciting weekend in the BT Premiership, with the result of every game having a meaningful outcome on league positions. Hawks are the highest points scorers this season, so our defence will need to be at its best."

Several experienced players, such as David Armstrong, Craig Gossman and Will Bordill, return to the starting line-up. Glasgow Warriors have released former Millbrae man James Malcolm for the day and he forms a formidable front row alongside George Hunter and Steven Longwell.

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

Replacements
16. Lewis Anderson, 17. Adam Prentice, 18. Gregor Henry, 19. Paddy Dewhirst, 20. Jamie Bova.

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

Glasgow Hawks 2nd XV v Ayr 2nd XV kicks off at 2pm, with the scores updated via the Ultimate Rugby app.