Ayr under-16s capped a successful season with a victory over West of Scotland under-16s in an entertaining West Regional Cup final at Millbrae on Sunday.
In front of a large and enthusiastic crowd, Ayr gained an early penalty when West failed to roll away. They opted for the line-out and the neon ball was kicked into a tree in the Burns Museum garden and remained trapped in the branches like a radioactive egg until some intrepid soul released it.
Shortly after, Ayr got the first points on the board with a penalty by stand-off Matt Davidson. 3-0.
West's speedy backs were causing all sorts of trouble until Ayr left wing Jack Harris clung on to a red and yellow shirt by his fingertips to drag down the attacker.
Ayr got themselves into difficulty in their own twenty-two by infringing at the scrum and straying offside but some tenacious defence prevented the visitors from finding their way to the try-line. It got worse for Ayr when lock David Kerr was yellow carded. West went for the line again but a double movement was called by the referee and no score given.
A couple of solid line-outs from the home team gave them a good attacking platform and outside centre Harry Lynch shot through the defence to score an excellent try. Davidson's conversion attempt hit the post. 8-0.
West again were quick but Ayr scrum-half Cameron Black and second row Logan Richardson put in some good tackles. Ayr regained possession and a chip-and-chase from Davidson and outside centre Calum Gaw pushed them right up to West's try-line but they couldn't quite make it.
It was hooker and captain Stuart Collier's turn to charge for the line, with Davidson, Gaw and inside centre Harry Lynch in support but the ball was knocked on. They didn't have long to wait for another chance though as right wing Rory McMurray flew away with the ball and sped over the line for a try. Davidson converted. 18-0.
West had their first opportunity for points after Ayr were pinged for offside but the kick went wide.
Things got a bit frantic towards the end of the first half with errors from both teams, but full-back James Baird and flankers Euan Hamilton and Robbie Nicol were on the charge. West's defence was good though and they managed to nab the ball only for Gaw to intercept and release Baird to scamper away for an unconverted try. 23-0.
The visitors quickly got on the scoreboard at the start of the second half with a penalty. 23-3.
They then set off on some promising runs, but Nicol and prop Jack McDougall were on hand to stop them. Black poached a pass and number eight Cameron Reece, McDougall and McMurray combined to get into West's half.
West quickly took advantage of Ayr being offside and their right wing took off, batting away the Ayr defenders. Ayr turned over though but their kick was caught and West pressed for the line. They were just short but the ensuing scrum gave them another shot and their right wing sped over for an unconverted try. 23-8.
Ayr's backs got a good run around, with replacement Adam White barging his way through the defence, but West were determined not to let them get anywhere near the line. They were solid at the set pieces too, twice stealing Ayr's line-out.
Gaw had another break when Ayr regained possession but it came to nothing and West fancied their chances of a counter attack. Their cause was helped when Ayr replacement Patrick McCahill was sin-binned and couple of penalties followed. West found the gap and got another try, which was converted. 23-15.
The visitors' tails were up but they gave away a penalty. It was a long shot, but Davidson stepped up to the tee. He had the distance but it was wide. However, several West players moved during his run-up and he was allowed another strike, which went over the crossbar. 26-15.
West had their own shot at goal moments later but it was unsuccessful. Nevertheless, they continued to threaten with ball in hand but a stray pass was pounced on by Davidson and he raced away for a try, which he converted himself. 33-15.
There was just enough time for both sides to attempt to get to each other's try-line but the referee brought the exciting second half to an end to hand the trophy to Ayr.
Ayr Ladies put on a determined display against Stewartry Sirens at a sunny BT Murrayfield in the BT Plate final, but couldn't get past their south-west rivals, who flew away with the win in the second half.
It started well for Ayr, as a chip ahead bobbled nicely over Stewartry's try-line but the Sirens' defenders beat the attackers to it. From a strong scrum, Ayr's stand-off Rachael Mulholland, outside centre Laura Turner and left wing Daryl Paterson moved the ball quickly but they were turned over and the Sirens worked their way out of their own half.
Ayr captain Gemma Swankie, along with fellow prop Louise McLauchlan, got stuck into some thumping tackles and they eventually got the penalty. Mulholland shot away into Stewartry's half but couldn't quite make it to the line. Ayr were patient and blindside flanker Eilidh Thomson fought her way over for a try. Right wing Catherine Shennan couldn't manage the wide conversion. 5-0.
As well as a strong pack, Stewartry had some lively backs and they quickly raced up to Ayr's five-metre line. Despite strong defence from Swankie and hooker Megan Thomson, Sirens' number eight Ali Henderson was bundled over for an unconverted try. 5-5.
Ayr were dealt a blow when try-scorer Eilidh Thomson had to leave the field with a knee injury.
A thirty-metre break from Turner gave the travelling support something to cheer about but it was later knocked on. A solid Stewartry scrum let their backs loose but Ayr inside centre, and recent Scotland under-20s cap, Lisa Croniken was doughty in defence and with Mulholland and number eight Lynda Morgan, shoved them into touch.
Ayr secured the line-out and lock Ashleigh Nelson and Mulholland showed great hands to fire the ball on. But they couldn't get past the Sirens' powerful forwards and before long, they were getting pushed around at the scrum. Some determined tackling from Paterson, Nelson, Croniken and openside flanker Laura Sommerville kept the Sirens away from the try-line.
But not for long. Another huge shove at an Ayr scrum got the Sirens the ball and again Henderson pounced for an unconverted try. 5-10.
Ayr held firm at their next scrum to get their confidence back and began to put the Sirens under pressure at their put-in. A couple of turn-overs for both teams followed, and Ayr's poaching got them out of their own half. Megan Thomson sold a brilliant dummy to release Croniken, who couldn't be brought down by the defenders, and she fired the ball to Paterson, but she was bundled into touch.
Ayr camped out in the Sirens' twenty-two, with Morgan pressing for the line. Full-back Ann-Marie Connelly took a high ball well and charged into the defence, managing to offload to Turner. A penalty followed and scrum-half Niamh Durnan raced away with terrific support from her forwards. It was Croniken who blasted her way over for the try. Replacement Jackie O'Neil just missed the conversion. 10-10.
The ladies in pink and black pressed on, with another break from Croniken, who had Swankie and Sommerville in support, but the Sirens turned it over. A couple of sturdy Stewartry scrums followed and right wing Hannah Sloan flew away from her own half to shoot up the touchline and touch down under the posts. Left wing Kirsty McCleary slotted the conversion. 10-17.
The second half began with some good attacking play from Swankie, Turner, Nelson, Morgan, Durnan and lock Zoe Montgomerie. But again they struggled to contain the Sirens' marauding forwards, even though Swankie was putting in some particularly effective tackles.
Sloan was a thorn in Ayr's side though and she repeated her feat from the end of the first half, with McCleary again getting the conversion directly in front of the posts. 10-24.
Ayr didn't let their heads go down though, with Connelly and O'Neil doing superbly in defence and attack respectively. A great catch from Shennan was taken on by Turner and Nelson but Ayr were pinged for holding on just on Stewartry's five-metre line.
Sloan was away again but this time Paterson stopped her in her tracks. The Sirens carried on into Ayr's half and after a sustained period of pressure, full-back Jo Steel went over for an unconverted try. 10-29.
Croniken impressively handed off several defenders to get back in the Sirens' half. Good work from McLauchlan, Morgan and Turner got them over the line but they were held up. Moments later and, from a strong Ayr scrum, Croniken grabbed Ayr's third try. It was a tricky conversion but O'Neil struck it perfectly. 17-29.
Shennan, Mulholland, Croniken and Morgan were speedy in attack but a forward pass was thrown to hand back possession to the Sirens. Turner and Paterson combined to drag down yet another Stewartry flier, and Durnan put in an enormous tackle, but again Sloan took off and nobody could get near her. McCleary converted. 17-36.
Ayr replacements Lindsay Dick and Rachel Morrison provided fresh legs to chase down the Sirens, and when Ayr regained possession, Swankie set off on an exciting charge up the wing, but she was hauled into touch.
They stayed strong at the line-out, but Stewartry put them under intense pressure at the scrum and it looked like the ladies in dark pink would finish with another try until the Ayr defenders dragged their attacker off the pitch.
Time was up and the referee blew the whistle, sending the BT Plate to Castle Douglas. It was a difficult afternoon for Ayr Ladies, but the players and coaches, and friends and families who have supported them, can be proud of yet another season full of positives.
Saturday marks the biggest day so far in the short history of Ayr Ladies as they travel to BT Murrayfield for Finals Day to take on close rivals Stewartry Sirens in the BT Women's Plate final.
These two south-west sides are no strangers to each other. The Sirens were one of the first teams to play Ayr in friendly matches when the women's section of the club took off three seasons ago. They have competed in the same league for the past two years and were both promoted into the BT Women's National League Division 1 this season, with Stewartry finishing second and Ayr third.
After just being pipped to the BT Women's Bowl by Broughton this time last year, the ladies in pink and black are more than eager to beat Stewartry Sirens and bring home their first silverware to Millbrae.
Preparations have included a joint training session at Hughenden with Hillhead/Jordanhill Ladies, who take on Murrayfield Wanderers in the Sarah Beaney Cup final on Saturday, and Ayr Ladies head coach Stuart Fenwick has increased the time the squad has been spending together.
"We've had extra sessions in recent weeks to make sure the team is well organised and everyone knows their role for Saturday."
It will be a very close encounter, but whatever the outcome, Fenwick is proud of his team's efforts this season.
"The Ladies have done really well coming into an unknown league where we weren't familiar with all the other teams. Our aim was to be competitive and the players have really stepped up in training and enjoyed it. We'll be pushing on next season."
The travelling support will be out in force to cheer on Ayr Ladies at Murrayfield and everyone at Millbrae wishes them the very best of luck.
It was a cold but sunny day at the Greenyards on Saturday as teams gathered for the world-famous Melrose Sevens.
Ayr started their campaign against Stewart's Melville and got off to a flier. Blair Macpherson sauntered over for the first try which was converted by recent Scotland Sevens cap Gavin Lowe.
Cammy Taylor then flew over the line, with Robbie Fergusson adding the extra two points. Iain Renwick got a brace of tries, one of which was converted by Fergusson, to seal the win. 26-7.
Ayr next faced something of an unknown quantity in the German national sevens team. It began well with an unconverted try by Taylor, but the game was halted for some time when Germany's Marvin Dieckmann was attended to by both medical teams. He was stretchered off and we wish him a speedy recovery.
Germany showed some great pace and flare to run in a number of tries and Ayr could do nothing to stop the eventual tournament runners-up crossing the whitewash. Fabian Heimpel also struck several impressive conversions.
There was some consolation for Ayr as Pete McCallum scored a final unconverted try from a David Armstrong break. 10-24.
Glasgow Warriors beat Germany in an entertaining final. James Eddie led the professional side, with Ayr's Murray McConnell and Will Bordill amongst the squad and both got on the score sheet.
Ayr: 1. Dean Kelbrick (c), 2. Blair Macpherson, 3 Pete McCallum, 4. Ben Johnston, 5. David Armstrong, 6. Iain Renwick, 7. Gavin Lowe, 8. Robbie Fergusson, 9. Cammy Taylor, 10. Gregor Paxton.
Ayr head back to the Borders tomorrow, but this time they will be lacing up their boots for the legendary Melrose Sevens at the Greenyards.
They face Stewart's Melville in the preliminary round and should they get past them, they will then line up against the German national team in round one.
As well as Germany, the other guest teams are Wasps, North West University from South Africa and Glasgow Warriors, who will have a couple of familiar faces in their team in the shape of Murray McConnell and Will Bordill.
1. Dean Kelbrick, 2. Blair Macpherson, 3. Pete McCallum, 4. Ben Johnston, 5. David Armstrong, 6. Iain Renwick, 7. Gavin Lowe, 8. Robbie Fergusson, 9. Cammy Taylor, 10. Gregor Paxton.