Friday, 27 March 2015

Lismore v Ayr Ladies - BT Plate semi-final preview

Ayr Ladies travel to Edinburgh to take on Lismore in the semi-final of the BT Plate on Sunday, and despite being a league above their hosts, they won't be counting their chickens before they've hatched.

The ladies in pink and black haven't had a competitive match since their defeat to Aberdeenshire Quines in the BT Women's National League Division 1 three weeks ago but as always, they've been working hard on the training pitch.

"The number of players coming to Millbrae every Monday night shows that the players are really keen to take on Lismore on Sunday," says Ayr Ladies assistant coach Sylvain Diez.  "Lismore play in National 2 but it would be daft to think that we should reach the final due to this.  By experience as a player and a coach, I know it's always easier to play as an underdog."

He continues: "Compared to our last game, we need to win those races to the breakdown, play with more structure and stick to the game plan if we want to keep possession and put the opposition under pressure.  Our support will have to be quick and effective if we want to reach the BT Plate final."

Although the squad hasn't been confirmed, several key players will return to action including captain Gemma Swankie, scrum-half Niamh Durnan, full-back Catherine Shennan and recent Scotland Women under-20s cap Lisa Croniken, who scored two tries in her recent outing in the dark blue shirt.

Team:
TBA.

Kick-off 2pm!

Ayr U18s 22 Dumfries Saints U18s 17

A good crowd turned up to Millbrae last night to cheer on Ayr U18s and their counterparts from Dumfries Saints as they battled it out under the floodlights for the West Regional Cup.

The visitors enjoyed the better start and were soon camped out in Ayr's half.  Their scrum-half and number eight headed for the line and after Ayr gave away a penalty, they took the line-out and from there scored the opening try.  It was unconverted.  0-5.

Dumfries had another good period of possession but Ayr managed to turn it over and a cheeky between-the-legs pass from outside centre Gregor Paxton unleashed the backs.  Unfortunately, it came to nothing and a later line-out for Ayr saw them penalised for obstruction.  This handed back the advantage to their opponents and Dumfries' strong forwards shifted the action out of their own half.

The visitors were penalised for hands in the ruck and a solid line-out from Ayr allowed full-back Johnny McCorkindale to slice his way through the defenders.  Second row Kyle Wood took the ball on and flew over the line for Ayr's first try.  It was converted by stand-off Paddy Dewhirst.  7-5.

The two teams exchanged scrums and line-outs and Ayr's second row Ross Hay was on fine poaching form at the latter.  Scrum-half Michael Manning and winger Zac Howard were on lively form, as was McCorkindale who motored all the way to the try-line.  It was a wide conversion, but Dewhirst struck it perfectly and it curled in.  14-5.

Hay, Wood, Paxton, prop Ruairidh Sayce and hooker Gregor Lynch moved play into Dumfries' twenty-two and blindside flanker Matt Northcote headed for the line but the ball went loose.  It wasn't long to wait for Ayr's next points-scoring opportunity as Dumfries were penalised for tackling a player without the ball.  Dewhirst kicked the penalty.  17-5.

Dumfries rallied and barged their way right up to Ayr's five-metre line.  Their cause was helped by a yellow card for McCorkindale and they soon dived over in the corner for an unconverted try.  17-10.

The visitors continued their good play at the start of the second half but a knock-on brought their marauding to a premature end.  Ayr's inside centre Sam Graham stretched his legs and Lynch and prop Kyle McNulty displayed great handling before the backs moved the play side-to-side.

Good running from Dewhirst and number eight Zander Howie, as well as Dumfries' backs, was dampened by the weather.  A huge gust of wind blew Dumfries' line-out throw off-course and a later kick for touch from Ayr was almost blown backwards.

Dumfries had possession when the wind and rain died down but Ayr turned it over and openside flanker Gregor Henry handed off a defender superbly to push on to Dumfries' try-line, where Sam Gray was bundled over in the corner.  McCorkindale's conversion attempt was short.  22-10.

A yellow card for Dumfries didn't dampen their resolve to claw their way back into the game, and their openside flanker, left wing and number eight set off on some impressive runs.  Despite some good work from Paxton and winger Mark Conlan, Dumfries pressed on.  Another sin-binning for Ayr, this time Henry, helped Dumfries and they took the opportunity to barrel over for a converted try.  22-17.

The tension was palpable as the minutes ticked down and Dumfries tried their best to break down Ayr's attacking moves and regain possession.  It looked like Ayr would seal the win with thirty seconds remaining when Dumfries gave away a penalty.  McCorkindale stepped up to the tee but the kick was short and Dumfries gathered and tried to run it.  With hearts in mouths, the crowd watched as Ayr managed to turn it over and booted it off the pitch to claim the win and the cup.

Final score: Ayr U18s 22 Dumfries Saints U18s 17.

Ayr:
15. Johnny McCorkindale; 14. Zac Howard, 13. Gregor Paxton, 12. Sam Graham, 11. Mark Conlan; 10. Paddy Dewhirst, 9. Michael Manning; 1. Ruairidh Sayce, 2. Gregor Lynch, 3. Kyle McNulty; 4. Ross Hay, 5. Kyle Wood; 6. Matt Northcote, 7. Gregor Henry, 8. Zander Howie.

Replacements:
16. Brian Kelly, 17. Dean Rickard, 18. Stewart Angus, 19. Billy Thomson, 20. Lewis Young, 21. Callum Cook, 22. Sam Gray.


- Elena Hogarth

Melrose v Ayr preview


Ayr enter the lion's den at the Greenyards tomorrow as they aim to make their last BT Premiership fixture of the season count.

Melrose and their visitors will be fighting it out for second place in the table, with the victor ensuring a home tie in next week's play-off semi-final.  Ayr's head coach Calum Forrester is all too aware that his men will be need to be at their absolute best.

"This is a winner-takes-all affair.  In our previous encounter earlier in the year, we played the best opening twenty minutes of rugby of our season.  We know we will need to raise our game to that level again as Melrose have recorded a number of good victories in recent outings."

He concludes: "We expect this to be a bruising encounter as both sides look to get an edge over the other going into next weekend's semi-final."

No matter the outcome of tomorrow's match, Ayr and Melrose will face each other again next week as second place plays third place, but it's that all important home advantage they will be looking for.  The Bill McLaren Shield is also up for grabs.

In the starting fifteen, Blair Macpherson moves to number eight in place of the injured Graham Fisken and Will Bordill returns to openside flanker after impressing in the Pro12 for Glasgow.  His fellow young Warriors Fergus Scott and George Hunter make up the front row with Fraser Watt.  Cammy Taylor is named on the wing as Craig Gossman is injured.

Ayr's bench is bolstered by three Glasgow Warriors in the shape of Dougie Hall, James Eddie and Murray McConnell.  Scotstoun stalwart Hall will be retiring at the end of the season and after some good performances in the pink and black shirt this year, Ayr fans will be glad to see him turn out once again for the Millbrae men.

Eddie played several games for Ayr last season, including an away match against Melrose in which he scored a blistering try, so the travelling support will be hoping for a repeat performance.  And, of course, long-time Ayr favourite McConnell tearing about the pitch is always a welcome sight.


Ayr:

15. Grant Anderson; 14. Richard Dalgleish, 13. Robbie Fergusson, 12. Dean Kelbrick (c), 11. Cammy Taylor; 10. Danny McCluskey, 9. David Armstrong; 1. George Hunter, 2. Fergus Scott, 3. Fraser Watt; 4. Robert McAlpine, 5. Scott Sutherland; 6. Andrew Dunlop, 7. Will Bordill, 8. Blair Macpherson.

Replacements:

16. Dougie Hall, 17. Stuart Fenwick, 18. James Eddie, 19. Murray McConnell, 20. Kerr Gossman.

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


Thursday, 26 March 2015

World Cup trophy coming to Millbrae!

Put Monday 15th June in your diary because that's the day you can see the Webb Ellis Cup at Millbrae.

As part of the build-up to this year's World Cup, the beautiful pineapple-topped trophy will be on a five-day tour of Scotland and its last stop will be Ayr RFC.

We'll bring you more details in due course, but in the meantime, read the full story from the SRU here.


Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Ayr U18s v Dumfries Saints U18s - West Cup final preview

Ayr's under-18 boys take on their counterparts from Dumfries Saints on Thursday evening at Millbrae, with the hopes of claiming the West Regional Cup.

This is the U18s' final fifteen-a-side fixture of the season and after a resounding 39-10 win against GHA in the semi-final, they will be hoping to finish the year on a high.

It was a slightly closer result for the Saints in their semi-final as they overcame Hamilton 36-26, so a highly competitive encounter is expected.

Don't miss this chance to see the best young players in the west of Scotland - and the future of Scottish rugby - in action!

Ayr:

15. Johnny McCorkindale; 14. Zac Howard, 13. Gregor Paxton, 12. Sam Graham, 11. Mark Conlan; 10. Paddy Dewhirst, 9. Michael Manning; 1. Ruairidh Sayce, 2. Gregor Lynch, 3. Kyle McNulty; 4. Ross Hay, 5. Kyle Wood; 6. Matt Northcote, 7. Gregor Henry, 8. Zander Howie.

Replacements:

16. Brian Kelly, 17. Dean Rickard, 18. Stewart Angus, 19. Billy Thomson, 20. Lewis Young, 21. Callum Cook, 22. Sam Gray.

Kick-off 7.30pm!


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Finn wins prestigious award

Former Millbrae man Finn Russell has been named Young Player of the Year by Friends of Scottish Rugby.

The twenty-two-year-old stand-off follows in the footsteps of Jonny Gray, Richie Gray and David Denton in receiving the reward.

Read the full story here.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Watsonians v Ayr Ladies preview

Ayr Ladies hit the road once again for their final BT Women's National League Division 1 match of the season.  They take on Watsonians in a fixture rearranged from January.

After a disappointing defeat to Aberdeenshire Quines last week, the ladies in pink and black will be hoping to bounce back before their BT Plate semi-final against Lismore at the end of March.

Watsonians are currently two points behind third-placed Ayr in the table but have two games in hand, and after Ayr beat them 31-24 at Millbrae in September, a highly competitive match is anticipated.


Ayr:
15. Ann-Marie Connelly; 14. Daryl Paterson, 13. Laura Turner, 12. Lisa Croniken, 11. Jackie O'Neil; 10. Catherine Shennan, 9. Niamh Durnan; 1. Louise McLauchlan, 2. Megan Thomson, 3. Lindsay Dick; 4. Zoe Montgomerie, 5. Ashleigh Nelson; 6. Eilidh Thomson, 7. Laura Somerville, 8. Lynda Morgan.

Replacements:
16. Gemma Swankie, 17. Stacy Wight, 18. Sarah Paterson, 19. Lisa Martin.

Kick-off 2pm.