Friday, 8 December 2017

Melrose v Ayr preview

Ayr visit the Greenyards on Saturday to play Melrose in the BT Premiership, kicking off at 2pm.

The home team are flying high at the top of the league, with the visitors in second place. It's going to be a tough test for the men from Millbrae but they and their travelling fans will no doubt be buoyed by memories of the last trip to the Greenyards when Ayr claimed the BT Premiership title in a tense final in April.

Last Saturday's win against Glasgow Hawks - as well as a good week in training - will also give Ayr confidence.

"Against Hawks, we played the best 60 minutes of rugby that we have put together this season," says Ayr head coach Calum Forrester. "We cannot afford to switch off in the last 20 minutes this week against a very dangerous Melrose side, who have been outstanding in the BT Premiership this season. The players are looking forward to the challenge in what will be a bruising encounter."

In the squad, Scott Lyle reverts to fly-half, with Sam Graham starting on the wing. Paddy Dewhirst links up with Stafford McDowall in the centre in the absence of the injured Danny McCluskey. Scott Sutherland joins the bench.

15. Grant Anderson, 14. Sam Graham, 13. Paddy Dewhirst, 12. Stafford McDowall, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Scott Lyle, 9. Lewis Young; 1. Robin Hislop, 2. Robbie Smith, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Blair Macpherson, 5. Robert McAlpine; 6. Tommy Spinks, 7. George Stokes, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

16. Lewis Anderson, 17. Ruairidh Sayce, 18. Scott Sutherland, 19. Jonathan Agnew, 20. Jamie Bova.

Kick-off 2pm! Follow the scores live on Twitter.

Melrose Storm play Ayr 2nd XV at 2pm in BT National Reserve 1.

After last week's match was postponed due to a frozen pitch, Ayr are keen to get back to action, and field a strong team against the league leaders, with former Scotland U18s captain Euan McLaren again hoping to make his debut for his new club.

Ayr 2nd XV
15. Ross Gilmour, 14. Zac Howard, 13. Gregor Henry, 12. James Pinkerton, 11. Finn Bark; 10. Matt Davidson, 9. Harry Warr; 1. Ben Paterson, 2. Stuart Collier, 3. Euan McLaren; 4. Alan Miller, 5. Michael Badenhorst; 6. Craig Brown, 7. Seth Rae, 8. Cameron Reece.

16. Adam Prentice, 17. Fraser Miller, 18. Adam Paxton, 19. Logan Richardson, 20. Zander Howie.

Kick-off 2pm! You can follow the game via the Ultimate Rugby app.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Ayr Ladies 22 Cartha QP 10

Ayr Ladies put in a dominant performance to record a bonus-point win against Cartha QP in BT Premier League B.

The ladies in pink and black started as they meant to go on, second row Joanne Jones flying through the defence with flanker Erin Marner-Low in support, before fly-half Catherine Shennan whipped the ball to centre Connie Griffiths and she found winger Lee Steward, who went over for the opening try. The conversion was out wide and Shennan just missed it. 5-0.

The home side had real energy about everything they did, whether it was number eight Neve Finlay leaping to catch the restart and charging off, or the front row of Louise McLauchlan, Lisa Croniken and captain Laura Turner stopping the Cartha attack in its tracks.

Half-backs Rachel Morrison and Shennan kept control of the game and kept Ayr's attack lively, with Griffiths and her fellow centre Rachael Mulholland always making metres. Finlay burst through the Cartha defence with winger Robynn Gibson taking the ball up the touchline, but the strong Cartha tackles saw her shoved off the pitch.

There was a lengthy delay while a Cartha player was attended to and helped from the field.

Play was fraught when it resumed, with both sides working hard at the breakdown and then firing the ball through the hands. No sooner were Shennan and Turner dragging down attackers than Mulholland had turned Cartha over and made a break for it.

The ball went back and forth between the two teams before Ayr got a penalty, and Shennan raced off with Jones on her shoulder. Morrison, second row Danni Hands and flanker Catherine Clark provided the support before Finlay took a great pass and handed off a defender with aplomb.

Ayr pushed into Cartha's twenty-two before another penalty gave Griffiths the opportunity to sneak in for a try in the corner. It was unconverted. 10-0.

It looked like Jones would score in the same spot after she collected the ball in her own half and fought her way through the tackles to go on a forty-metre run, but the ball went forward.

From the scrum, Cartha cleared, and from that line-out, Ayr launched another exciting attack, Shennan and Mulholland combining to get the ball to Steward, but the winger was well tackled and had to leave the field, with India Birrell replacing her.

Again, possession went back and forth, but Ayr were better able to react to these periods of fragmented play.

Ayr were strong in the scrum, and Morrison raced away from the back of it, headed straight for the try-line. Jones took the ball on but couldn't get over. Hands then launched herself through the Cartha defence and crossed the line. Shennan converted. 17-0.

Ayr then pinned Cartha in their own half until the break and the visitors couldn't cope with the energetic play. Morrison and Shennan impressed when the former chipped, chased and collected the ball, and the latter battered her way through the purple shirts. Finlay and Clark ran some brilliant angles too. When Cartha did get the ball, they were flattened by Hands and McLauchlan.

The home defenders had to have their wits about them in the second half as Cartha launched a comeback. It was Hands and Shennan who led the way, with Birrell showing her strength to stop her opposite number racing away up the wing.

The ladies from Dumbreck were determined though, and they muscled over for an unconverted try. 17-5.

They had a spring in their step, but they found themselves brought to a halt with a clatter after a tremendous tackle by Croniken.

Shennan easily turned over to get her backs going in attack again. Mulholland, full-back Erin McSorley and Gibson fired into the defence, with Finlay and Jones joining in.

Ayr brought on replacements Michelle Nelson, Shania Irvine and Emma Donaldson, and they got stuck into defence when Cartha regained possession.

The visitors were patient, willing to go through the phases until they could get another score, this time in the corner. The conversion just missed. 17-10.

With just a converted try behind, Cartha's comeback was causing Ayr problems, but the home team didn't panic. Griffiths' tackles nullified their attack before a huge shove by Ayr at the Cartha scrum caused a knock-on.

From Ayr's own scrum, Morrison raced away, Finlay barged through the tackles and Jones took the ball over the line for the bonus-point-securing fourth try. It was another wide conversion attempt for Shennan and she couldn't make it. 22-10.

There was time for more from Ayr, with Irvine powering away, and Turner making a break. The ball seemed to go through the hands of every Ayr player but Cartha were strong in defence, and Ayr couldn't get back to the try-line before the whistle was blown for full-time.

Final score: Ayr Ladies 22 Cartha QP 10.

- Elena Hogarth.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Glasgow Hawks 31 Ayr 44

Ayr put in an energetic performance to beat Glasgow Hawks on the artificial pitch at Lochinch in round eleven of the BT Premiership.

It was a cold afternoon at Pollok Park - Hawks' home for the day, with their 1st XV pitch still out of action - but both sets of players launched themselves with abandon into the game, the firm surface creating ample opportunity for running rugby.

Hawks scored first after an interception by centre Brendan McGroarty that saw him snaffle the ball and then break free of Ayr tackles to race away. It was unconverted. 5-0.

Ayr were unperturbed, however, and captain Pete McCallum charged off before centre Stafford McDowall and flanker Tommy Spinks burst forth with ball in hand. They crossed the line but the ball was knocked on before it was grounded.

The men from Millbrae were marvellous at turning over Hawks, and after a scrum and a line-out to the Old Anniesland side, Ayr suddenly had the ball, hooker Robbie Smith making a dash for it before centre Danny McCluskey sped away for the try. Scott Lyle, starting on the wing for Ayr, converted. 5-7.
Lyle was quickly back at the tee, kicking a penalty. 5-10.

The floodgates had opened for Ayr. McDowall and second row Robert McAlpine tore through midfield, the former almost cartwheeling through tackles.

From a line-out moments later, Ayr drove on until scrum-half Lewis Young fired the ball to fly-half Brandon Thomson - released by Glasgow Warriors for the day - and he found Lyle. A brilliant step by the winger saw him elude a Hawks defender and he got the ball away to full-back Grant Anderson, and he bullied his way over the line. Lyle converted. 5-17.

Hawks full-back Bobby Beattie was a danger throughout the match, and the back row of McCallum, Spinks and George Stokes were busy containing him.

A blast for the line by McCallum saw the ball go loose but Hawks fumbled it and they went back for the scrum. Although their scrum was solid, Hawks were relieved of the ball as the set-piece broke up, Stokes the man on poaching duty. He headed straight for the line with Spinks in support but neither could cross. Blair Macpherson, playing in the second row, barged over. Lyle converted. 5-24.
A quick line-out by Hawks launched Beattie into attack once again, but he was flattened by McDowall, the ball knocked on. After the ensuing scrum, Ayr winger Craig Gossman hit the pass from Young like a train and thumped his way through the Hawks defence, Smith and Macpherson in support.

Hawks had a fine turnover of their own, and could do nothing with it but clear. One line-out after another for Ayr saw Smith drive the maul on, with Macpherson again demonstrating great support play before McCallum quickly scored a try. Lyle's conversion attempt from out wide hit the upright. 5-29.

Not even the odd handling error could dampen Ayr's spirits. Macpherson and McAlpine were throwing themselves about the pitch with gusto, as were Gossman, McCallum and Spinks, and Stokes and McDowall were always on hand to thwart any Hawks attack.

Lyle struck a penalty just before half-time. 5-32.

Ayr continued in a similar vein at the resumption, Smith, props Robin Hislop and Steven Longwell, McDowall, McCluskey and Lyle cutting the Hawks defence to ribbons until Longwell rumbled over for the try. Lyle got the conversion. 5-39.
McCluskey was escorted from the field, injured, and Jamie Bova replaced him. Lewis Anderson and Jonathan Agnew followed him off the bench, replacing Smith and McAlpine respectively.

Hawks had a spring in their step in the second half, and after a couple of penalties, McGroarty scrambled over for a try, converted by Jack Steele. 12-39.

Ayr trundled on, McCallum, Lewis Anderson and Stokes working well together. Agnew was on form in the air, and his swift hands at the line-out got the ball to McCallum, who scored try number six for Ayr. Lyle's conversion just missed. 12-44.

Ayr emptied the bench, Ruairidh Sayce replacing Longwell and Sam Graham on for Gossman.

It was a busy final quarter as Hawks put their foot on the gas.

Beattie caused havoc, and not even Stokes clinging on for dear life could stop him. His break let McGroarty go over for his hat-trick. It went unconverted. 17-44.

Winger James Couper was next, dodging through the pink and black shirts for a great try. Liam Brims converted. 24-44.
A huge thump by Graham on a Hawks attacker saw the ball spilled and McDowall scooped it up. The ball was later knocked on, but after the scrum, McDowall zoomed on to a wayward Hawks pass. Alas, Ayr were offside and they were brought back for the penalty.

Couper was away again, dancing round the defence for another try, with Scott Peffers converting. 31-44.

There was only a minute left, but Hawks were going for a final score. With Ayr offside again, they took the line-out, but the ball ended up in McDowall's hands and he booted it off the park to bring an entertaining match to an end.

Final score: Glasgow Hawks 31 Ayr 44.

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

- Elena Hogarth.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Glasgow Hawks v Ayr preview

Ayr play Glasgow Hawks on the artificial pitch at Lochinch in Pollok Park on Saturday in round eleven of the BT Premiership, kicking off at 2pm.

It's the first league fixture in nearly a month, but both teams have been in BT Cup action, Hawks losing out to Watsonians and Ayr sneaking a win against Currie Chieftains.

"The players showed a lot of character to come back and get the win against Currie," says Ayr head coach Calum Forrester. "It is set to be an entertaining west coast derby on the fast 3G surface at Lochinch this weekend."

With Hawks' 1st XV pitch at Old Anniesland in the west end of Glasgow currently out of action, the match will be played at the Police Scotland recreation ground in the south side of the city (G41 4SN, for those driving). Ayr fans are welcome at Old Anniesland after the match; and before the fixture, Cartha QP have issued an open invitation to visit their clubhouse - just at the entrance to Pollok Park - for drinks and soup.

In the squad, centre Stafford McDowall and hooker Robbie Smith return after recovering from illness and injury. Glasgow Warriors' Brandon Thomson starts at fly-half, with Scott Lyle moving to the wing. Lewis Young retains his place at scrum-half after a strong debut against Currie.

Ayr 1st XV
15. Grant Anderson, 14. Scott Lyle, 13. Danny McCluskey, 12. Stafford McDowall, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Brandon Thomson, 9. Lewis Young; 1. Robin Hislop, 2. Robbie Smith, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Blair Macpherson, 5. Robert McAlpine; 6. Tommy Spinks, 7. George Stokes, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

16. Lewis Anderson, 17. Ruairidh Sayce, 18. Jonathan Agnew, 19. Jamie Bova, 20. Sam Graham.

Kick-off 2pm. Follow the scores live on Twitter.

Ayr 2nd XV are welcomed to Old Anniesland, where they will take on their Glasgow Hawks counterparts in BT National Reserve 1, kicking off at 2pm.

There are some exciting additions to the Ayr team, with Harry Warr and Paddy Dewhirst pulling the strings at half-back, and Scotland U18s' prop Euan McLaren donning the pink and black shirt for the first time.

Zander Howie and Ross Gilmour are welcomed back to the squad after recovering from a long-term knee injury and returning from a spell abroad respectively.

Ayr 2nd XV
15. Ross Gilmour, 14. Rory McMurray, 13. James Pinkerton, 12. Gregor Henry, 11. Euan Hamilton; 10. Paddy Dewhirst, 9. Harry Warr; 1. Ben Paterson, 2. Stuart Collier, 3. Euan McLaren; 4. Logan Richardson, 5. Michael Badenhorst; 6. Craig Brown, 7. Seth Rae, 8. Cameron Reece.

16. David Young, 17. Fraser Miller, 18. Adam Paxton, 19. Alan Miller, 20. Zander Howie.

Kick-off 2pm. Follow the scores live via the Ultimate Rugby app.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Eight Ayr players in Club XV training squad

Eight Ayr players have been named in the Scotland Club XV training squad ahead of their three games in the new year.

Pete McCallum, Blair Macpherson, Robert McAlpine, George Stokes, Steven Longwell, David Armstrong, Robbie Nairn and Craig Gossman are in the 35-strong squad, which will be coached by Robert Chrystie of Melrose, with Ayr's Glen Tippett assisting.

Read more from Scottish Rugby.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Ayr Ladies 10 Watsonians 50

Ayr Ladies battled the cold and a tough Watsonians side in BT Premier League B at Marr Playing Fields on Sunday afternoon.

Ayr started well, holding firm at their scrum and putting Watsonians under pressure at theirs.

Fly-half Catherine Shennan chipped on for centre Connie Griffiths to chase, and while she couldn't collect the ball, she put in a huge tackle on the Watsonians player who did.

Ayr regained possession, and Shennan and props Louise McLauchlan and captain Laura Turner moved the ball into the twenty-two before Shennan had a shot at goal and nailed the penalty kick. 3-0.

The visitors raced into the lead with a stylish converted try. 3-7.

McLauchlan and hooker Lisa Croniken put in doughty tackles, but it was Shennan who ripped the ball from maroon and white possession and scrum-half Rachel Morrison made metres.

Moments later, number eight Joanne Jones sliced through the Watsonians defence and charged for the line, with flanker Neve Finlay in support. Jones' perfect one-handed pass was taken by Finlay who barged her way over for the try. Shennan converted. 10-7.
Finlay's fellow flanker Shania Irvine and full-back Erin Marner-Low were strong in attack, but Watsonians gathered a kick and looked to be back in control until Turner turned them over and Shennan sprinted off.

First half injuries forced a reshuffle for Ayr, and they lost replacement back Rowan Kerr and second row Sonja Liekens. Marner-Low moved into the forwards and Erin McSorley came on to the wing, with Lauren McBride going to full-back.

McBride took a high Watsonians kick well, and raced away with second row Danni Hands in support, but Watsonians later had a line-out and shot off from the back of it to score another converted try. 10-14.

Ayr set about attacking with intent, Morrison, Finlay and Jones leading the way, with centre Rachael Mulholland causing mischief in midfield.

Jones and Hands were causing mischief at the line-out, poaching Watsonians' throw and tearing away with Turner in support.

Ayr were making progress but the Watsonians defence was strong and they never made it to the try-line. The Myreside team scored a converted try just before half-time. 10-21.

The start of the second half brought two quick converted tries for Watsonians. 10-35.
Replacements Michelle Nelson and Robynn Gibson joined the fray, with prop Nelson making her return from long-term injury.

Jones, Irvine, winger Lee Steward, Griffiths and Hands worked hard in defence but Watsonians were fired up on a freezing day in Troon. They added two further tries, both unconverted. 10-45.

Watsonians were down to fourteen when one of their team was yellow-carded, and Ayr camped out on their five-metre line. They managed to cross the try-line at least twice, but the scores were disallowed for forward passes.

Ayr kept their heads up under huge pressure, with Mulholland finding gaps in the defence but those gaps were always quickly plugged before she could do any damage.

Jones impressed with a cheeky chip-and-chase that she eventually gathered, allowing Turner to fight her way through the maroon and white shirts.

Soon, Watsonians had the ball back and added an unconverted try just before full-time. 10-50.

Ayr Ladies
15. Erin Marner-Low, 14. Lee Steward, 13. Connie Griffiths, 12. Rachael Mulholland, 11. Lauren McBride; 10. Catherine Shennan, 9. Rachel Morrison; 1. Laura Turner (c), 2. Lisa Croniken, 3. Louise McLauchlan; 4. Danni Hands, 5. Sonja Liekens; 6. Neve Finlay, 7. Shania Irvine, 8. Joanne Jones.

16. Michelle Nelson, 17. Erin McSorley, 18. Robynn Gibson, 19. Rowan Kerr.

Photos courtesy of Lisa Main. Please seek permission before reproducing any images for any purpose.

- Elena Hogarth. 

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Ayr 26 Currie Chieftains 22 - BT Cup 1st round

Nothing quite brings the drama like a national cup competition, and the first round clash of the BT Cup between Ayr and Currie Chieftains had ups, downs, thrills, spills and everything else as the home team prevailed under the floodlights at Millbrae on Friday night.

Ayr had to contend with late changes to the squad due to illness and injury, a pitch that turned into a quagmire during the warm-up and a visiting side just as determined as them to make it to the next round of the cup.

Heavy showers before and during the game meant the ball was like a bar of soap, and knocks-on were unavoidable. Still, Ayr started well, getting to the Currie line, only to be turned over.

The visitors had no qualms about running with ball in hand in such slippery conditions and almost made it from half-way to the try-line, but knocked on. The referee had been playing advantage, and they came back for fly-half Jamie Forbes to kick a penalty. 0-3.

His Ayr counterpart Scott Lyle had a chance to level things but his kick at goal was unsuccessful.

Wise old head Grant Anderson - playing at scrum-half as a late replacement for Harry Warr - was busy tidying up loose ball and barking instructions to his team-mates, but Currie had another penalty. From a line-out, centre David Hall took off and the ball was taken over the line but held up by the tough Ayr defence.

Craig Gossman, at full-back with Jamie Bova on the wing, was escorted from the field by the medical team, and Lewis Young, making his 1st XV debut, replaced him. Young went to scrum-half, with Anderson moving to Gossman's position. It was the first of many a reshuffling of the Ayr team.

The Chieftains were fired up, flanker Thomas Gordon barging over for a try. Forbes couldn't make the conversion. 0-8.

Ayr had to match their intensity and the front row of props Robin Hislop and Steven Longwell and hooker Lewis Anderson controlled the scrum. Captain Pete McCallum broke away from the back of it but the ball was later turned over, and as hooker Anderson lay on the ground, being attended to by the medical team, Currie winger Ruairidh Smith cantered away for a score that Forbes converted. 0-15.

There was no panic from the home team at being fifteen points adrift. Their set-pieces were solid in the mud, the second row of Robert McAlpine and Blair Macpherson reigning supreme in the air, whilst the back row of McCallum and flankers Tommy Spinks and George Stokes joined in the grunt work elsewhere.
A mad scramble after a good line-out take by McAlpine needed Young to guide his backs, and that was what he did. He got the ball to Lyle, who put in a cross-field kick that was scooped up by full-back Anderson, who muscled his way over the line. Lyle converted. 7-15.

Ayr lost another back, winger Robbie Nairn being helped from the field by assistant coaches Pat MacArthur and Glen Tippett. There were no more backs on the bench to replace him, so up stepped the ever-versatile Scott Sutherland.

The game was getting scrappy on and off the ball. Lewis Anderson and centres Danny McCluskey and Sam Graham prevented Currie from doing anything with those scraps of ball, but the men from Malleny didn't help themselves with a display of petulance that caused French referee Luc Ramos to march them back ten metres.

Ayr took the line-out well, and drove slowly and carefully until great hands and vision from Hislop got the ball to Lewis Anderson and the hooker barged over in the corner. Lyle couldn't make the wide conversion, slipping over in the mud. 12-15.

Lewis Anderson was buoyed by his try, and impressed the crowd further with his rambunctiousness that sent a Currie defender flying.

Tempers began to fray, and a massive melee broke out in the middle of the pitch, with the usual pushing and shoving looking all the more dramatic with the players caked in mud and easily slipping over. It was the flankers who were singled out - rightly or wrongly, it was hard to tell as the boggy conditions had rendered shirt numbers illegible - and Stokes and Gordon were sin-binned.
Ayr changed shirts at half-time, but they were soon covered in mud.

The home team cared little though, and soggy jerseys didn't hold them back. Macpherson and Lyle threw themselves into defence, and Spinks was on the charge with ball in hand. They really started to turn the screw at Currie's set-pieces.

The bench was emptied, with Jonathan Agnew, Ruairidh Sayce and Robbie Smith coming on and getting stuck in.

Ayr stole Currie's line-out and shoved them off the ball at their scrum, Agnew grabbing the ball and diving over for a try after one such display of forward power. Lyle added the extras. 19-15.

They weren't safe yet. There was grit - metaphorical and literal - all over the Chieftains' faces. They marched up to Ayr's twenty-two, and, with Macpherson shown a yellow card for reasons unknown, they hammered the try-line. They couldn't get over it but didn't need to in the end, as referee Ramos did the trot of doom to the posts to signal a penalty try. 19-22.

The crowd could barely contain themselves, but the Millbrae men were calm, cool and collected. A penalty got them back into Currie's half, where a spot-on throw by Smith at the line-out was taken by McAlpine. They repeated the feat moments later, but the ball was knocked on.

Still, Ayr didn't despair. The forwards ruined the Currie scrum again, and willed on by the fans, they got their hands on the ball right on the try-line, Longwell finding a way over for the match-winning score. Lyle converted it in a deathly hush before the crowd erupted as the final whistle was blown.

Final score: Ayr 26 Currie Chieftains 22.

15. Craig Gossman, 14. Robbie Nairn, 13. Danny McCluskey, 12. Sam Graham, 11. Jamie Bova; 10. Scott Lyle, 9. Grant Anderson; 1. Robin Hislop, 2. Lewis Anderson, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Blair Macpherson, 5. Robert McAlpine; 6. Tommy Spinks, 7. George Stokes, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

16. Robbie Smith, 17. Ruairidh Sayce, 18. Jonathan Agnew, 19. Scott Sutherland, 20. Lewis Young.

Slaters Menswear man of the match: Robin Hislop.

Many thanks to the local farming community, who sponsored the match, and BDO, who sponsored the ball.

Photos by Lisa Main. Please seek permission from the club before reproducing images for commercial or any journalistic purposes.

- Elena Hogarth.