Sunday, 15 October 2017

Ayr 41 Heriot's 17

Ayr roared to a bonus-point victory over Heriot's at Millbrae in round seven of the BT Premiership.

It was the proverbial flying start for the men in pink and black as inside centre Stafford McDowall's galloping break released fly-half Frazier Climo and he cruised away for the opening try, which outside centre Scott Lyle converted, to the delight of the home crowd. 7-0.

Heriot's went on a rumble up the park, thanks to number eight Jack Turley, but it was Ayr winger Robbie Nairn who was in full bull-dozer mode, his opposite number John Rae not standing a chance at stopping him when he had the ball in hand.

Rae, though, was equally dangerous early on, and Climo had to spring into action to bring him crashing down. Second rows Michael Badenhorst and Jonny Agnew and hooker Pat MacArthur also put in crunching tackles before Heriot's full-back Ross Jones kicked a penalty. 7-3.

Lyle then stepped up to the tee and nailed a long-range kick. 10-3.

Props George Hunter and Steven Longwell let loose, before Lyle broke away and brilliantly offloaded to winger Craig Gossman, who raced over the line for the try. Lyle converted. 17-3.

Heriot's were awarded a penalty try soon after, with referee Ben Blain adjudging Ayr had illegally prevented them from scoring. 17-10.

Lyle then put that monster boot to use again and kicked another penalty from close to the half-way line. 20-10.
Lyle had another kick at goal when Heriot's prop Struan Cessford was sin-binned, but with the malfunctioning loudspeaker in the stand squealing away, he missed.

No matter to Ayr, as Nairn soon had the ball and was knocking over the Heriot's defenders like skittles. Agnew, scrum-half Harry Warr and flanker Tommy Spinks all showed great dexterity to keep the ball alive before it reached Gossman and he timed his pass well for full-back Grant Anderson to just squeeze in at the corner. Lyle took his short run-up to the conversion kick from between two of the advertising boards and landed it. 27-10.

A fumble from Ayr let Rae scoop up the ball and make a few metres before he was unceremoniously flattened by Nairn.

Ayr started the second half with gusto, Nairn leading the way, with captain Pete McCallum also on the rampage. McDowall brilliantly handed off a defender to sprint up the pitch but that particular phase of play came to nothing.

Ayr gave away a couple of penalties but Heriot's couldn't take advantage, especially when McCallum employed his volleyball skills to leap in the air and pat back an attempted kick for touch. Climo got the ball, kicked down field, and when Heriot's collected it and charged at him, the fly-half bundled them off the pitch.

Heriot's mobile back row of Turley, Michael Maltman and Jack McLean launched an attack, but the equally agile McCallum, Spinks and George Stokes were all over them in defence.

Ayr's scrum was on song too. With MacArthur off after an energetic and tenacious display, Lewis Anderson replaced him, Adam Prentice later joining the front row too in place of Longwell. The changes didn't affect the forwards and they put Heriot's under enormous pressure.

Despite a slightly soggy pitch, the backs were running riot. Gossman, McDowall and Climo combined to zig-zag through the blue and white shirts, with Gossman shooting off for a try, a pile of bodies left slumped on the grass in his wake. Lyle kicked the conversion before taking his leave. 34-10.

Paddy Dewhirst replaced him and was straight into the thick of things, linking up with McDowall to once again release Climo and the New Zealander turned on the gas and was unstoppable. Dewhirst converted the try. 41-10.
Ayr brought on the last of their replacements - Gregor Henry and Jamie Bova - in the final quarter, as Heriot's attempted to get a score.

With Agnew sin-binned for a professional foul, Heriot's took advantage of their increased numbers and attacked Ayr's line relentlessly. Badenhorst and Dewhirst put in a tremendous effort to stop them, but Turley claimed the try and Jones converted. 41-17.

Everyone in an Ayr shirt looked like they still had the appetite for more, and Hunter took them right up to the line but the ball was later knocked-on.

Heriot's held firm at their scrum, but Lewis Anderson and Henry smothered any attacking ambitions.

A Climo chip for the line was pounced on by Heriot's, and an exciting game was brought to an end.

Final score: Ayr 41 Heriot's 17.

Slaters Menswear man of the match: Stafford McDowall.

In the 2nd XV match, Ayr beat Heriot's 38-22. James Armstrong scored two tries, with James Pinkerton, Cam Reece and Johnny McCorkindale getting one each. Man of the match Matt Davidson converted all five and added a penalty.

Photos courtesy of Amy McGillivray. Please seek permission before reproducing for commercial purposes.

- Elena Hogarth.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Ayr v Heriot's preview

Ayr welcome Heriot's 1st and 2nd XVs to Millbrae on Saturday for round seven of the BT Premiership and BT National Reserve 1 respectively, with both matches kicking off at 3pm.

The Goldenacre side sit second in the BT Premiership table and are currently on a good run of form, but so are Ayr, and after winning last week's Ayrshire derby, they hope to have another victory in front of their home crowd.

Heriot's can turn on the power and the pace whether home or away, and Ayr head coach Calum Forrester is wary of the threat they pose.

"Matches between the two clubs have been tight affairs in recent years and we expect another battle again this weekend."

Ayr are boosted by the return from illness of inside centre Stafford McDowall and winger Robbie Nairn, who gets his first start for the club.

Whilst outside centre Danny McCluskey misses out through injury, flanker Blair Macpherson has recovered from his injuries and is named on the bench.

Assistant coach Pat MacArthur laces up his boots and starts at hooker, with his fellow Glasgow Warrior Brandon Thomson amongst the replacements.

Ayr 1st XV
15. Grant Anderson; 14. Robbie Nairn, 13. Scott Lyle, 12. Stafford McDowall, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Frazier Climo, 9. Harry Warr; 1. George Hunter, 2. Pat MacArthur, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Michael Badenhorst, 5. Jonathan Agnew; 6. Tommy Spinks, 7. George Spinks, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

16. Lewis Anderson, 17. Adam Prentice, 18. Blair Macpherson, 19. Paddy Dewhirst, 20. Brandon Thomson.

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

In the 2nd XV match, Ayr field a strong team as they take on seventh-placed Heriot's.

David Young returns to a formidable front row alongside props Ruairidh Sayce and Fraser Miller, and there is pace throughout the backs in what will surely be another entertaining game.

Ayr 2nd XV
15. Johnny McCorkindale; 14. Sam Gray, 13. Matt Davidson, 12. Sam Graham, 11. Zac Howard; 10. James Pinkerton, 9. Lewis Young; 1. Ruairidh Sayce, 2. David Young, 3. Fraser Miller; 4. Jack Brown, 5. Logan Richardson; 6. Craig Brown, 7. Seth Rae, 8. Cameron Reece.

16. Stuart Collier, 17. Adam Paxton, 18. Euan Hamilton.

Kick-off 3pm. Follow the scores live via the Ultimate Rugby app.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Ayr Ladies 19 Stirling County Ladies 48

Ayr Ladies had a tough afternoon at Millbrae on Sunday, as they took on Stirling County in the BT Premier League.

The home team got off to a good start, looking strong at the scrum and lively in the loose, the back row of Danni Hands, Kelsey Swift and Rachael Mulholland putting energy into the attack. Fly-half Catherine Shennan and second row Joanne Jones pushed to Stirling's line and hooker Lisa Croniken got the try. Shennan converted. 7-0.

Jones flew off again, after scrum-half Rachel Morrison took a quick penalty, and was unstoppable as she charged away for the try. It was unconverted. 12-0.

County got a hold on the game, and Ayr had their work cut out trying to stop their speedy backs. Swift, Croniken, second row Sonja Liekens, centre Erin Marner-Low and Mulholland put in thumping tackles but the visitors grabbed a converted try. 12-7.

Replacement Neve Finlay blasted her way up the pitch, with Hands also putting her foot on the gas. Winger Lisa Main's quick pass to Griffiths set her on a jinking run but Stirling were ready with big tackles to bring any attack to a halt.

After regaining possession, County headed for the line, and, despite tackles by Swift and captain Laura Turner, scored an unconverted try in the corner. 12-12.

There was a break whilst a County player was attended to, but it didn't affect the visitors, and once again, Ayr's defence had to work hard to subdue their attack. Griffiths and prop Louise McLauchlan, along with Morrison and Jones, were tireless in the tackle but County's quick handling was getting them out of trouble. Soon they had a converted try to go into the lead just before half-time. 12-19.

Just after the resumption, Ayr launched themselves into several phases of attack, Hands making another break. Swift and winger Catherine Clark sped up the touchline but tough defence saw Clark dragged out of play.

Stirling added another converted try. 12-26.

McLauchlan poached County possession and Finlay burst through the defence with Shennan and Mulholland in support. A penalty for Ayr let Croniken break away, and the ball passed through the hands of McLauchlan and Griffiths before Jones got her brace. Shennan converted. 19-26.

Ayr brought on replacements Stephanie Wylie, Jennifer Kerr, Jenna Garrett and Sarah Braidwood just before there was another injury break for a Stirling player.

The ladies in pink and black turned County over, with Kerr charging through the defenders, with Finlay in support. A lovely flicked pass from the teenage back row found Jones who passed back to Finlay before Liekens was let loose and found Mulholland.

The number eight set off on an exciting run, handing off several County players before she was tackled into touch.

Stirling fought their way out of their own half and scored an unconverted try. 19-31.

They quickly added another. 19-36.

Braidwood, McLauchlan, Griffiths and Jones were busy tracking down the Stirling attackers, with Swift putting in some huge tackles, but County were too fast and too strong and ended the match with another two tries, one converted.

Final score: Ayr Ladies 19 Stirling County Ladies 48

Photo courtesy of Alan Graham. Please seek permission before using any photos for commercial purposes.

- Elena Hogarth.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Marr 6 Ayr 19

Ayr beat Marr at a damp and soggy Fullarton in the BT Premiership.

It was the first competitive meeting between the two sides in nearly 40 years and the sidelines were packed with expectant fans. If they had been expecting a game of free-flowing rugby, they would have been disappointed, as a war of attrition ensued.

The hosts were the first on the board, thanks to a Colin Sturgeon penalty. 3-0.

Marr were full of attacking intent early on, and Ayr captain Pete McCallum, props George Hunter and Steven Longwell, fly-half Paddy Dewhirst and full-back Grant Anderson had to grit their teeth and put in the tough tackles.

Barely ten minutes were on the clock when tempers flared and referee Sam Grove-White sent Marr captain Angus Johnston and the aforementioned Anderson to the sin bin.

Scott Lyle stepped up to the kicking tee after a dangerous tackle on Dewhirst got Ayr the penalty. 3-3.

Sturgeon replied moments later. 6-3.

Ayr fought hard for possession and were beginning to batter through the Marr defence, Tommy Spinks - the flanker turned second row turned flanker again - being the battering-ram-in-chief.

A spate of injuries for Ayr had forced several reshuffles throughout the week and on the day itself, with Spinks moving into the back row with McCallum and George Stokes, Michael Badenhorst starting in the second row and Gregor Henry taking his place on the bench.

All the changes and overwrought atmosphere of a long-awaited Ayrshire derby didn't seem to bother teenage half-backs Dewhirst and Harry Warr. They were calm and focused throughout, and even let their creativity show on a dreich day, Warr's eye for a cute popped pass releasing Frazier Climo, who was playing at inside centre.

Dewhirst put in a cross-field kick but the referee brought Ayr back for advantage and Lyle kicked the penalty. 6-6.
Ayr winger Craig Gossman was bobbing about, just waiting for a pass to fly on to, but the match took a turn for the worse with a series of ineffectual kicks for territory, knocks-on and turn-overs that came to nothing.

Marr had the stuffing knocked out of them when second row Kyle Hatherell was shown a red card for a dangerous tackle. Lyle kicked the points for Ayr. 6-9.

The home team rallied, Glasgow Warriors' Greg Peterson - a former Ayr draft player - leading the charge, and they displayed great courage to press for the line. Ayr held them up.

They had two scrums on the five-metre line, and at the second, McCallum appeared with the ball and Ayr cleared their lines. A few kicks more, and Ayr had possession again, hooker Lewis Anderson motoring through the purple shirts, with Lyle, the other Anderson, Longwell and centre Danny McCluskey in support.

Half-time brought some respite for players and fans alike. But it was straight back into a cauldron of tension and emotion in the second half.

Sturgeon missed a penalty kick just after the resumption, but his team didn't let up when they had the ball in hand, Stokes, second rows Badenhorst and Jonathan Agnew and Longwell exhausting themselves in defence.

Lyle, Badenhorst, Gossman and Spinks linked up nicely when Ayr regained possession, and Gossman was on the receiving end of a lovely inside pass from Dewhirst, with Warr, Spinks, McCallum and Agnew in support. But that purple and gold defence was determined.
Again, all structure went out the window, the occasion seemingly getting to both sets of players. The referee had a tight grip on the game, and marched Marr back ten metres for mouthing off.

Ayr found their composure in the final quarter, McCallum leading from the front, with Hunter on his usual devastating form in the loose.

Hard work from Agnew, Lyle, both Andersons and Longwell, and jinking footwork by Dewhirst, created opportunities for Ayr. But the ball was later knocked on from a line-out. Ayr just used their bulk at the scrum though, shoving Marr and turning over. Again, Marr showed bravery and resilience and held Ayr up to prevent the try.

However, the hosts' next attempt to stop a score was illegal and a penalty try was awarded to Ayr. 6-16.

McCallum charged from the back of a scrum and McCluskey zig-zagged through the defenders, but Marr were later caught off side, and Lyle kicked his fourth penalty. 6-19.

Ayr brought on replacements Jamie Bova and Sam Graham, the latter making his BT Premiership debut and putting in a fierce tackle almost straight away as Marr had a final hurrah. They were pinged for holding on, with Lyle booting the ball off the park to bring a bruising afternoon to an end.

Final score: Marr 6 Ayr 19.

Photos courtesy of Alan Graham. Please contact Alan before using his images.

- Elena Hogarth.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Smith is September player of the month

Robbie Smith has been voted the September player of the month.

It was a close online poll, with the 18-year-old front row player winning by just one vote.

Smith has impressed throughout the month with energetic performances at both prop and hooker. He receives a £50 voucher from Slaters Menswear.

Marr v Ayr preview

It's the first leg of the BT Premiership Ayrshire derby between Ayr and Marr on Saturday, as the Troon club hosts the current league champions.

With a 3pm kick-off, supporters are advised to arrive early at Fullarton and to car share/be dropped off where possible as parking is very limited on what will be a huge day for rugby in Ayrshire.

On the pitch, it's another game for both teams as the BT Premiership reaches the sixth round. Ayr are a place above Marr in the table and will be focused on carrying on their good form of the past fortnight.

Ayr head coach Calum Forrester is cautious, however, as Marr have fully embraced life in the BT Premiership.

"We are under no illusion as to how difficult the task will be. But the players are relishing the challenge."

A number of players who have previously been involved with Ayr in some capacity pepper the Marr squad. In the Ayr ranks, Ryan Grant returns to the bench after Glasgow Warriors released him for the weekend.

Stafford McDowall and Robbie Smith miss out due to illness and injury. Frazier Climo and Lewis Anderson take their respective places, with the former combining with Danny McCluskey to create a dynamic centre duo, and the latter bringing his pace and power to an already speedy and strong front row.

Tommy Spinks and Jonathan Agnew team up in the second row in place of the injured Robert McAlpine and Scott Sutherland, and Paddy Dewhirst and Harry Warr make a lively half-back partnership.

15. Grant Anderson; 14. Scott Lyle, 13. Danny McCluskey, 12. Frazier Climo, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Paddy Dewhirst, 9. Harry Warr; 1. George Hunter, 2. Lewis Anderson, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Tommy Spinks, 5. Jonathan Agnew; 6. Blair Macpherson, 7. George Stokes, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

16. David Young, 17. Ryan Grant, 18. Michael Badenhorst, 19. Robbie Nairn, 20. Jamie Bova.

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

Ayr 2nd XV play Hamilton 2nd XV at Laigh Bent on Saturday in BT National Reserve 1, kicking off at 3pm.

Monday, 2 October 2017

September player of the month poll open

The September player of the month poll is now open!

Get voting for your favourite player of the past month. The poll features everyone who has appeared in a match-day squad for BT Premiership fixtures throughout September.

The vote closes on Friday at midday, with the winner announced soon after.

Vote here.