Sunday, 31 August 2014

Ayr 28 Gala 24


Games against Gala are always full of incident and yesterday's was no different as Ayr edged a win in the opening fixture of the BT Premiership at Millbrae.

The match couldn't have got off to a worst start for the home side as the kick-off went astray and Gala scrum-half George Graham scrambled over for a try, which full-back Craig Dods converted.  0-7.

Ayr tried to hit back through winger Craig Gossman, number eight Blair Macpherson, prop Nick Cox and a between-the-legs catch from flanker Callum Templeton, but they got nowhere until Gala infringed in a kickable position and outside centre Ross Curle took the three points at six minutes.  3-7.

Ayr retained possession for the next few minutes and moved the ball side-to-side but couldn't overcome the solid Gala defence until scrum-half David Armstrong burst forth and scurried to the line for a try in his first XV debut.  It was a wide conversion but Curle managed it.  10-7.

Armstrong was on brilliant form all afternoon, picking up the man-of-the-match award, and it wasn't just because of his attacking play.  He was there to mop up the spills and contain the marauding Maroons. 

What couldn't be contained, however, were the tempers from both sides, and it wasn't long before Ayr flanker Andy Dunlop was taking a suspected elbow to the eyebrow and had to hurry back to the clubhouse to be stitched up.

Ayr applied some pressure, particularly at the set pieces, but couldn't make ground.  Another infringement from the visitors, this time not rolling away, gave Curle his second penalty attempt at nineteen minutes, which he duly booted over.  13-7.
Curle and full-back Grant Anderson displayed their usual slicing runs, but despite a good off-load to Craig Gossman, they still couldn't get anywhere, and the home team were starting to infringe too, being caught off-side.  Dods couldn't make the kick at goal though.

Dods launched an attack a few minutes later and it looked like winger Graham Speirs was in for a try until Armstrong came racing across to make a superb tackle and Speirs ended up throwing the ball into the face of an Ayr player.

Gala tried yet again but George Graham kicked away possession.  Tempers were fraying, with Dunlop somehow losing his shirt and prop Fraser Watt dragging his Gala opposite number Luke Pettie around by the collar when he found himself on the wrong side, but nothing ignited into fisticuffs.

It was a tough old battle with both captain Dean Kelbrick and lock Rob McAlpine down injured for some time before carrying on and Gala had their fair share of substitutions.

Then things did kick off.  Gala replacement prop Callum MacIntosh seemed to take exception to being felled by Craig Gossman, a possible seven stones lighter than him, and a bit of silly pushing and pulling broke out.  Gala lock Chris Weir, however, took things too far, making contact with an Ayr face in what looked like a punch.  It couldn't have been though as he was only awarded a yellow card. 

The ensuing rammy was quickly calmed by the more level-headed players in both teams, but the crowd was getting hot and bothered on Ladies' Day as Templeton found himself whistled and cheered at as he changed his ripped shirt.

Ayr used their ire to their advantage and took off on a superb drive up the park that couldn't be stopped by Gala captain Opeta Palepoi mischievously popping out of the pink and black side.  They moved it out wide but a chip by Anderson was pounced on by a Gala player.

With their man advantage, Ayr put on a huge shove at the scrum and Macpherson flipped over a defender and over the line for a try.  Curle's conversion was short.  18-7.

Gala meant business in the second half, with flanker Gary Graham proving a bearded menace who was only stopped in his tracks by an excellent tackle from Templeton.  Craig Gossman bounced off Graham in an attempt to quell the threat and had to be escorted from the pitch with a dislocated elbow.

Gala took advantage of Gossman lying crumpled in a heap to nip over in the corner for a try by winger Grant Somerville.  Dods missed the conversion.  18-12.

There was a huge cheer of appreciation as Armstrong left the field after a blistering performance which saw him here, there and everywhere.  His replacement, recent Glasgow Warriors signing Murray McConnell, was greeted with much enthusiasm too and he set about tidying up a match that was getting messy.

Both teams seemed to have run themselves ragged in the first half and the opening minutes of the second and were now making mistakes.  Luckily Ayr stand-off Danny McCluskey, who had an equally impressive game as his half-back partner Armstrong, was there to scoop up a loose pass from Gala and fire it to Kerr Gossman who fought his way up the wing and sent Anderson over for a much-needed try at fifty-five minutes.  Curle nabbed the conversion.  25-12.

It might have seemed like there was daylight, especially when Dods missed another penalty, but Gala can never be easily dismissed.  They pressed on and only some crazy-looking defensive efforts from Curle and a bear-hug of a tackle from Kerr Gossman stopped them scoring.

A dazed-looking Macpherson, who had thrown himself around the pitch, was led away by the medical team at the end of the third quarter and Ayr found themselves in trouble with the referee at the scrum.  Neil Paterson eventually performed the trot of doom to the posts to award Gala a penalty try, which Dods converted.  25-19.

Ayr had another good trundling drive but McConnell couldn't get his pass away to McCluskey.  No matter though as they got themselves a penalty which Curle kicked.  28-19.

With a good ten minutes left on the clock, Ayr and their fans knew they couldn't relax.  They were the ones to give away a penalty next, allowing Gala a line-out and then a scrum which let George Graham make for the try-line.  It was Josh Irvine who crossed for the score.  Dods missed the conversion.  28-24.

It was a very tense final seven minutes, but Ayr put in some good work at the line-out thanks to McAlpine and second row partner Scott Sutherland, who also proved themselves useful in the loose.

Yet more scrapping broke out after McConnell shoved a Gala attacker into touch and the referee had a conference with his assistants before deciding to take no action against either side. 

Gala had the majority of the possession in the final minutes and the crowd was on the edge of their seats and as it looked like it was just a matter of time before they pressed for a try.  But Ayr stayed patient and thankfully turned it over before Anderson happily booted the ball in the direction of the Burns Birthplace Museum and the referee blew the whistle for full-time.

Final score: Ayr 28 Gala 24.


- Elena Hogarth.

All photos by Rob Hardie of Touchline Images.




Friday, 29 August 2014

Ayr v Gala preview

The new season of the BT Premiership couldn't kick-off with a more meaty encounter at Millbrae than Ayr against Gala.  After the men in pink and black denied the Maroons their chance to get their hands on the league title at Netherdale four months ago by just a point, George Graham's troops will be seeking revenge.

Ayr will also be looking to get things off to a good start under the watchful eyes of the new coaching team of Calum Forrester, Scott Forrest and Glen Tippett, all former players at the club.

Head coach Forrester believes that the tough pre-season friendlies against Jersey and Blaydon will stand them in good stead for the challenges of the BT Premiership, especially their opening encounter.

"These games have helped us prepare for the physicality that we know Gala will bring.  Matches between Ayr and Gala are always a battle and we expect similar again this weekend."

The squad is a mixture of familiar and new faces, with recent recruits Fraser Watt and Robert McAlpine starting at prop and lock respectively.  Blair MacPherson returns from a spell at Hillhead/Jordanhill to take his place at number eight and new Glasgow Warriors signing Murray McConnell is lurking on the bench after the Scotstoun side released him for the day.

It's a youthful half-back combination as teenager Danny McCluskey starts at stand-off and last season's second XV player of the year David Armstrong is named at scrum-half.  Dean Kelbrick leads the team from inside centre.

It's Ladies' Day on Saturday, with the bi-annual charity lunch this time raising funds for research into Hodgkin Lymphoma.  The Millbrae crowd will be bolstered by three hundred female supporters, cheering on the team on what is sure to be a great start to the new season.

Ayr:

15. Grant Anderson, 14. Craig Gossman, 13. Ross Curle, 12. Dean Kelbrick (capt), 11. Kerr Gossman; 10. Daniel McCluskey, 9. David Armstrong; 1. Nick Cox, 2. Fergus Scott, 3. Fraser Watt; 4. Robert McAlpine, 5. Scott Sutherland; 6. Callum Templeton, 7. Andrew Dunlop, 8. Blair MacPherson.

Replacements:
16. James Malcolm, 17. Stuart Fenwick, 18. Peter McCallum, 19. Murray McConnell, 20. Gavin Lowe.


Gala:

15. Craig Dods, 14. Graham Speirs, 13. Chris Auld, 12. Alan Eamon, 11. Grant Somerville; 10 Ruairi Howarth, 9. George Graham; 1. Luke Pettie, 2. Russell Anderson, 3. Ewan Johnstone; 4. Chris Weir, 5. Opeta Palepoi; 6. Gary Graham, 7. Stevie Cairns, 8. Tom Weir.

Replacements:
16. Callum Macintosh, 17. Josh Irvine, 18. Ewan Dodds, 19. David O'Hagan, 20. Ewan Scott.


Kick-off 3pm!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Ayr 32 Blaydon 12

Ayr put a sluggish first half behind them to score five tries against Blaydon in their final pre-season match before the BT Premiership starts next weekend.

It wasn't a particularly good opening forty minutes for either side with each knocking on, throwing forward passes and finding themselves offside on occasion.  There was an early blow for Ayr when experienced flanker Andrew Dunlop had to come off after taking a bash to the face.  But this gave young back rower Ben Johnston the chance to stretch his legs.

In fact, it was the forwards who were making ground early on, with prop Nick Cox and hooker Stuart Fenwick on the charge before those pesky knocks-on spoiled things.

Blaydon's backs did a bit better, some smooth running and handling punctuating the errors, but one dangerous-looking break was firmly snuffed out by a superb tackle from young centre Danny McCluskey.

There were some shimmying runs by wingers Craig and Kerr Gossman and a gallop by Johnston, but the first points came from the boot of stand-off Gavin Lowe who kicked a penalty at the end of the first quarter.  3-0.

The visitors stepped things up through their inside centre who blasted his way through several tackles.  He couldn't quite make it to the try-line but got Blaydon into a good position for a line-out.  An infringement from Ayr followed, giving Blaydon another line-out only for them to knock-on.

Another handling error from Blaydon was quickly scooped up by scrum-half David Armstrong in their half and he sped off but chipped ahead with nobody there to chase. 

Armstrong, moving from the second XV to the first this season, had the chance to atone a few minutes later when he shot across the field to track down a Blaydon attacker who had found himself in acres of space.  Some assistance from Craig Gossman and full-back Grant Anderson prevented a score.

The Newcastle-upon-Tyne side couldn't be contained for much longer though and they scored out on the wing.  It was unconverted.  3-5.

Blaydon yet again went on the attack, making the most of their possession to allow their second row to stretch a big paw under the posts.  This time the try was converted.  3-12.

Line-outs and scrums continued to be scruffy but Ayr started to liven up a bit, number eight Blair MacPherson looking particularly alert to any opportunity to pounce on a Blaydon mistake.  McCluskey and Craig Gossman made a break between them but it came to nothing.

The second half started just as messily as the first but Ayr seemed to have a bit more purpose.  Craig Gossman put in such a thumping tackle on one poor Blaydon back that the ball bounced right out of his hands and into Gossman's, who shot off before passing to replacement Ross Curle.  He was unfortunately shoved into touch but it perhaps lit a fuse.

Ten minutes or so later, Ayr held firm at the scrum in Blaydon's half and a good pick up from MacPherson allowed Johnston to barge to the line and Cox to go over for Ayr's first try.  Curle couldn't convert.  8-12.

Cox was on good form, leading his troops to Blaydon's five-metre line.  With bodies strewn all over the place, possession switched sides before Armstrong got his hands on the ball and scrambled over for a try.  Curle got the conversion.  15-12.

Blaydon lost their concentration, sending the restart straight out and then infringing at the scrum.  When they did reclaim possession, they threw a forward pass. 

There was more woe for the visitors when they took their eye off the ball at their own scrum and MacPherson appeared out of nowhere to nab it and canter away for a cheeky try.  Curle missed the conversion.  20-12.

Strong running from captain Dean Kelbrick and another big tackle from Craig Gossman helped Ayr along but there was still the odd error.  It looked like Curle had made a mistake when he kicked away possession but the ball somehow ended up back in his arms and he sprinted under the posts for a try which he converted.  27-12.

A few more knocks-on followed; Kerr Gossman managed to tidy up but support was lacking.  Locks Graham Williamson and Rob McAlpine each showed some good pace for such big men and it was the latter who got Ayr into a good position for the final try of the afternoon.  The ball flew from McAlpine through the backs and into the hands of Craig Gossman who went over on the wing for an unconverted try.  32-12.

The standard of play may not have matched the beautiful weather at Millbrae but it was good to see the new players in action and has whet the appetite for next Saturday's opening league fixture against Gala.


- Elena Hogarth.



Saturday, 23 August 2014

Squad for Blaydon friendly

Ayr take on Blaydon at Millbrae today, kicking off at 3pm, and some of the club's new faces will get the chance to run out on the Alloway pitch for the first time.

The second XV will also be in action at Millbrae, taking on Ardrossan first XV at 2.30pm.

First XV team:

15. Grant Anderson, 14. Craig Gossman, 13. Danny McCluskey, 12. Dean Kelbrick (capt), 11. Kerr Gossman; 10. Gavin Lowe, 9. David Armstrong; 1. George Hunter, 2. Stuart Fenwick, 3. Nick Cox; 4. Robert McAlpine, 5. Graham Williamson; 6. Andrew Dunlop, 7. Will Bordill, 8. Blair MacPherson.

Replacements:
16. David Young, 17. Fraser Watt, 18. Ben Johnston, 19. Ross Curle.

Entry to both matches is FREE!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Hunter and Bordill sign training contracts with Warriors

Ayr's prop George Hunter and new recruit Will Bordill have signed training contracts with Glasgow Warriors for a year.

The duo, both former Elite Development Players with the Scotstoun side, will continue to play for Ayr when they aren't required by the Warriors.

This further highlights the benefits for both the BT Premiership clubs and the professional teams of strong links between the two, something Glasgow Warriors have acknowledged in their new home kit which features the names of the Glasgow District teams printed across the front and back of the shirt.

Read the full story here.



Monday, 18 August 2014

Pro draft announced

The SRU has announced the draft of professional players who have been divided up between the ten BT Premiership clubs.

The ten players Ayr have been allocated include some familiar faces who have all turned out for the men in pink and black before.  Scrum-half Murray McConnell and stand-off Finn Russell have been drafted back to their old club as first year professionals, and Pat MacArthur returns to where it all began for the international hooker.

Also included is British and Irish Lions winger Sean Maitland and popular back row player James Eddie who made several successful appearances for Ayr last season.

The full draft:
Murray McConnell, James Eddie, Jerry Yanuyanutawa, Jon Welsh, Dougie Hall, Ryan Grant, Finn Russell, Henry Pyrgos, Pat MacArthur and Sean Maitland.

Read the full story here.

Quiz Night on Sat 23rd August

Gordon Kotze, Jim Lymburn and the under-18 team invite you all to join them this Saturday for a Quiz Night at Millbrae after the 1st XV play their pre-season friendly against Blaydon RFC.

Tables of 4-6 £20
Time - 7pm for 7.30pm start

Hot food will be available for purchase and there will be some raffles as well with all funds raised going towards the under-18 2015 South Africa Tour Fund.

Anyone who joined Gordon and Jim for their last Quiz Night will agree that it was a really enjoyable evening and a very busy one too so reserve your table early!

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