Gutsy performance secures crucial bonus for Ayr.
It was back to league business for Ayr this weekend in a must win game against Boroughmuir. Incredibly, 10 weeks have passed since Ayr last played at home in front of their loyal fans. On that day the boys fought out a well-deserved victory against a high flying Hawks side….the same would be required today in order to overcome Boroughmuir
Ayr came into this game on the back of 2 solid performances in the British & Irish Cup and were hopeful that they could continue the intensity and physicality of their play that they had shown in previous weeks. Boroughmuir’s only game in recent weeks was an impressive away win in the cup at Stirling County.
The squad welcomed back Ross Curle, Glen Tippett and Andy Dunlop for this Premier 1 clash.
The men in pink and black attacked towards the Burns Monument in the first half and made their intentions clear in the opening minutes with some strong running and expansive rugby. The forwards drove the visitors back to their own line but some strong defence by Muir and a lack of composure by Ayr prevented the hosts getting their first points on the board.
Boroughmuir seemed to relax as the game progressed and with Ali Davidson commanding the lineout they started to put together some good attacking plays that asked questions of the Ayr defence. Both defences seemed to be coping well at this stage with some thunderous hits being made in equal measure. “Hit of the day” however must go to the outstanding Robbie Colhoun who almost halved his opposite number late in the first half.
The first points of the game came courtesy of a Muir penalty in the 11th minute. Following some good attacking phases by the visitors an Ayr defender breached the off-side line and referee Healy was quick to penalise. Ally Warnock stroked the ball between the posts to put the visitors 0-3 ahead.
Ayr bounced back straight after the kick-off with Andy Dunlop making an outstanding line-break from an AJ MacFarlane pass. Despite some poor lineout play by the home forwards Ayr continued to play at pace and with width. Eventually the visitors struggled to cope with the attack and infringed at a ruck. Ross Curle took advantage of this and struck the penalty to take the score to 3 – 3 with 15mins played.
The next points of the game went to Muir. The visiting backs opened up the dis-organised home defence and attacked deep into the Ayr 22. The home defence was caught off-side and Warnock again took advantage. His well-stroked penalty took the score to 3 – 6 with 17 minutes played.
At this stage in the game referee Healy had warned both teams about slowing down the ball at the breakdown. So when the Muir No8 killed the ball during an Ayr attack Healy had no option but to yellow card the big forward.
Ayr capitalised of their numerical advantage by stealing the ball at a Muir scrum. A blistering break by young stand-off Robbie Ferguson saw him link with Ross Curle but a knock-on at the ruck stopped the pacey attack. Ayr continued to pin the visitors back in their own 22 and finally managed to breach the visitor’s line. From a lineout deep in the visitors half the ball was spread wide to the backs. An accurate long pass by Ferguson eventually found Anderson who burst through the visitors defence to send Steven Manning in at the corner. Ross Curle narrowly missed the wide conversion and score stood at 8 – 6 to Ayr with 25 minutes played.
With 30 minutes played Ayr were reduced to 14 men. Mark Stewart made a solid tackle on a visiting back but referee Healy judged that the Ayr centre had interfered with the ball on the ground and sent him to the sin-bin for a break.
Muir didn’t waste time to take advantage of Stewart’s departure. The visitors stepped up the pace and intensity of their play and following a poor clearance kick by Ross Curle the Muir backs sliced through the home defence to send Ally Warnock in for the try. The stand-off converted his own try and took the score to 8 –13 with 38 minutes played.
Ayr’s repost was quick and clinical. AJ MacFarlane took a high Muir kick just inside the visitors half. The impressive scrum-half then darted past 3 visiting defenders before off-loading to Andy Dunlop who drove over in the corner. Ross Curle missed the conversion and the score was level at 13 – 13 with 40 minutes played.
Half-time score: Ayr 13 Boroughmuir 13
Muir started the 2nd half well and put the home defence on the backfoot during the opening exchanges. With Ally Warnock controlling things at 10 and Sean Crombie carrying the ball well for the visitors the Ayr line was under threat. It wasn’t long therefore before Muir got on the score-sheet again. From a 5-metre scrum the Muir No8 picked the ball and beat some sloppy defending to drive his way over the line. Warnock converted the try, taking the score to Ayr 13 Boroughmuir 20 with 51 minutes played.
Ayr reacted well to this try and immediately stepped up their game. There was a noticeable improvement in both physicality and urgency in how the home team was playing. Some strong running by the Ayr forwards and slick movement of the ball by the backs put the visitors under severe pressure deep in their own 22. This pressure became too much for the visiting defence and eventually their only way to stop the attack was by using illegal means. A Muir back-row clearly handled the ball on the ground during an Ayr attack and referee Healy had no hesitation in handing out the 3rd yellow card of the day. Ross Curle converted the penalty and took the score to Ayr 16 Boroughmuir 20 with 59 minutes played.
The home side continued to press and the visitors were struggling to deal with the strong running of Mark Stewart. The big centre looks back to his powerful best and was linking well with Ross Curle at centre. The Ayr attack eventually caught the visiting defence off-side and Ross Curle converted the penalty to narrow the score to Ayr 19 – Boroughmuir 20 with 65 minutes played.
With most of the play now taking place in the visitor’s 22 Ayr were really getting a stranglehold of the game. The Ayr forwards were exerting enormous pressure on their counterparts and Muir’s only response was to slow down the ball by infringing at the ruck. Referee Healy continuously penalised the visitors but eventually lost patience and yellow carded a Muir forward.
Ayr were quick to take advantage of this and following a series of scrums and some effective driving play the ball was released to Robbie Ferguson who showed maturity beyond his years to ghost past the visitors defence and score close to the posts. Ross Curle converted the try to take the score to Ayr 26 Boroughmuir 20 with 72 minutes played.
It wasn’t long before Ayr secured the bonus point. A great break by Ross Curle took play deep into the Muir 22. Curle offloaded to Anderson but the Ayr full-back was tackled before he caught the ball and Ayr were awarded the penalty. From the resulting scrum Ayr set up a ruck 5 metres from the Muir line and Skippy took advantage of some weak defence to tip-toe in at the corner. The big lock almost had the ball down before the defender knew what was happening. Curle missed the conversion and the score was increased to Ayr 31 Boroughmuir 20.
Full-time Ayr 31 Boroughmuir 20
This win was a strong team effort but a mention must go to Man-of-the-match Andy Dunlop who missed last week with a foot injury but bounced back today with an outstanding performance in the back row.
Ayr assistant coach Peter Laverie was pleased with the win;
“ This was a good win against an under-rated Boroughmuir team. With former pro players in Ali Davidson, Sean Crombie and Ali Warnock they are a good side and have the ability to play some very good rugby.
We scored some good tries today but maybe should have showed more composure early in the game to get our noses in front. I felt that there were some outstanding individual tackles today but we must tighten up our defence and stop conceding easy tries”
Director of Rugby Jock Craig commented;
“I was pleased with the players efforts today, particularly in the second half where we showed great physicality and skill to overcome a resilient Muir defence. It’s also good to see our young stand-off, Robbie Ferguson, continue to improve with every game and we are really excited about the potential the youngster is showing”
With the other Premier 1 results going as expected nothing really changes at the top. Ayr’s next league game is against Hawick on Feb 19th at Mansfield Park and this is another must win game for the team. There are now 4 league games remaining and all of the top 4 teams have a chance of claiming the title…an exciting end to the season awaits.
Before that however there is the small matter of the British & Irish Cup and the Scottish Cup. Ayr will play Llandovery at Millbrae on Feb 12th (12noon KO) and GHA in the Scottish Cup. This date has still to be confirmed but is likely to be played midweek over the coming weeks. Keep checking the website for confirmation.
Finally, Ayr would like to wish the following players and coach every success in the forthcoming international matches against France:
Mark Bennett Scotland U20
Damien Kelly Scotland Club International
Andy Dunlop Scotland Club International
Robbie Colhoun Scotland Club International
Gordon Reid Scotland Club International
Ross Curle Scotland Club International
Peter Laverie Scotland Club International (Coach)