Ayr followed their fantastic opening win of the season last week with a terrific home victory yesterday over Dundee HSFP.
Running out at Millbrae for the first time in four months, Ayr had the weight of expectation on their shoulders due to last Saturday's resounding defeat of Boroughmuir. The fans expected and the players delivered.
With ladies' day already in full swing, there was a great atmosphere, but the merriment was respectfully put on hold as all assembled remembered Jim McDonald, who recently passed away. An Ayr stalwart, Jim was a fitness adviser at the club in the days when such a thing in rugby was rare. A minute's silence allowed reflection on his life and contribution to Ayr RFC.
Ayr began their opening home game of the season with gusto, stealing Dundee's line-out at the first go. The players were clearly keyed up for a physical encounter, with commitment on show from the off. Unfortunately, within the first eight minutes, flanker Ross Doneghan's heroic tackling efforts led to a nasty-looking knock and he had to be replaced by Graham Fisken.
Two of Ayr's new arrivals, Craig and Kerr Gossman, showed their merit in last week's season opener, and that good form continued for the brothers at Millbrae. Kerr was the first to display his fast pace and fancy footwork, but it was Craig who got on the scoreboard, scoring a try at ten minutes. Scrum-half Peter Jericevich set it up beautifully with a break and kick-and-chase. He added the conversion, making the score 7-0.
Three minutes later, Dundee had their chance to get on the board with a penalty, but dodgy contact with the ball meant stand-off Jack Steele sent it under the crossbar. A missed kick to touch from Dundee didn't help matters either, as Ayr used the mistake to their advantage, launching a sustained onslaught in the opposition 22 that only ended when Dundee knocked the ball from Andy Dunlop's hand.
The home fans didn't have to wait too long for another try. At twenty-two minutes, inside centre Richard Dalgleish took a sharp pass from his midfield partner Robbie Fergusson to cross the line. Jericevich was again successful with the conversion. 14-0.
The crowd was getting plenty to shout about with more breaks from Kerr Gossman and tenacious tackling from stand-off Sylvain Diez (what's an eighteen-stone Dundonian prop when you've been bashed about by bulls in Pamplona?). The fans were particularly vociferous when Dundee hooker Darrel Russell threw a line-out ball at his own prop's head and it was deemed straight by the referee.
Fergusson let his creativity show, with a clever kick-and-chase that pushed Ayr into Dundee's half. Full-back Grant Anderson wasn't about to let the youngster steal the limelight, and shot off, only for his pass to Craig Gossman to be adjudged forward and the try disallowed.
Dundee had had enough of Ayr running all over them, and with ten minutes of the first half to go, got on the scoreboard thanks to a wonderful running try from winger Andrew MacLean. Steele converted to bring the scores to 14-7. He added a penalty just before half-time to make 14-10.
Ayr's comfortable lead had disappeared quickly, but spirited defence and attack in the second half meant Dundee didn't get any more points on the board.
The start of the final forty minutes was messy, with mistakes from both sides, and a scuffle breaking out - Dundee's Taylor Paris (one of Glasgow's new signings) keen to engage Dunlop in some kind of waltz or tango.
Craig Gossman, Diez and the ever-popular Nick Cox combined to force their way up the park, with Anderson and Fergusson again in the thick of it. Fergusson looked to be through for a try, but the referee ruled crossing had taken place.
Thirteen minutes in and Ayr got their first penalty shot at goal, but Jericevich hooked it. Anderson's stunning running and terrific passes from Jericevich and Diez brought another try, Anderson finally getting on the score sheet. Jericevich converted. 21-10. But Anderson's try came at a cost, with the full-back being substituted by Cammy Taylor because of a sore shoulder.
There was some good work at the line-out from Ayr, with another Dundee ball stolen. Captain Calum Forrester proved himself a versatile number eight, with a deft chip ahead that eventually led to Ayr driving for the line, only to be held up just short. A few minutes later, Dalgleish got his second try of the game, fighting his way over. Jericevich added the extras. 28-10.
The final quarter saw Dundee desperately trying to get some more points, but Ayr's stolid defence wouldn't let them. A few more attacking runs from the home side came to nothing, but there were happy faces all round when the referee blew the whistle for full-time.
Man-of-the-match was awarded to Sylvain Diez for some remarkable work in both defence and attack.
- Elena Hogarth