Friday, 30 November 2012

Ayr v Gala preview

It's back to RBS Premiership business for Ayr this weekend, as they welcome Gala to Millbrae.  With just two points separating them at the top of the table, Ayr will be looking for a win to regain their apex position.

Ayr head coach Kenny Murray is looking forward to a highly competitive match.

"Like ourselves, Gala have only lost one league tie so far but that was against us at Netherdale, so they'll be keen for revenge," he says.  "We have been focussing on what we need to do on Saturday and the players are well aware of what they can achieve if they work hard and do the basics well."

Ayr go into the match looking for a sixth successive defence of the Bill McLaren Shield, and a big crowd is expected at Millbrae as local farmers - some of Ayr's most loyal supporters - will be holding a hospitality event.

"Selection has been tough this week," admits Murray.  "Players have been desperate to put their hands up for consideration in the big game."

Dean Kelbrick retains his position at inside centre from last week's Cup clash with Ardrossan, meaning Richard Dalgleish drops to the bench.  George Hunter returns at prop and makes up a lively front row with the always rumbunctious Denford Mutamangira and Hayden Wisnewski.  Young winger Gavin Lowe keeps his place after a virtuoso performance last week, during which he scored 29 points.

Joining Dalgleish amongst the replacements is Murray McConnell, who continues his comeback from injury.  Graham Fisken is also on the bench, but is expected to make an appearance given his consistently good performances of late.

Team (subject to change on match day):

Grant Anderson, Gavin Lowe, Robbie Fergusson, Dean Kelbrick, Craig Gossman; Finn Russell, Peter Jericevich; Denford Mutamangira, Hayden Wisnewski, George Hunter; Nick Campbell, Scott Sutherland; Colin White, Andrew Dunlop, Calum Forrester (capt.).

Replacements: Stuart Fenwick, Byron Schmidt, Graham Fisken, Murray McConnell, Richard Dalgleish.

Please note the kick-off time of 3pm!

- Elena Hogarth

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Ardrossan Accies 11 Ayr 74

Ayr crossed the border into North Ayrshire on Saturday afternoon to take on Ardrossan Accies at Memorial Field in their latest RBS West Regional Cup encounter.  The local derby was closely fought in the opening quarter, but Ayr's place in the RBS Premiership told as Championship League A side Ardrossan struggled to contain the visitors.

Accies set down an early marker, as their excellent scrum succeeded in putting Ayr under pressure, and they managed to hold them off for ten minutes with some solid defence.  However, Ayr were dangerous with ball in hand, especially Peter Jericevich, who was a late replacement for fly-half Finn Russell.

It was scrum-half Sylvain Diez, though, who dived over from a melee at Accies' line for the first try.  Young winger Gavin Lowe missed the conversion.  0-5.

Accies scrum-half Mattie Grant took advantage of his forwards' good work in the scrum and scampered up the park, but he couldn't avoid the attentions of Ayr's hooker Hayden Wisnewski, who put in a strong display in both defence and attack.

Ayr's discipline problems reared their ugly head twice within three minutes, and Accies' fly-half Alan Wilson easily kicked both penalty goals.  6-5.

Ayr got back into the lead at twenty-six minutes thanks to captain Calum Forrester crossing for a try.  Lowe again missed the conversion.  6-10.

A period of messy handling from both sides followed, but Ayr centre Robbie Fergusson managed to keep hold of the greasy ball to blast through Accies' defence and score under the posts.  Lowe's conversion was successful.  6-17.

A minute later, winger Cammy Taylor added another for Ayr, diving over mere seconds after Jericevich nearly burrowed over.  Lowe's kicking was now firmly on course and he got the extras.  6-24.

Lowe continued to impress in the second half, as he got his first try, flying up the wing a matter of seconds after kick-off.  He succeeded with the tricky touchline conversion.  6-31.

Ardrossan didn't seem too shell-shocked and managed to turn Ayr over, but their loose play let them down.  Ayr got the ball back and Jericevich showed a clean pair of heels to score next.  Lowe converted.  6-38.

Again, the home side pressed for the line but couldn't touch down.  Lowe compounded their misery with another try which he converted.  6-45.

Accies wouldn't lie down, however, with some good interplay between outside centre Antony Flint and right winger Calum McKechnie.  Left winger John Young came close to the line before knocking on.  He soon got another chance when he gathered a great cross-kick from fly-half Wilson and crossed for Ardrossan's only try of the day.  Wilson couldn't convert.  11-45.

Ayr's second row Peter McCallum was the next to get on the score sheet, touching down a deft kick from centre Dean Kelbrick.  Lowe missed the conversion.  11-50.

As it got colder, Ayr seemed to move faster, particularly young replacement wing Murray Beckwith.  Returning from a lenghtly spell on the sidelines, replacement scrum-half Murray McConnell charged his way over for another uncoverted try for the visitors.  11-55

Lowe capped his virtuoso performance with a third try, although he couldn't manage the conversion.  11-60. 

There was enough time for two more scores from Ayr, full-back Grant Anderson just managing to touch down before the ball dribbled over the dead ball line, and Fergusson again bursting through.  Lowe converted both, making the final score  11-74. 

- Elena Hogarth

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Ardrossan Accies v Ayr preview

Ayr take the road north - by a few miles - to face Ardrossan Accies in an Ayrshire derby and RBS West Regional Cup tie on Saturday at 1pm.  After winning their first silverware of the season last week, when they beat GHA to become the first team to get their name on the Bill McLaren Shield, they will be keen to keep the Cup momentum going.

"It's a tremendous honour for the club," says head coach Kenny Murray of the victory, "and under the rules, the shield now goes on the road with us to be defended home and away, so Ardrossan will have a chance to wrestle it from us."

He continues: "This is a big local derby and Ardrossan will be out to show what they can do, so we will be very focussed on our performance."

There are numerous changes to the team, with Colin White, Richard Dalgleish, David Young, Peter Jericevich, Andrew Dunlop and Denford Mutamangira putting their feet up while others get the opportunity to impress.  Dean Kelbrick returns at inside centre, with youngster Gavin Lowe starting on the right wing and Ross Doneghan taking his place at openside flanker.

Stuart Fenwick, Murray McConnell and George Hunter have recovered from injury and take their places on the bench, but will get game time.  A fine performance last week for the 2nd XV sees Murray Beckwith promoted to the 1st XV replacements. 

Team (subject to change on match day):

Grant Anderson, Gavin Lowe, Robbie Fergusson, Dean Kelbrick, Cammy Taylor; Finn Russell, Sylvain Diez; Byron Schmidt, Hayden Wisnewski, D'arcy Rae; Nick Campbell, Scott Sutherland; Graham Fisken, Ross Doneghan, Calum Forrester (capt).

Replacements: Stuart Fenwick, George Hunter, Peter McCallum, Murray McConnell, Murray Beckwith.

Please note the earlier kick-off of 1pm at Memorial Field, Ardrossan.

- Elena Hogarth

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Ayr 33 GHA 0

Ayr had twice the incentive to beat GHA on Saturday, as they looked to further their RBS West Regional Cup campaign and become the first team to get their name on the Bill McLaren Shield.

Luckily for all concerned, the rain stayed away from Millbrae and the sun even shone as the match kicked off at the earlier time of 12.30pm.  Despite Ayr being two leagues above their opponents, they weren't taking anything for granted and GHA spent much of the first ten minutes containing the current RBS Premiership table-toppers.

The home team had the first opportunity to get points on the board, with Finn Russell easily slotting over a penalty at ten minutes.  3-0.

With the dry weather, the Ayr backs were constantly sniffing out breaks, especially winger Craig Gossman who linked up well with centre Robbie Fergusson and young replacement back Danny McCluskey. 

However, GHA's smother defence, strength at the scrum and ambitious running proved tricky for the men in pink and black.  It wasn't until twenty minutes that Ayr got their first try after a great run from a quick take by Gossman and a slick pass to Fergusson who touched down.  Russell missed the conversion.  8-0.

Former Wales rugby league player and Scotland sevens man Hefin O'Hare put in a great performance for GHA, refusing to be laid low by Ayr's defence, even crawling along the pitch at one point.  He was backed all the way by fly-half Dominic Dunn, who spent most of the game bellowing at his team-mates.  It was to no avail though, as GHA began to feel the two-league gap.  Dunn soon found himself catapulted out of a ruck and a nasty knock saw flanker Paul Harkins substituted, thankfully leaving the field on his feet and not a stretcher as feared.

Ayr scored their second try at thirty-five minutes, after number eight Graham Fisken broke from the back of the scrum and lock Colin White tumbled over.  It wasn't Ayr's day with the boot, and Russell missed again.  13-0.

Five minutes later at the close of the first half, Ayr scored another, Fisken setting it up again and scrum-half Sylvain Diez crossing the line.  Russell hooked the conversion.  18-0.

The second half began at a canter, with GHA's clearance attempts charged down and Gossman pouncing for a try.  Diez took over the kicking duties, but couldn't convert.  23-0.

GHA stuck in there, with prop Stephen Spowart charging on, but almost as soon as Ayr got the ball back, it was into the hands of Gossman and he was off. 

GHA managed some turn-overs and winger Gordon Adams made a great break for the line but was undone by Ayr's efficient defence.  The visitors pulled the Ayr defenders side-to-side but found no way over the line.

It wasn't until sixty-one minutes that Ayr wrestled possession back and flanker and man-of-the-match Peter McCallum scored.  Replacement scrum-half Peter Jericevich missed the conversion.  28-0.

Jericevich was his usually nippy self, making a series of impressive breaks.  However, Ayr's indiscipline let them down and luckily for them, GHA were unable to take advantage. 

Jericevich's speed did pay off eventually, as he flew in for Ayr's final try just before full-time.  He couldn't convert his own score.  The final score was 33-0, and Ayr happily took the victory and the Bill McLaren Shield.

-Elena Hogarth

Friday, 16 November 2012

Ayr v GHA preview

After last week's muddy close encounter with Hillhead/Jordanhill at Millbrae, Ayr will be hoping their next RBS West Regional Cup home match will find them back on solid ground.  They welcome GHA to Alloway on Saturday for a fourth defence of the Bill McLaren Shield and a chance to be the first team to get their name on the wonderful trophy.

Despite the difference in leagues, Ayr head coach Kenny Murray is not underestimating GHA.

"They will be tough and ambitious and aiming to really test themselves and measure their progress, as they have stated publicly," he says.  "It will be an interesting battle in the back lines as our young guys go head-to-head with the likes of former internationalist Andy Henderson and Welsh rugby league convert Hefin O'Hare."

He continues: "With the effects of the weather, it will be a turgid battle up front and this is where the game will be won and lost.  Whilst the Braidholm men will have other ideas, we must look to ourselves for a determined and focussed performance."

There are a few changes to the team this week as Scott Sutherland and Calum Forrester are rested after picking up knocks.  Colin White and Graham Fisken replace them.  Scrum-half Sylvain Diez, hooker David Young and Peter McCallum in the back row are promoted from the bench.  Exciting young prospect Danny McCluskey takes his place among the substitutes.

Team (subject to change on match day):
Grant Anderson, Cammy Taylor, Robbie Fergusson, Richard Dalgleish, Craig Gossman; Finn Russell, Sylvain Diez; Byron Schmidt, David Young, Denford Mutamangira; Nick Campbell, Colin White; Peter McCallum, Andrew Dunlop, Graham Fisken.

Replacements: Hayden Wisnewski, Stewart Kerr, Shingai Mpofu, Peter Jericevich, Danny McCluskey.

Please note the early kick-off time of 12.30pm.

- Elena Hogarth.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Volunteers and quizzers needed!

Ayr RFC are committed to upgrading all facilities at Millbrae, and as part of this, work on the new swing park will begin next week.  We really need volunteers to donate their time and help us out with this.  A patio area with tables, chairs and patio heaters will be built, as well as the swing park, and a spruce-up of the stand and the outside of the club is planned.  If you can help, please see our Facebook page for details. 

On Friday 30th November at 7.30pm, Ayr RFC Under-18s will be hosting a quiz night at Millbrae to raise funds for their trip to South Africa next year.  Entry is £20 for a table of 4-6, and there will be food, nibbles and raffles.  Tickets are available at the club on Tuesdays at 7pm.  Again, head on over to Facebook for more information.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Ayr 19 Hillhead/Jordanhill 8

Mud is a great leveller, and by the end of yesterday's RBS West Regional Cup encounter at Millbrae, everyone had been brought down to size by the boggy conditions.  Luckily, Ayr managed to lift themselves in time to beat a dogged and steady Hillhead/Jordanhill.

Despite being a league below, Hills were the dominant side for the first quarter.  A huge shower meer minutes before kick-off delayed proceedings and turned the Millbrae pitch into a mire, and it was the visitors who coped better with the weather.  They kept the ball in hand for the most part, but with such appalling conditions to battle, there were bound to be numerous knocks-on.

Ayr attempted to be more adventurous, but nothing came from the likes of full back Grant Anderson and winger Cammy Taylor trying to create attacking opportunities. 

Hills got on the scoreboard first, with Andy Leslie easily slotting a penalty at 16 minutes.  0-3.

There were fumbles galour, and Anderson, usually such a safe pair of hands, got caught out right on Ayr's line.  Former Ayr man Blair Macpherson - one of several former players turning out for Hills - was there to gather it up, only to drop it before he could do any damage.

AJ Macfarlane, another past Ayr favourite, enjoyed causing havoc at his old stomping ground, and was helped along by his flustered former team-mates.  Nearing thirty minutes on the clock, scrum-half Peter Jericevich's kick went out on the full, but the mistake was eventually turned to Ayr's favour as they worked their way down the park to Hills' line.  After many messy attempts, prop Byron Schmidt - on his first XV debut - rumbled over for a try.  Fly-half Finn Russell converted.  7-3.

Jericevich's bad luck continued, with a clearance kick charged down, but the visitors couldn't gather, as the ball continued to slip about like a bar of soap.  Minutes later, however, they shot off up the wing and Ayr's blushes were saved by an excellent tackle from Taylor. 

Every mistake possible was made by both sides, including a pass from Hills that the Millbrae faithful was determined was forward.  But Ayr's hooker Hayden Wisnewski didn't let a little thing like the rain put him off his game, and sniffing out an interception, took off down the wing in a sprint that would have put the Gossman brothers to shame.  He was unfortunately pulled into touch before he could make the try line.

Hills had another shot at a penalty kick before half-time but Leslie couldn't get the three points.

A change of shirt for the second half didn't help Ayr, with Peter McCallum getting yellow carded at forty-three minutes for reasons unknown. 

Jericevich redeemed himself with a try-saving intervention early on, but nobody could stop Leslie as he snatched Hills' only try at forty-nine minutes.  He couldn't convert though.  7-8.

The next fifteen minutes were fruitless, until Ayr got a penalty and took a line-out, managing to get themselves into a decent position.  From the base of a solid scrum, man-of-the-match Graham Fisken plunged over the line for Ayr's second try.  Russell added the extras.  14-8.

Ayr stayed put in Hills' half for the rest of the match, and fought hard to grab another try at 71 minutes, centre Robbie Fergusson charging over, despite the close attentions of Hills replacement Joe Stafford.  Russell couldn't manage the touchline conversion to make the final score 19-8.

- Elena Hogarth

Friday, 9 November 2012

Ayr v Hillhead/Jordanhill preview

Ayr get their Scottish Cup campaign underway this weekend, as they take on Hillhead/Jordanhill in the RBS West Regional Cup at Millbrae.  There will be high hopes for this encounter, in light of Ayr's great Cup history of two wins from three finals.

Head coach Kenny Murray is looking forward to the break from league competition and to welcoming back some familiar faces to Alloway.

"Hillhead/Jordanhill will be desperate to do well," he says.  "Former Ayr players AJ Macfarlane, Blair McPherson, Stuart Howie and Ryan Holland will all feature in their team, so there'll be plenty of banter on the pitch.  However, we have an excellent record in the Scottish Cup, so this is an important match for us and it will have our full attention."

The team continues with its settled look, but there are three notable changes.  Dean Kelbrick returns to the starting line-up, having fully recovered from a long-term injury.  Byron Schmidt gets his first start of the season, having impressed in his performances for the 2nd XV.  D'arcy Rae comes in at tighthead prop in place of George Hunter, who has a sore shoulder.

Team (subject to change on match day):
Grant Anderson, Richard Dalgleish, Robbie Fergusson, Dean Kelbrick, Cammy Taylor; Finn Russell, Peter Jericevich; Byron Schmidt, Hayden Wisnewski, D'arcy Rae; Nick Campbell, Scott Sutherland; Colin White, Graham Fisken, Calum Forrester (capt).

Replacements: Denford Mutamangira, David Young, Andrew Dunlop, Gavin Lowe.

Please note that kick-off is 3pm.

- Elena Hogarth

Friday, 2 November 2012

Dundee v Ayr preview

Ayr go east this weekend to take on Dundee at Mayfield.  It will be another tough away game and one Ayr will be keen to win to keep their position at the top of the RBS Premiership table.

"Dundee are always strong at home, so another week comes along and the competition is as stiff as ever," says head coach Kenny Murray.  "We will need to be at our very best to claim a victory since everyone is trying to knock us off our perch."

After last week's nail-biting win over Boroughmuir, the team's training this week has concentrated on defence.

"We scored some very good tries last week," reflects Murray, "but defence wins you games."

There are no changes to the starting line-up this week, but two on the bench.  Shingai Mpofu returns to the replacements, as does club international centre Dean Kelbrick after a long-term injury that he sustained on the first day of the season.  Sylvain Diez turns out for the 2nd XV this Saturday in order to get game time at scrum-half.

The match kicks off at the earlier time of 2pm.

Team (subject to change on the day):
Grant Anderson, Cammy Taylor, Robbie Fergusson, Richard Dalgleish, Craig Gossman; Finn Russell, Peter Jericevich; Denford Mutamangira, Hayden Wisnewski, George Hunter; Nick Campbell, Scott Sutherland; Colin White, Andrew Dunlop, Calum Forrester (capt).

Replacements: David Young, D'arcy Rae, Graham Fisken, Shingai Mpofu, Dean Kelbrick.