A good crowd turned up to Millbrae last night to cheer on Ayr U18s and their counterparts from Dumfries Saints as they battled it out under the floodlights for the West Regional Cup.
The visitors enjoyed the better start and were soon camped out in Ayr's half. Their scrum-half and number eight headed for the line and after Ayr gave away a penalty, they took the line-out and from there scored the opening try. It was unconverted. 0-5.
Dumfries had another good period of possession but Ayr managed to turn it over and a cheeky between-the-legs pass from outside centre Gregor Paxton unleashed the backs. Unfortunately, it came to nothing and a later line-out for Ayr saw them penalised for obstruction. This handed back the advantage to their opponents and Dumfries' strong forwards shifted the action out of their own half.
The visitors were penalised for hands in the ruck and a solid line-out from Ayr allowed full-back Johnny McCorkindale to slice his way through the defenders. Second row Kyle Wood took the ball on and flew over the line for Ayr's first try. It was converted by stand-off Paddy Dewhirst. 7-5.
The two teams exchanged scrums and line-outs and Ayr's second row Ross Hay was on fine poaching form at the latter. Scrum-half Michael Manning and winger Zac Howard were on lively form, as was McCorkindale who motored all the way to the try-line. It was a wide conversion, but Dewhirst struck it perfectly and it curled in. 14-5.
Hay, Wood, Paxton, prop Ruairidh Sayce and hooker Gregor Lynch moved play into Dumfries' twenty-two and blindside flanker Matt Northcote headed for the line but the ball went loose. It wasn't long to wait for Ayr's next points-scoring opportunity as Dumfries were penalised for tackling a player without the ball. Dewhirst kicked the penalty. 17-5.
Dumfries rallied and barged their way right up to Ayr's five-metre line. Their cause was helped by a yellow card for McCorkindale and they soon dived over in the corner for an unconverted try. 17-10.
The visitors continued their good play at the start of the second half but a knock-on brought their marauding to a premature end. Ayr's inside centre Sam Graham stretched his legs and Lynch and prop Kyle McNulty displayed great handling before the backs moved the play side-to-side.
Good running from Dewhirst and number eight Zander Howie, as well as Dumfries' backs, was dampened by the weather. A huge gust of wind blew Dumfries' line-out throw off-course and a later kick for touch from Ayr was almost blown backwards.
Dumfries had possession when the wind and rain died down but Ayr turned it over and openside flanker Gregor Henry handed off a defender superbly to push on to Dumfries' try-line, where Sam Gray was bundled over in the corner. McCorkindale's conversion attempt was short. 22-10.
A yellow card for Dumfries didn't dampen their resolve to claw their way back into the game, and their openside flanker, left wing and number eight set off on some impressive runs. Despite some good work from Paxton and winger Mark Conlan, Dumfries pressed on. Another sin-binning for Ayr, this time Henry, helped Dumfries and they took the opportunity to barrel over for a converted try. 22-17.
The tension was palpable as the minutes ticked down and Dumfries tried their best to break down Ayr's attacking moves and regain possession. It looked like Ayr would seal the win with thirty seconds remaining when Dumfries gave away a penalty. McCorkindale stepped up to the tee but the kick was short and Dumfries gathered and tried to run it. With hearts in mouths, the crowd watched as Ayr managed to turn it over and booted it off the pitch to claim the win and the cup.
Final score: Ayr U18s 22 Dumfries Saints U18s 17.
15. Johnny McCorkindale; 14. Zac Howard, 13. Gregor Paxton, 12. Sam Graham, 11. Mark Conlan; 10. Paddy Dewhirst, 9. Michael Manning; 1. Ruairidh Sayce, 2. Gregor Lynch, 3. Kyle McNulty; 4. Ross Hay, 5. Kyle Wood; 6. Matt Northcote, 7. Gregor Henry, 8. Zander Howie.
16. Brian Kelly, 17. Dean Rickard, 18. Stewart Angus, 19. Billy Thomson, 20. Lewis Young, 21. Callum Cook, 22. Sam Gray.
- Elena Hogarth