Sunday, 1 November 2015

Ayr 32 Hawick 20

Ayr overcame a tricky first half to their BT Premiership clash with Hawick to score five tries and lead the table by seven points as the league competition reaches the half-way mark.

There was certainly a lively start from young Ayr hooker Lewis Anderson, who went on a thirty-metre charge into Hawick's half.  His energy was matched by his fellow front rowers George Hunter and Javan Sebastian and flanker Andrew Dunlop.

However, the home side gave away penalties and found themselves stuck in their own half.  Hawick worked hard, as expected from one of the toughest teams in the league, and their flanker Rory Scott, scrum-half Sean Goodfellow and winger John Coutts were on determined form.

There were some particularly crunching tackles from Hawick, with Ayr winger Haddon McPherson momentarily crumpled on the soggy Millbrae turf, but centre Danny McCluskey, young scrum-half Jack Preston and number eight Pete McCallum showed that Ayrshire men are just as physical as the Borderers.

The first chance for points came Ayr's way when Hawick's experienced captain Bruce McNeil put in a high tackle on McPherson, but stand-off Frazier Climo's long-range penalty attempt drifted to the side.

A try followed very quickly when McCallum burst through the defence to race over the line in the corner.  Climo was kicking into the sun and couldn't make the conversion.  5-0.

Ayr looked to be getting into their groove with a very exciting phase of play that started with a line-out steal.  Captain Ross Curle did his usual dancing through the defence, with McPherson, winger Cameron Taylor, Hunter, rangy lock Robert McAlpine, Sebastian and Anderson all in on the action.  Had the pitch not been so slippery, they may have got to the try-line.

Two penalty kicks for Climo followed.  The first missed, but Hawick grabbed the ball and were then penalised for holding on, leading to the second, which was successful.  8-0.

Hawick replied moments later when Ayr were offside, stand-off Lee Armstrong on kicking duty.  8-3.

Shoving and shirt-pulling broke out and Ayr second row Scott Sutherland found himself in the sin bin.

Fourteen-man Ayr did well to contain Hawick and there were great tackles by McPherson and flanker Will Bordill, as well as some expert poaching by McCallum.

It got messy as the half came to a close.  Both teams had clearance kicks out on the full and possession changed hands regularly, with each side darting about all over the place without actually getting anywhere.

Another long penalty attempt by Climo, this time in his own half, went wide but McPherson tried to pounce for the try.  He didn't get it, and lay hurt in the dead ball area when everyone had trotted off to the clubhouse for the break.  Thankfully, he soon got up and followed.

Things were frantic at the resumption, but McAlpine and McCallum showed great strength and speed to get Ayr into Hawick's twenty-two.  Preston was off from a free kick only to be illegally impeded by Hawick prop Shawn Muir as he headed for the try-line.  Muir was yellow carded and Ayr took the scrum.

Full-back Grant Anderson, not to be outdone by his young bearded namesake Lewis, shot off and, as is his wont, muscled his way over for the try.  The referee checked with his assistants that it was good and awarded the score, which Climo converted.  15-3.

Preston took his leave after a commendable first start at scrum-half to be replaced by David Armstrong on his comeback from injury just as Hawick's Armstrong lined up a penalty, which was unsuccessful.

Ayr's Armstrong was straight into the thick of things, taking a high ball and releasing his backs.  Curle, like a bat out of hell on Hallowe'en, flew up the wing and perfectly passed to McCallum for the number eight's second try of the game and eighth in nine matches.  Climo converted.  22-3.

Hawick can never be counted out.  It was almost a blink-and-you-missed-it try from replacement prop Terry Skeet, as he burrowed his way over under the posts.  Armstrong converted.  22-10.

Man of the match McCallum somehow ploughed his way through the defence with three men in green clinging to him and there was great support from replacements D'arcy Rae and Graham Fisken, who later combined to put in a few hefty double tackles.

Thrills and spills followed, with both teams unable to control the ball at times.  It looked like Anderson the younger was headed for a try to cap a memorable performance only to be called back as the line-out was deemed not straight.

Hawick were creeping back with another penalty by Armstrong.  22-13.

Ayr's Armstrong fired the ball from a line-out and his forwards then moved it swiftly to full-back Anderson who went over for his second try.  Curle stepped up to the tee in the absence of Climo, but the conversion hit the post.  27-13.

The visitors wouldn't be subdued though.  Centre Wiaan Griebenhow made a beautiful break up the middle of the park, shrugging off tackles and offloaded perfectly to flanker Nick McTaggart who almost slid head-first into the post on his way to getting the try.  Armstrong converted.  27-20.

The clock was ticking down and with just a converted try away from a draw, Hawick were pressing on.  But Ayr got a turnover and replacement back Archie Russell spotted a gap and scurried through, bashing a defender out of the way in the process.  Curle then blasted his way over for a final try.  He couldn't convert his own score though.  32-20.

It's another home game for Ayr next week, as they welcome west coast rivals Glasgow Hawks to Millbrae.  With the Old Anniesland side now in fourth place in the table, and no doubt looking to even things up after a comprehensive defeat at the start of the season, it will be another difficult game for Ayr.

Final score: Ayr 32 Hawick 20.

- Elena Hogarth.

Photos by George McMillan.

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