Sunday, 4 September 2016

Heriot's 18 Ayr 23

It wasn't quite the grudge match it had been billed (by some) as Ayr faced Heriot's for the first time since the Goldenacre side beat them in the BT Premiership final in April.

It was very much an early round league fixture, with both teams failing to find a spark until an exciting last quarter.

The initial stages of the game were dominated by successive set pieces, and Ayr didn't have much possession at all. There was some barging about by props George Hunter and Steven Longwell and stand-off Frazier Climo, but Heriot's got the first points on the board thanks to a penalty by stand-off Alex Hagart that delighted the home crowd. 3-0.

Things took a turn for worse for the visitors as full-back Grant Anderson found himself in the sin bin for a professional foul and Hagart extended Heriot's lead. 6-0.

The home team started to give away penalties too though, Climo taking advantage with his ever-reliable boot. 6-3.

There was much toing and froing, and despite some good work in defence and attack from the likes of second rows Craig Stevenson and Rob McAlpine and flanker Will Bordill, Ayr just couldn't ignite.

Heriot's pushed for the line after two penalties allowed them to creep into Ayr's twenty-two, and the visitors did very well to hold them up. Some interminable scrummaging followed and Ayr found themselves pinged. Hagart's penalty attempt at goal was unsuccessful though.

A huge tackle by Bordill allowed centre Archie Russell to scoop up the dislodged ball and he let wing Jamie Bova loose. He scampered off but put a foot in touch.

Just when it looked like Heriot's were making their way into Ayr's twenty-two, wing Craig Gossman zoomed on to a wayward pass and was clear for a pulsating try between the posts. Climo converted. 6-10.

Heriot's were unconcerned and pressed on out of their own half and patiently made an assault for Ayr's try-line. Anderson, now back on, and scrum-half David Armstrong repelled the attack but Heriot's would not be denied and full-back Gavin Parker squeezed over in the corner. Hagart missed the tightly angled conversion, possibly distracted by Bova and captain Pete McCallum charging at him. 11-10.

Ayr tried to up the ante at the start of the second half with some galloping runs by flanker Blair Macpherson and Bova, and some delicate handling touches by Climo and Russell. But they couldn't get anywhere and lost Longwell to injury (replaced by Adam Prentice), with Ross Curle also leaving the field, Danny McCluskey taking his spot at centre.

Climo's boot nudged Ayr in front though. 11-13.

The visitors were beginning to string together some effective attacking moves through Hunter, Climo, Armstrong and Bova, but that try-line eluded them.

Another penalty by Climo stretched their lead. 11-16.

Too many kicks by both teams frustrated the fans but the Heriot's supporters soon had something to shout about as a bobbling ball was scooped up and Hagart raced away to score just at the base of the left post. He converted it with ease. 18-16.

It looked like the same thing would happen moments later but Ayr's defence quickly organised itself and shoved the Heriot's attacker into touch.

At last, there was some real tension in the game, with Heriot's flanker George Turner making a break for the line only to pass to Ayr's Hunter. The ball flew through Ayr hands but Heriot's Callum Marshall intercepted, and there was a sigh of relief from the pink and black travelling support that it was a second row who made a dash for it and not a back.

Ayr wrestled back possession, with Craig Gossman and replacement Cameron Taylor getting dangerously close to the whitewash.

Hooker David Young had shored up Ayr's line-out and he took a break to be replaced by Lewis Anderson, who continued with some assured throws. Stevenson and McAlpine were on poaching form in the last quarter, and helped turn the tide.

Hunter had put in a power of work throughout the game and it was his popped pass to Armstrong - after sprints from Gossman and Bordill - that allowed the scrum-half to charge past the flailing Heriot's defenders and under the crossbar for a fine try. Climo converted. 18-23.

There was still time on the clock, and McCallum and Macpherson linked up to get back into Heriot's twenty-two. Possession went back and forth as the home team desperately tried to salvage their afternoon but the ball ended up in the hands of Climo, who happily booted it off the pitch at full-time.

Final score: Heriot's 18 Ayr 23.

- Elena Hogarth.

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