Sunday, 11 December 2016

Ayr 44 Hawick 41

Visitors at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum must have wondered what on earth was going on next door at 4.35pm on Saturday. The Millbrae faithful were in full voice, roaring on their players to a last-minute victory against Hawick in the BT Premiership.

With half of Hawick's team apparently topping up their tans in the Caribbean, there were some in the crowd who thought this would be a straightforward game. But there's no such thing when you're facing a club as proud and fiercely competitive as Hawick.

They were in attack-mode from the off, winger Wesley Hamilton flying up the touchline only to be dragged out of play by Ayr full-back Grant Anderson.

Nobody could get a hand on Hamilton's fellow winger Darcy Graham as, moments later, he ghosted through the Ayr defence for an impressive try. Hawick full-back Kirk Ford was in imperious form with the boot and converted. 0-7.

Ayr got down to some hard graft and it was Canadian prop Djustice Sears-Duru who barrelled through the green shirts and over the line for a try in the corner. Stand-off Frazier Climo couldn't manage the conversion. 5-7.
The home team began to build up some momentum, George Hunter - the prop in the second row - and David Young - the hooker in the back row - steamrollering through the opposition and centre Ross Curle hitting a lovely angle. But it was Climo's boot that nudged Ayr in front with a penalty. 8-7.

Curle was on the attack again after a fine break by winger Craig Gossman, with centre Archie Russell and captain Pete McCallum in support, but they got pinged for holding on and Hawick ended up with line-out after line-out.

Nothing came of it, despite the visitors getting into Ayr's twenty-two, as a melee broke out and spilled on to the sidelines. Once tempers had cooled, referee Ross Maben was left with no choice but to yellow-card Anderson and Hawick's diminutive scrum-half Bruce Campbell.

Hawick made for the line, but terrific defence by Ayr flanker Blair Macpherson, prop Steven Longwell and hooker James Malcolm repelled the first wave of attack before they turned over and cleared. The kick didn't make touch and Hawick quickly fired the ball to Graham but he couldn't get the score.

Old reliable Bruce McNeil could, the veteran Hawick number eight and captain lolloping over. It was another terrific conversion by Ford. 8-14.

Ford added a penalty when Ayr strayed offside. 8-17.

Hawick chipped away possession and Hunter, Russell, Macpherson and Curle fired through the defense but little errors were creeping in and the ball was knocked on. Hawick again kicked away the ball after the ensuing scrum and again a fine attack by Gossman, Anderson, winger Danny McCluskey and McCallum proved fruitless.
The home side and their fans were getting frustrated but they kept their cool. A Hawick knock-on gave them a scrum, with McCallum picking up, scrum-half Harry Warr's mis-pass finding Anderson and the full-back making scoring tries look easy. There were no easy kicks for Climo though and the try went unconverted. 13-17.

Ford extended Hawick's lead just before half-time with a penalty. 13-20.

The greens caught Ayr napping at the start of the second half, prop Callum Mackintosh bursting forth for a try converted by Ford. 13-27.

Ford was back at the tee moments later when Graham scored his second try. 13-34.

The fightback was immediate from Ayr, Hunter tearing through Hawick and McCluskey powering up the wing for a try. It was another wide angle for Climo but he got the conversion. 20-34.

And another try was on its way. Ayr held firm at the set-piece and launched themselves with gusto at the whitewash, McCallum scoring. Climo couldn't convert. 25-34.

Climo's kicking from hand confused Hawick and gave the line-out to Ayr. From one side to another the ball was propelled and Gossman put his foot on the gas for a try. Climo couldn't convert. 30-34.

Hawick weren't panicking but their over-enthusiastic determination was leading to infringements. When they wheeled the scrum, Ayr got the put-in, McCallum fed Gossman and the winger got his second try, with Climo adding the extras. 37-34.
There was a break in play after an accidental clash of heads between Gossman and Hawick replacement Sam Bandeen, with the latter having to leave the field.

Hawick then camped out on Ayr's five-metre line and after initially being held-up, they scored through second row Keith McNeil. Ford converted. 37-41.

There was still time for Ayr to fight back again. A forward charge, not to mention a huge shove at Hawick's scrum, got them into a great attacking position and Macpherson and McCallum led the way to the line. It was a good old muddy pile-up and the ball couldn't be retrieved to go for the line again.

But Ayr's sturdy scrum gave them another shot and after what seemed like a life-time, Russell glued his hands to the ball and didn't let go until he touched down for the try, greeted by one of the loudest roars heard at Millbrae in years. With Climo off, Curle converted practically from in the crowd. 44-41.
The whistle was blown to bring the final home game of 2016 to an end. Ayr have their last match of the calendar year next week against Melrose at the Greenyards, kicking off at 2pm.

Final score: Ayr 44 Hawick 41.

Slaters Menswear man of the match: Pete McCallum.

- Elena Hogarth

Photos by George McMillan. Please seek permission before reproducing. 

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