Sunday, 17 December 2017

Ayr 12 Currie Chieftains 14

It wasn't quite the Christmas cracker everyone had been expecting as Ayr and Currie Chieftains toughed it out in the cold of Millbrae in round thirteen of the BT Premiership.

After two close, tense encounters between the sides earlier in the season, there was some hype around this match, and it was the visitors who held their nerve to get the win.

Ayr started well, with excellent breaks by captain Pete McCallum and fly-half Scott Lyle. The pitch was in good condition after a few dry, mild days in Alloway, and the players were enjoying a suitable surface to run around on.

The home side had a couple of early penalties, taking the line-out option twice. Hooker Robbie Smith found second row Robert McAlpine with ease, and on the second occasion, Ayr patiently drove until flanker George Stokes dotted down for the opening try. Lyle converted. 7-0.

The Chieftains had a real buzz about them, their scrum-half Charlie Shiel the chief mischief-maker. Ayr had their work cut out for them trying to contain him and centre Robbie Nelson, who seemed to power through the pink and black jerseys until Ayr centre Stafford McDowall brought him to a halt.
The game went a little topsy-turvy in the first quarter. Possession changed hands a few times thanks to poaching by Ayr in the loose, and then some wayward kicks by both teams. Ayr winger Craig Gossman kept a cool head to retrieve a Currie kick under pressure and put in a good clearance kick.

Gossman was saving Ayr's bacon again moments later when he and Smith put in a succession of hefty tackles to stop the visitors marauding their way to the try-line.

Ayr were soon down to fourteen men when full-back Grant Anderson was yellow-carded.

Currie became more combative with the man advantage, and Lyle and centre Paddy Dewhirst had to think quickly and work hard to keep the ball away from opposition hands.

McCallum, Stokes and fellow back-rower Tommy Spinks kept the Chieftains at bay when an attack led by full-back Jamie Forbes looked dangerous. But there was only so much Ayr could do when they ended up with thirteen men on the pitch after prop Steven Longwell joined Anderson in the sin bin.

Currie turned the screw at the scrum, and Shiel flew away with ball in hand for an inevitable try. Forbes converted. 7-7.

The men from Malleny were away again, taking advantage of those gaps in the Ayr defence, and it looked like they would power up the wing until Gossman and McDowall combined to bundle them into touch.
Ayr held on at the set-pieces and McCallum, Spinks, second row Blair Macpherson and prop Robin Hislop were working hard to keep Currie at bay until their team-mates returned from the sidelines. But there was just no stopping Nelson getting to the try-line. Forbes added the extras. 7-14.

The visitors started the second half in the same energetic manner, and Dewhirst, Macpherson, Smith and winger Sam Graham had to make crunching tackles to stop them.

They had flown up to Ayr's five-metre line, but the men in pink and black bullied them right back into their own half, with Gossman the architect of Currie's demise. Ayr then turned over, and McCallum charged up the wing with a look of utter determination on his face. It took three Chieftains to stop him. Sadly, he had nobody to pass to and Currie turned over.

Currie then kicked away possession, allowing Spinks to barrel about a bit, with Longwell and Gossman in support.

Ayr made some substitutions after scrum-half Lewis Young was flattened by a no-arms tackle. Winger Jamie Bova came on, with Anderson moving to scrum-half and Gossman going to full-back. Second row Scott Sutherland replaced Stokes, meaning Macpherson moved to the back row, and Ryan Grant took Hislop's place in the front row.
Sutherland was straight into the thick of the action, charging away from a penalty line-out. The ball was whipped across the pitch until Smith displayed a beautiful piece of handling to flick it to Dewhirst, but he ran out of space.

As the temperature dropped, the match heated up, and a scuffle broke out.

Currie delighted in winning a penalty at the Ayr scrum, but they weren't so happy when McCallum charged down their clearance kick after the line-out. The home captain was on their kicker in a flash and chased the ball but it bobbled out of play.

Another kick after a line-out from Currie was safely hoisted into the air but it landed right in the arms of the awaiting Graham, and he got it to Gossman, who sped off.

That move came to nothing, but Ayr had a penalty line-out in a good position and drove from it, with Smith grounding the ball for the try. Lyle's conversion unluckily glanced off the side of the post. 12-14.

Ayr fired into Currie again, Anderson foregoing his usual screeching of instructions at his team-mates to take the ball on himself and make for the try-line. In his desperation, he offloaded straight into Currie hands.
Dewhirst had shown grit and determination in the tackle, and one such effort cause the Chieftains to knock on. At the scrum, Ayr got the penalty and Lyle's monster boot pushed them deep into opposition territory for the line-out.

Anderson gathered a loose ball and got it to his namesake Lewis, who had replaced Smith. Graham, McDowall, Lyle and Grant moved play closer to the try-line, and McCallum went on one of his now customary blasts through the tacklers.

Currie were caught offside, and Ayr took the kick at goal. Unfortunately, it just slid past on the wrong side of the left upright.

Time was ticking away, but Ayr hadn't given up hope. Longwell suddenly appeared in midfield, the jocund prop galloping away in a frenzy of joy. It wasn't so joyous for the Currie tacklers he steam-rollered over the top of. Grant was in support but he was turned over.

Ayr brought on their last replacement, Jonathan Agnew, with minutes to go.

Currie had a penalty that got them a line-out in a plum position in Ayr's half, but in their haste to score another try, they flung the ball straight off the park. No matter as they had a kick at goal for the final play. It was well wide, but they didn't care as the whistle was blown to signal full-time.

Final score: Ayr 12 Currie Chieftains 14.

Slaters Menswear man of the match: Steven Longwell.

Ayr 2nd XV were up against it in their BT National Reserve 1 match with Currie Chieftains A. The visitors dominated much of the match, but Ayr showed true fighting spirit to claim a wonderful 18-17 win. Cameron Reece, Johnny McCorkindale and James Armstrong scored tries, and Armstrong's last kick at goal - a penalty - sealed the victory.

All photos courtesy of George McMillan. Please seek permission before reproducing images for commercial or journalistic purposes.

- Elena Hogarth.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Ayr v Currie Chieftains preview

Ayr welcome Currie Chieftains to Millbrae on Saturday for round thirteen of the BT Premiership, kicking off at 3pm.

After the tense (and muddy) nature of the last meeting between the two teams in round one of the BT Cup in November, both will be prepared for another game that could very well go down to the wire.

"We expect an equally close encounter this weekend," says Ayr RFC head coach Calum Forrester. "Given how tight the fight is for a top four spot (in the BT Premiership table), both teams will be aware of how important it is to get a win to take into the new year."

The only change to the squad is the inclusion on the bench of Ryan Grant, who has been released by Glasgow Warriors for the weekend.

It's the last match of the calendar year, so there will be a good atmosphere at Millbrae, which will no doubt be carried on into the clubhouse for the Christmas party, to which everyone is invited to celebrate a terrific 2017.

Ayr 1st XV
15. Grant Anderson, 14. Sam Graham, 13. Paddy Dewhirst, 12. Stafford McDowall, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Scott Lyle, 9. Lewis Young; 1. Robin Hislop, 2. Robbie Smith, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Blair Macpherson, 5. Robert McAlpine; 6. Tommy Spinks, 7. George Stokes, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

16. Lewis Anderson, 17. Ryan Grant, 18. Scott Sutherland, 19. Jonathan Agnew, 20. Jamie Bova.

Kick-off 3pm. Follow the scores live on Twitter.

Ayr 2nd XV kick-off at 2pm against Currie Chieftains A in BT National Reserve 1.

Once again, coaches Gordon Kotze and Jim McKay have put together a strong squad of youth and experience, with the dynamic front row of Ben Paterson, Stuart Collier and Ruairidh Sayce, as well as creative half-backs Harry Warr and Johnny McCorkindale, well able to ensure an entertaining game to finish 2017.

Ayr 2nd XV
15. Sam Gray, 14. Ross Gilmour, 13. James Armstrong, 12. Zac Howard, 11. Euan Hamilton; 10. Johnny McCorkindale, 9. Harry Warr; 1. Ben Paterson, 2. Stuart Collier, 3. Ruairidh Sayce; 4. Adam Paxton, 5. Craig Brown; 6. Euan McLaren, 7. Seth Rae, 8. Cameron Reece.

16. Adam Prentice, 17. Alan Miller, 18. Zander Howie, 19. Rory McMurray, 20. William Chan.

Kick-off 2pm. Follow the match via the Ultimate Rugby app.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Melrose v Ayr preview

Ayr visit the Greenyards on Saturday to play Melrose in the BT Premiership, kicking off at 2pm.

The home team are flying high at the top of the league, with the visitors in second place. It's going to be a tough test for the men from Millbrae but they and their travelling fans will no doubt be buoyed by memories of the last trip to the Greenyards when Ayr claimed the BT Premiership title in a tense final in April.

Last Saturday's win against Glasgow Hawks - as well as a good week in training - will also give Ayr confidence.

"Against Hawks, we played the best 60 minutes of rugby that we have put together this season," says Ayr head coach Calum Forrester. "We cannot afford to switch off in the last 20 minutes this week against a very dangerous Melrose side, who have been outstanding in the BT Premiership this season. The players are looking forward to the challenge in what will be a bruising encounter."

In the squad, Scott Lyle reverts to fly-half, with Sam Graham starting on the wing. Paddy Dewhirst links up with Stafford McDowall in the centre in the absence of the injured Danny McCluskey. Scott Sutherland joins the bench.

15. Grant Anderson, 14. Sam Graham, 13. Paddy Dewhirst, 12. Stafford McDowall, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Scott Lyle, 9. Lewis Young; 1. Robin Hislop, 2. Robbie Smith, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Blair Macpherson, 5. Robert McAlpine; 6. Tommy Spinks, 7. George Stokes, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

16. Lewis Anderson, 17. Ruairidh Sayce, 18. Scott Sutherland, 19. Jonathan Agnew, 20. Jamie Bova.

Kick-off 2pm! Follow the scores live on Twitter.

Melrose Storm play Ayr 2nd XV at 2pm in BT National Reserve 1.

After last week's match was postponed due to a frozen pitch, Ayr are keen to get back to action, and field a strong team against the league leaders, with former Scotland U18s captain Euan McLaren again hoping to make his debut for his new club.

Ayr 2nd XV
15. Ross Gilmour, 14. Zac Howard, 13. Gregor Henry, 12. James Pinkerton, 11. Finn Bark; 10. Matt Davidson, 9. Harry Warr; 1. Ben Paterson, 2. Stuart Collier, 3. Euan McLaren; 4. Alan Miller, 5. Michael Badenhorst; 6. Craig Brown, 7. Seth Rae, 8. Cameron Reece.

16. Adam Prentice, 17. Fraser Miller, 18. Adam Paxton, 19. Logan Richardson, 20. Zander Howie.

Kick-off 2pm! You can follow the game via the Ultimate Rugby app.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Ayr Ladies 22 Cartha QP 10

Ayr Ladies put in a dominant performance to record a bonus-point win against Cartha QP in BT Premier League B.

The ladies in pink and black started as they meant to go on, second row Joanne Jones flying through the defence with flanker Erin Marner-Low in support, before fly-half Catherine Shennan whipped the ball to centre Connie Griffiths and she found winger Lee Steward, who went over for the opening try. The conversion was out wide and Shennan just missed it. 5-0.

The home side had real energy about everything they did, whether it was number eight Neve Finlay leaping to catch the restart and charging off, or the front row of Louise McLauchlan, Lisa Croniken and captain Laura Turner stopping the Cartha attack in its tracks.

Half-backs Rachel Morrison and Shennan kept control of the game and kept Ayr's attack lively, with Griffiths and her fellow centre Rachael Mulholland always making metres. Finlay burst through the Cartha defence with winger Robynn Gibson taking the ball up the touchline, but the strong Cartha tackles saw her shoved off the pitch.

There was a lengthy delay while a Cartha player was attended to and helped from the field.

Play was fraught when it resumed, with both sides working hard at the breakdown and then firing the ball through the hands. No sooner were Shennan and Turner dragging down attackers than Mulholland had turned Cartha over and made a break for it.

The ball went back and forth between the two teams before Ayr got a penalty, and Shennan raced off with Jones on her shoulder. Morrison, second row Danni Hands and flanker Catherine Clark provided the support before Finlay took a great pass and handed off a defender with aplomb.

Ayr pushed into Cartha's twenty-two before another penalty gave Griffiths the opportunity to sneak in for a try in the corner. It was unconverted. 10-0.

It looked like Jones would score in the same spot after she collected the ball in her own half and fought her way through the tackles to go on a forty-metre run, but the ball went forward.

From the scrum, Cartha cleared, and from that line-out, Ayr launched another exciting attack, Shennan and Mulholland combining to get the ball to Steward, but the winger was well tackled and had to leave the field, with India Birrell replacing her.

Again, possession went back and forth, but Ayr were better able to react to these periods of fragmented play.

Ayr were strong in the scrum, and Morrison raced away from the back of it, headed straight for the try-line. Jones took the ball on but couldn't get over. Hands then launched herself through the Cartha defence and crossed the line. Shennan converted. 17-0.

Ayr then pinned Cartha in their own half until the break and the visitors couldn't cope with the energetic play. Morrison and Shennan impressed when the former chipped, chased and collected the ball, and the latter battered her way through the purple shirts. Finlay and Clark ran some brilliant angles too. When Cartha did get the ball, they were flattened by Hands and McLauchlan.

The home defenders had to have their wits about them in the second half as Cartha launched a comeback. It was Hands and Shennan who led the way, with Birrell showing her strength to stop her opposite number racing away up the wing.

The ladies from Dumbreck were determined though, and they muscled over for an unconverted try. 17-5.

They had a spring in their step, but they found themselves brought to a halt with a clatter after a tremendous tackle by Croniken.

Shennan easily turned over to get her backs going in attack again. Mulholland, full-back Erin McSorley and Gibson fired into the defence, with Finlay and Jones joining in.

Ayr brought on replacements Michelle Nelson, Shania Irvine and Emma Donaldson, and they got stuck into defence when Cartha regained possession.

The visitors were patient, willing to go through the phases until they could get another score, this time in the corner. The conversion just missed. 17-10.

With just a converted try behind, Cartha's comeback was causing Ayr problems, but the home team didn't panic. Griffiths' tackles nullified their attack before a huge shove by Ayr at the Cartha scrum caused a knock-on.

From Ayr's own scrum, Morrison raced away, Finlay barged through the tackles and Jones took the ball over the line for the bonus-point-securing fourth try. It was another wide conversion attempt for Shennan and she couldn't make it. 22-10.

There was time for more from Ayr, with Irvine powering away, and Turner making a break. The ball seemed to go through the hands of every Ayr player but Cartha were strong in defence, and Ayr couldn't get back to the try-line before the whistle was blown for full-time.

Final score: Ayr Ladies 22 Cartha QP 10.

- Elena Hogarth.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Glasgow Hawks 31 Ayr 44

Ayr put in an energetic performance to beat Glasgow Hawks on the artificial pitch at Lochinch in round eleven of the BT Premiership.

It was a cold afternoon at Pollok Park - Hawks' home for the day, with their 1st XV pitch still out of action - but both sets of players launched themselves with abandon into the game, the firm surface creating ample opportunity for running rugby.

Hawks scored first after an interception by centre Brendan McGroarty that saw him snaffle the ball and then break free of Ayr tackles to race away. It was unconverted. 5-0.

Ayr were unperturbed, however, and captain Pete McCallum charged off before centre Stafford McDowall and flanker Tommy Spinks burst forth with ball in hand. They crossed the line but the ball was knocked on before it was grounded.

The men from Millbrae were marvellous at turning over Hawks, and after a scrum and a line-out to the Old Anniesland side, Ayr suddenly had the ball, hooker Robbie Smith making a dash for it before centre Danny McCluskey sped away for the try. Scott Lyle, starting on the wing for Ayr, converted. 5-7.
Lyle was quickly back at the tee, kicking a penalty. 5-10.

The floodgates had opened for Ayr. McDowall and second row Robert McAlpine tore through midfield, the former almost cartwheeling through tackles.

From a line-out moments later, Ayr drove on until scrum-half Lewis Young fired the ball to fly-half Brandon Thomson - released by Glasgow Warriors for the day - and he found Lyle. A brilliant step by the winger saw him elude a Hawks defender and he got the ball away to full-back Grant Anderson, and he bullied his way over the line. Lyle converted. 5-17.

Hawks full-back Bobby Beattie was a danger throughout the match, and the back row of McCallum, Spinks and George Stokes were busy containing him.

A blast for the line by McCallum saw the ball go loose but Hawks fumbled it and they went back for the scrum. Although their scrum was solid, Hawks were relieved of the ball as the set-piece broke up, Stokes the man on poaching duty. He headed straight for the line with Spinks in support but neither could cross. Blair Macpherson, playing in the second row, barged over. Lyle converted. 5-24.
A quick line-out by Hawks launched Beattie into attack once again, but he was flattened by McDowall, the ball knocked on. After the ensuing scrum, Ayr winger Craig Gossman hit the pass from Young like a train and thumped his way through the Hawks defence, Smith and Macpherson in support.

Hawks had a fine turnover of their own, and could do nothing with it but clear. One line-out after another for Ayr saw Smith drive the maul on, with Macpherson again demonstrating great support play before McCallum quickly scored a try. Lyle's conversion attempt from out wide hit the upright. 5-29.

Not even the odd handling error could dampen Ayr's spirits. Macpherson and McAlpine were throwing themselves about the pitch with gusto, as were Gossman, McCallum and Spinks, and Stokes and McDowall were always on hand to thwart any Hawks attack.

Lyle struck a penalty just before half-time. 5-32.

Ayr continued in a similar vein at the resumption, Smith, props Robin Hislop and Steven Longwell, McDowall, McCluskey and Lyle cutting the Hawks defence to ribbons until Longwell rumbled over for the try. Lyle got the conversion. 5-39.
McCluskey was escorted from the field, injured, and Jamie Bova replaced him. Lewis Anderson and Jonathan Agnew followed him off the bench, replacing Smith and McAlpine respectively.

Hawks had a spring in their step in the second half, and after a couple of penalties, McGroarty scrambled over for a try, converted by Jack Steele. 12-39.

Ayr trundled on, McCallum, Lewis Anderson and Stokes working well together. Agnew was on form in the air, and his swift hands at the line-out got the ball to McCallum, who scored try number six for Ayr. Lyle's conversion just missed. 12-44.

Ayr emptied the bench, Ruairidh Sayce replacing Longwell and Sam Graham on for Gossman.

It was a busy final quarter as Hawks put their foot on the gas.

Beattie caused havoc, and not even Stokes clinging on for dear life could stop him. His break let McGroarty go over for his hat-trick. It went unconverted. 17-44.

Winger James Couper was next, dodging through the pink and black shirts for a great try. Liam Brims converted. 24-44.
A huge thump by Graham on a Hawks attacker saw the ball spilled and McDowall scooped it up. The ball was later knocked on, but after the scrum, McDowall zoomed on to a wayward Hawks pass. Alas, Ayr were offside and they were brought back for the penalty.

Couper was away again, dancing round the defence for another try, with Scott Peffers converting. 31-44.

There was only a minute left, but Hawks were going for a final score. With Ayr offside again, they took the line-out, but the ball ended up in McDowall's hands and he booted it off the park to bring an entertaining match to an end.

Final score: Glasgow Hawks 31 Ayr 44.

Photos courtesy of George McMillan. Please seek permission before reproducing for any purposes.

- Elena Hogarth.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Glasgow Hawks v Ayr preview

Ayr play Glasgow Hawks on the artificial pitch at Lochinch in Pollok Park on Saturday in round eleven of the BT Premiership, kicking off at 2pm.

It's the first league fixture in nearly a month, but both teams have been in BT Cup action, Hawks losing out to Watsonians and Ayr sneaking a win against Currie Chieftains.

"The players showed a lot of character to come back and get the win against Currie," says Ayr head coach Calum Forrester. "It is set to be an entertaining west coast derby on the fast 3G surface at Lochinch this weekend."

With Hawks' 1st XV pitch at Old Anniesland in the west end of Glasgow currently out of action, the match will be played at the Police Scotland recreation ground in the south side of the city (G41 4SN, for those driving). Ayr fans are welcome at Old Anniesland after the match; and before the fixture, Cartha QP have issued an open invitation to visit their clubhouse - just at the entrance to Pollok Park - for drinks and soup.

In the squad, centre Stafford McDowall and hooker Robbie Smith return after recovering from illness and injury. Glasgow Warriors' Brandon Thomson starts at fly-half, with Scott Lyle moving to the wing. Lewis Young retains his place at scrum-half after a strong debut against Currie.

Ayr 1st XV
15. Grant Anderson, 14. Scott Lyle, 13. Danny McCluskey, 12. Stafford McDowall, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Brandon Thomson, 9. Lewis Young; 1. Robin Hislop, 2. Robbie Smith, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Blair Macpherson, 5. Robert McAlpine; 6. Tommy Spinks, 7. George Stokes, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

16. Lewis Anderson, 17. Ruairidh Sayce, 18. Jonathan Agnew, 19. Jamie Bova, 20. Sam Graham.

Kick-off 2pm. Follow the scores live on Twitter.

Ayr 2nd XV are welcomed to Old Anniesland, where they will take on their Glasgow Hawks counterparts in BT National Reserve 1, kicking off at 2pm.

There are some exciting additions to the Ayr team, with Harry Warr and Paddy Dewhirst pulling the strings at half-back, and Scotland U18s' prop Euan McLaren donning the pink and black shirt for the first time.

Zander Howie and Ross Gilmour are welcomed back to the squad after recovering from a long-term knee injury and returning from a spell abroad respectively.

Ayr 2nd XV
15. Ross Gilmour, 14. Rory McMurray, 13. James Pinkerton, 12. Gregor Henry, 11. Euan Hamilton; 10. Paddy Dewhirst, 9. Harry Warr; 1. Ben Paterson, 2. Stuart Collier, 3. Euan McLaren; 4. Logan Richardson, 5. Michael Badenhorst; 6. Craig Brown, 7. Seth Rae, 8. Cameron Reece.

16. David Young, 17. Fraser Miller, 18. Adam Paxton, 19. Alan Miller, 20. Zander Howie.

Kick-off 2pm. Follow the scores live via the Ultimate Rugby app.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Eight Ayr players in Club XV training squad

Eight Ayr players have been named in the Scotland Club XV training squad ahead of their three games in the new year.

Pete McCallum, Blair Macpherson, Robert McAlpine, George Stokes, Steven Longwell, David Armstrong, Robbie Nairn and Craig Gossman are in the 35-strong squad, which will be coached by Robert Chrystie of Melrose, with Ayr's Glen Tippett assisting.

Read more from Scottish Rugby.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Ayr Ladies 10 Watsonians 50

Ayr Ladies battled the cold and a tough Watsonians side in BT Premier League B at Marr Playing Fields on Sunday afternoon.

Ayr started well, holding firm at their scrum and putting Watsonians under pressure at theirs.

Fly-half Catherine Shennan chipped on for centre Connie Griffiths to chase, and while she couldn't collect the ball, she put in a huge tackle on the Watsonians player who did.

Ayr regained possession, and Shennan and props Louise McLauchlan and captain Laura Turner moved the ball into the twenty-two before Shennan had a shot at goal and nailed the penalty kick. 3-0.

The visitors raced into the lead with a stylish converted try. 3-7.

McLauchlan and hooker Lisa Croniken put in doughty tackles, but it was Shennan who ripped the ball from maroon and white possession and scrum-half Rachel Morrison made metres.

Moments later, number eight Joanne Jones sliced through the Watsonians defence and charged for the line, with flanker Neve Finlay in support. Jones' perfect one-handed pass was taken by Finlay who barged her way over for the try. Shennan converted. 10-7.
Finlay's fellow flanker Shania Irvine and full-back Erin Marner-Low were strong in attack, but Watsonians gathered a kick and looked to be back in control until Turner turned them over and Shennan sprinted off.

First half injuries forced a reshuffle for Ayr, and they lost replacement back Rowan Kerr and second row Sonja Liekens. Marner-Low moved into the forwards and Erin McSorley came on to the wing, with Lauren McBride going to full-back.

McBride took a high Watsonians kick well, and raced away with second row Danni Hands in support, but Watsonians later had a line-out and shot off from the back of it to score another converted try. 10-14.

Ayr set about attacking with intent, Morrison, Finlay and Jones leading the way, with centre Rachael Mulholland causing mischief in midfield.

Jones and Hands were causing mischief at the line-out, poaching Watsonians' throw and tearing away with Turner in support.

Ayr were making progress but the Watsonians defence was strong and they never made it to the try-line. The Myreside team scored a converted try just before half-time. 10-21.

The start of the second half brought two quick converted tries for Watsonians. 10-35.
Replacements Michelle Nelson and Robynn Gibson joined the fray, with prop Nelson making her return from long-term injury.

Jones, Irvine, winger Lee Steward, Griffiths and Hands worked hard in defence but Watsonians were fired up on a freezing day in Troon. They added two further tries, both unconverted. 10-45.

Watsonians were down to fourteen when one of their team was yellow-carded, and Ayr camped out on their five-metre line. They managed to cross the try-line at least twice, but the scores were disallowed for forward passes.

Ayr kept their heads up under huge pressure, with Mulholland finding gaps in the defence but those gaps were always quickly plugged before she could do any damage.

Jones impressed with a cheeky chip-and-chase that she eventually gathered, allowing Turner to fight her way through the maroon and white shirts.

Soon, Watsonians had the ball back and added an unconverted try just before full-time. 10-50.

Ayr Ladies
15. Erin Marner-Low, 14. Lee Steward, 13. Connie Griffiths, 12. Rachael Mulholland, 11. Lauren McBride; 10. Catherine Shennan, 9. Rachel Morrison; 1. Laura Turner (c), 2. Lisa Croniken, 3. Louise McLauchlan; 4. Danni Hands, 5. Sonja Liekens; 6. Neve Finlay, 7. Shania Irvine, 8. Joanne Jones.

16. Michelle Nelson, 17. Erin McSorley, 18. Robynn Gibson, 19. Rowan Kerr.

Photos courtesy of Lisa Main. Please seek permission before reproducing any images for any purpose.

- Elena Hogarth. 

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Ayr 26 Currie Chieftains 22 - BT Cup 1st round

Nothing quite brings the drama like a national cup competition, and the first round clash of the BT Cup between Ayr and Currie Chieftains had ups, downs, thrills, spills and everything else as the home team prevailed under the floodlights at Millbrae on Friday night.

Ayr had to contend with late changes to the squad due to illness and injury, a pitch that turned into a quagmire during the warm-up and a visiting side just as determined as them to make it to the next round of the cup.

Heavy showers before and during the game meant the ball was like a bar of soap, and knocks-on were unavoidable. Still, Ayr started well, getting to the Currie line, only to be turned over.

The visitors had no qualms about running with ball in hand in such slippery conditions and almost made it from half-way to the try-line, but knocked on. The referee had been playing advantage, and they came back for fly-half Jamie Forbes to kick a penalty. 0-3.

His Ayr counterpart Scott Lyle had a chance to level things but his kick at goal was unsuccessful.

Wise old head Grant Anderson - playing at scrum-half as a late replacement for Harry Warr - was busy tidying up loose ball and barking instructions to his team-mates, but Currie had another penalty. From a line-out, centre David Hall took off and the ball was taken over the line but held up by the tough Ayr defence.

Craig Gossman, at full-back with Jamie Bova on the wing, was escorted from the field by the medical team, and Lewis Young, making his 1st XV debut, replaced him. Young went to scrum-half, with Anderson moving to Gossman's position. It was the first of many a reshuffling of the Ayr team.

The Chieftains were fired up, flanker Thomas Gordon barging over for a try. Forbes couldn't make the conversion. 0-8.

Ayr had to match their intensity and the front row of props Robin Hislop and Steven Longwell and hooker Lewis Anderson controlled the scrum. Captain Pete McCallum broke away from the back of it but the ball was later turned over, and as hooker Anderson lay on the ground, being attended to by the medical team, Currie winger Ruairidh Smith cantered away for a score that Forbes converted. 0-15.

There was no panic from the home team at being fifteen points adrift. Their set-pieces were solid in the mud, the second row of Robert McAlpine and Blair Macpherson reigning supreme in the air, whilst the back row of McCallum and flankers Tommy Spinks and George Stokes joined in the grunt work elsewhere.
A mad scramble after a good line-out take by McAlpine needed Young to guide his backs, and that was what he did. He got the ball to Lyle, who put in a cross-field kick that was scooped up by full-back Anderson, who muscled his way over the line. Lyle converted. 7-15.

Ayr lost another back, winger Robbie Nairn being helped from the field by assistant coaches Pat MacArthur and Glen Tippett. There were no more backs on the bench to replace him, so up stepped the ever-versatile Scott Sutherland.

The game was getting scrappy on and off the ball. Lewis Anderson and centres Danny McCluskey and Sam Graham prevented Currie from doing anything with those scraps of ball, but the men from Malleny didn't help themselves with a display of petulance that caused French referee Luc Ramos to march them back ten metres.

Ayr took the line-out well, and drove slowly and carefully until great hands and vision from Hislop got the ball to Lewis Anderson and the hooker barged over in the corner. Lyle couldn't make the wide conversion, slipping over in the mud. 12-15.

Lewis Anderson was buoyed by his try, and impressed the crowd further with his rambunctiousness that sent a Currie defender flying.

Tempers began to fray, and a massive melee broke out in the middle of the pitch, with the usual pushing and shoving looking all the more dramatic with the players caked in mud and easily slipping over. It was the flankers who were singled out - rightly or wrongly, it was hard to tell as the boggy conditions had rendered shirt numbers illegible - and Stokes and Gordon were sin-binned.
Ayr changed shirts at half-time, but they were soon covered in mud.

The home team cared little though, and soggy jerseys didn't hold them back. Macpherson and Lyle threw themselves into defence, and Spinks was on the charge with ball in hand. They really started to turn the screw at Currie's set-pieces.

The bench was emptied, with Jonathan Agnew, Ruairidh Sayce and Robbie Smith coming on and getting stuck in.

Ayr stole Currie's line-out and shoved them off the ball at their scrum, Agnew grabbing the ball and diving over for a try after one such display of forward power. Lyle added the extras. 19-15.

They weren't safe yet. There was grit - metaphorical and literal - all over the Chieftains' faces. They marched up to Ayr's twenty-two, and, with Macpherson shown a yellow card for reasons unknown, they hammered the try-line. They couldn't get over it but didn't need to in the end, as referee Ramos did the trot of doom to the posts to signal a penalty try. 19-22.

The crowd could barely contain themselves, but the Millbrae men were calm, cool and collected. A penalty got them back into Currie's half, where a spot-on throw by Smith at the line-out was taken by McAlpine. They repeated the feat moments later, but the ball was knocked on.

Still, Ayr didn't despair. The forwards ruined the Currie scrum again, and willed on by the fans, they got their hands on the ball right on the try-line, Longwell finding a way over for the match-winning score. Lyle converted it in a deathly hush before the crowd erupted as the final whistle was blown.

Final score: Ayr 26 Currie Chieftains 22.

15. Craig Gossman, 14. Robbie Nairn, 13. Danny McCluskey, 12. Sam Graham, 11. Jamie Bova; 10. Scott Lyle, 9. Grant Anderson; 1. Robin Hislop, 2. Lewis Anderson, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Blair Macpherson, 5. Robert McAlpine; 6. Tommy Spinks, 7. George Stokes, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

16. Robbie Smith, 17. Ruairidh Sayce, 18. Jonathan Agnew, 19. Scott Sutherland, 20. Lewis Young.

Slaters Menswear man of the match: Robin Hislop.

Many thanks to the local farming community, who sponsored the match, and BDO, who sponsored the ball.

Photos by Lisa Main. Please seek permission from the club before reproducing images for commercial or any journalistic purposes.

- Elena Hogarth.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Ayr v Currie Chieftains preview - BT Cup first round

Ayr welcome Currie Chieftains to Millbrae tonight for the first round of the BT Cup, kicking off at 7.45pm.

The Chieftains are two points ahead of third-placed Ayr in the BT Premiership table, but this is winner-takes-it-all knock-out rugby, and league position counts for nothing. What is certain is that both teams will battle it out under the floodlights, with the home team roaring on the men in pink and black.

"The players are looking forward to getting back into action and are feeling refreshed having had no game last weekend," says Ayr head coach Calum Forrester. "We will need to raise our performance against a Currie side that have been playing very well."

In the squad, Paddy Dewhirst starts at inside centre in place of Stafford McDowall, who misses out through illness.

Blair Macpherson and Robert McAlpine team up in the second row, with Scott Sutherland moving to the bench, where he is joined by Robbie Smith, who returns from injury.

Youngsters Ruairidh Sayce and Sam Graham retain their places amongst the replacements after impressing on their home debuts a fortnight ago.

15. Grant Anderson, 14. Robbie Nairn, 13. Danny McCluskey, 12. Paddy Dewhirst, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Scott Lyle, 9. Harry Warr; 1. Robin Hislop, 2. Lewis Anderson, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Blair Macpherson; 5. Robert McAlpine; 6. Tommy Spinks, 7. George Stokes, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

16. Robbie Smith, 17. Ruairidh Sayce, 18. Scott Sutherland, 19. Jamie Bova, 20. Sam Graham.

Currie Chieftains
15. Ben Robbins, 14. Ruairidh Smith, 13. Robbie Nelson (c), 12. David Hall, 11. Cammy Gray; 10. Jamie Forbes, 9. Matt O'Neil; 1. John Cox, 2. Callum Mackintosh, 3. Andrew McWilliam; 4. Stephen Ainslie, 5. Mike Vernel; 6. Scott McGinley, 7. Thomas Gordon, 8. Rhys Davies.

16. Graeme Carson, 17. Kris Burney, 18. Campbell Wilson, 19. Joe Strachan, 20. Mathew Hooks.

Kick-off 7.45pm. Follow the scores live on Twitter.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Ayr 28 Boroughmuir 15

Ayr overcame a difficult first half and a determined Boroughmuir in round ten of the BT Premiership at Millbrae on Saturday.

Overnight rain and a few showers throughout the afternoon (as well as hail) made the ground slightly boggy, so it was never going to be a free-flowing match. But both teams started with attacking intent, Boroughmuir centres Michael Brown and Ronan Kerr and Ayr fly-half Scott Lyle, winger Craig Gossman and centre Stafford McDowall showing what they were capable of with ball in hand.

Lyle got the first points on the board with a penalty. 3-0.

Boroughmuir patiently pressed for Ayr's try-line, steadily going through the phases, but big defense from McDowall, his centre partner Danny McCluskey and the back row of George Stokes, Tommy Spinks and captain Pete McCallum stopped them getting too close.

Gossman and Lyle were again looking for opportunities, the former quite literally jumping into action every chance he got.

Blair Macpherson joined Scott Sutherland in the second row for the day, and as well as securing their own line-out ball, they created mischief on Boroughmuir's throw-ins.
Tempers flared at various points throughout the match, with Ayr scrum-half Harry Warr receiving some 'attention' off the ball, and his team-mate prop Robin Hislop was shown a yellow card in the aftermath.

Youngster Ruairidh Sayce took Hislop's place - with Stokes temporarily making way - and the scrum held firm. In fact, Ayr did exceptionally well whilst a man down.

Ayr full-back Grant Anderson, hooker Lewis Anderson, prop Steven Longwell and particularly McCluskey put in a few bone-crunching tackles to save Ayr's bacon before half-time.

Ayr unfortunately lost Craig Gossman to injury. Sam Graham - like his fellow 20-year-old Sayce, a product of the Ayr youth system - replaced him, making his home BT Premiership debut.

Graham was in the thick of things at the start of the second half. After a pulsating break by McDowall, with Grant Anderson in support, Graham fired into the defenders until winger Robbie Nairn took the ball on and muscled his way over for a try in the corner. It was a tough conversion for Lyle and he couldn't make it. 8-0.
A scrappy period of play saw possession change hands a few times, but Ayr regained control with some dogged work by Sutherland before McCluskey shot off. Graham was in support and he powered away up the wing and over to score behind the posts. Lyle converted. 15-0.

Ayr disrupted Boroughmuir at their set-pieces but soon found themselves a man down again when Sutherland was sent to the sin bin. Boroughmuir fly-half Greg Cannie kicked a penalty. 15-3.

Robert McAlpine came off the bench to make a welcome return from injury, and would soon be on double duty in the second row when Macpherson was also sin-binned. But before that, Lyle kicked another penalty when Boroughmuir were caught offside. 18-3.

David Young replaced Lewis Anderson, not before the young hooker cheekily popped the ball to Hislop at the front of the line-out and the prop propelled himself up the park.

Lyle and Warr were pulling the strings at half-back, with the fly-half finding some excellent touch kicks. Again, Ayr caused havoc at the Boroughmuir line-out, and Nairn got his hands on the ball, bashing into his unsuspecting opponents with McAlpine, Hislop, Spinks and Longwell in support.

Lyle was back at the tee for another penalty. 21-3.
Ayr turned the screw at the scrum and were soon driving through the mud after a line-out, with Young touching down the ball for their third try. It was another touchline conversion attempt for Lyle and he struck this one perfectly. 28-3.

With the clock ticking down, Ayr fans urged their players to get the bonus-point fourth try, but it was the visitors who found a sudden burst of energy and enthusiasm.

Warr and Sayce had their hands full trying to stop the men from Meggetland, who marched through the mud with determination. Replacement Euan McKirdy scored but Cannie couldn't convert. 28-8.

Boroughmuir were away again, despite a thumping tackle by Ayr replacement Paddy Dewhirst, and they even threw in a fancy behind-the-back pass to set their dangerous runners off.

McDowall and Nairn managed to halt them but only briefly. Scotland cap Damien Hoyland was a late call-up to the Boroughmuir squad, and he showed all his class to send winger Jordan Edmunds over for a late try, which Cannie converted. 28-15.

Mere seconds remained but Ayr got back into Boroughmuir's half with the bonus point on their minds. However, the ball went dead and the game was brought to a muddy end.
Final score: Ayr 28 Boroughmuir 15.

Scott Lyle was the Slaters Menswear man of the match.

With thanks to match sponsor Ingram Motoring Group and ball sponsor Mauchline YFC.

Ayr 2nd XV were beaten 24-21 by Boroughmuir 2nd XV in BT National Reserve 1. Man of the match Johnny McCorkindale scored two tries with Michael Badenhorst scoring one. James Armstrong converted all three.

Photos courtesy of George McMillan. Please seek permission from Ayr RFC before reproducing images for commercial or any other journalistic purposes.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Lyle is October POTM

Scott Lyle has been voted the October player of the month.

The 21-year-old, who joined Ayr over the summer, took 25% of the fans' online poll, and receives a £50 Slaters Menswear voucher.

Scott has played at both wing and centre over the month, and has kicked 38 points in four impressive performances.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Ayr v Boroughmuir preview

Ayr welcome Boroughmuir to Millbrae on Saturday for round ten of the BT Premiership, kicking off at 3pm.

After last week's disappointing result against Watsonians, Ayr have had a good week in training and are looking forward to playing in front of the home crowd once again.

It's the last BT Premiership fixture until December, although Ayr will play at Millbrae on Friday 17th November in the first round of the BT Cup, when they face Currie Chieftains (kick-off 7.45pm).

"The players have been hurting after last week," said Ayr head coach Calum Forrester, "but they are looking to go out and put in a strong performance before the mid-season break. We will need to make sure we bring a physicality to our game."

In the squad, Scott Lyle makes his first start at fly-half for the injured Frazier Climo, whilst Jonathan Agnew also misses out through injury, with Blair Macpherson moving into the second row.

Robin Hislop takes George Hunter's place in the front row. Robert McAlpine returns to the squad after a few weeks out, and Ruairidh Sayce and Sam Graham move up from the 2nd XV.

Ayr 1st XV
15. Grant Anderson, 14. Robbie Nairn, 13. Danny McCluskey, 12. Stafford McDowall, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Scott Lyle, 9. Harry Warr; 1. Robin Hislop, 2. Lewis Anderson, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Blair Macpherson, 5. Scott Sutherland; 6. Tommy Spinks, 7. George Stokes, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

16. David Young, 17. Ruairidh Sayce, 18. Robert McAlpine, 19. Paddy Dewhirst, 20. Sam Graham.

Kick-off 3pm. Follow the scores live on Twitter.

The 2nd XV decamp to Rozelle for their BT National Reserve 1 match with Boroughmuir 2nd XV, kicking off at 2pm.

Ayr sit third in the table, with their opponents in sixth place. Once again, the mixture of youth and experience throughout the squad should stand them in good stead.

Speedster Jamie Bova returns to the starting line-up, as does prop Adam Prentice, who makes up a formidable front row with Ben Paterson and Stuart Collier.

Ayr 2nd XV
15. Johnny McCorkindale, 14. Jamie Bova, 13. James Armstrong, 12. Zac Howard, 11. Euan Hamilton; 10. James Pinkerton, 9. Lewis Young; 1. Ben Paterson, 2. Stuart Collier, 3. Adam Prentice; 4. Alan Miller, 5. Logan Richardson; 6. Craig Brown, 7. Seth Rae, 8. Cameron Reece.

16. Fraser Miller, 17. Sam Gray, 18. Cameron Taylor.

Kick-off 2pm at Rozelle. Follow the scores live via the Ultimate Rugby app.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

October POTM poll open

The October player of the month poll is now open!

Vote here before Friday at midday. The winner will be announced shortly after, and the successful player will receive a £50 Slaters Menswear voucher.

The poll features all the players who have been part of the 1st XV match-day squad for the past four games.

Ayr 12 Watsonians 48

Ayr were humbled by Watsonians at Millbrae in round nine of the BT Premiership.

The visitors set their stall out early, rumbling over the line but not managing to ground the ball. Moments later and their fly-half Ewan Fox did get the score, with full-back Andrew Chalmers adding the extras. 0-7.

Ayr put their foot on the gas with an exciting attack, instigated by the second row of Scott Sutherland Jonathan Agnew, the latter offloading beautifully to hooker Lewis Anderson. Captain Pete McCallum and winger Craig Gossman were in on the act too, but the phases came to nothing.

Handling from both sides was poor in places, and although Ayr were harrying Watsonians, they couldn't capitalise on their opponents' errors.

The penalty count started early for the home side, and Chalmers landed a kick to stretch Watsonians' lead. 0-10.

Ayr replied quickly with inside centre Frazier Climo launching himself over the line after a good burst by prop George Hunter. Scott Lyle converted. 7-10.
Hunter was appearing all over the park, displaying great hands to link up with fly-half Paddy Dewhirst, flanker Tommy Spinks and Climo, and his perfectly timed inside pass let scrum-half Harry Warr slip through a gap in the Watsonians defence.

A couple of strong scrums from the visitors helped them regain some control of the match, but all of a sudden, McCallum appeared with the ball and bounded for the line, with nobody able to stop him. It was a conversion attempt from the touchline and Lyle couldn't make it. 12-10.

Watsonians found a massive hole in the Ayr defense and raced away towards the try-line but the referee called them back for an earlier high tackle, much to the relief of the home crowd.

There wasn't much relief for the Millbrae faithful after that, however. Watsonians' handling may have been a bit iffy on a damp day, but their footwork was excellent, and, despite some fierce tackling by Ayr full-back Brandon Thomson, outside centre Rory Hutton sprinted away for a try, with Chalmers converting. 12-17.

Lyle lined up a long-range penalty but although the kick had the distance, it didn't have the accuracy.

Chalmers had a penalty kick moments later after Ayr were adjudged to have been offside - a charge levelled at them throughout the afternoon - and got it. 12-20.
Ayr came out of the blocks strong in the second half, McCallum showing impressive speed and agility, but they were getting pinged for infringements at an alarming rate.

Winger Scott Lyle, prop Adam Prentice and flanker George Stokes were busy in defence, as was Blair Macpherson, who came on for an injured Agnew in the first half.

There was no stopping Watsonians flanker Rory Drummond from scoring, and Chalmers converted. 12-27.

Again, Ayr were said to be offside, but Watsonians couldn't do anything with the penalty line-out.

Robin Hislop made his first appearance since joining Ayr in the summer and overcoming a lingering injury. He was straight into action, joining the defence. McCallum turned that defence into attack, ripping the ball from Watsonians hands.

The crowd was getting increasingly frustrated by the penalty count, but Chalmers missed the latest shot at goal.

Anderson, replacement Jamie Bova and Climo and his fellow centre Danny McCluskey were gritty in defence but Watsonians found a way through and it was the rollicking Drummond who made a charge for the line again. Chalmers converted from in front of the posts. 12-34.

Winger Ally Davidson got a quick try, with Chalmers converting. 12-41.

Ayr couldn't get a grip on the game at all, and the referee seemed to have his whistle at his mouth with unusual regularity.

Davidson claimed his second try of the day, and Chalmers got the extras. 12-48.

There was a short break whilst Climo was attended to by the medical team, and when the match resumed there wasn't enough time for either side to do anything before the referee blew the whistle, this time signalling the end of a very tough afternoon for Ayr and an impressive one for Watsonians.

Final score: Ayr 12 Watsonians 48.

With thanks to match sponsor Warranty Services and ball sponsor Ayr County Ayrshire Cattle Club.

It was a tight match for the 2nd XVs in BT National Reserve 1, with Watsonians just pipping Ayr 13-10. Cameron Reece scored a try for Ayr, with James Armstrong kicking a conversion and a penalty. Michael Badenhorst was man of the match.

Photos courtesy of George McMillan. Please seek permission before reproducing for commercial or other journalistic purposes.

- Elena Hogarth.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Ayr v Watsonians preview

Ayr welcome Watsonians 1st and 2nd XVs to Millbrae on Saturday for matches in the BT Premiership and BT National Reserve 1 respectively, with both matches kicking off at 3pm.

On a run of impressive wins of late, Ayr are hoping to keep it going against the visitors from Myreside, who are sitting seventh in the crowded mid-table of the BT Premiership.

"We will need to make sure we start well against a dangerous Watsonians side," says Ayr RFC head coach Calum Forrester. "They have threats right across the park, with a big, physical set of forwards that we will need to stop at source to prevent the ball getting to the pace that they have out wide."

Ayr have plenty of pace themselves, with Glasgow Warriors' Brandon Thomson starting at full-back for the first time, Paddy Dewhirst at fly-half, and speedsters Scott Lyle and Craig Gossman on the wings.

With Stafford McDowall called up to the Warriors for their Pro14 match with the Southern Kings at Scotstoun tonight, Frazier Climo moves into the centre alongside Danny McCluskey.

Blair Macpherson takes his place on the bench after recovering from injury, as does Robin Hislop who could make his BT Premiership debut. The prop pulled on a pink and black shirt in the British and Irish Cup six years ago, and joined Ayr in earnest this summer from Doncaster.

Ayr 1st XV
15. Brandon Thomson; 14. Scott Lyle, 13. Danny McCluskey, 12. Frazier Climo, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Paddy Dewhirst, 9. Harry Warr; 1. George Hunter, 2. Lewis Anderson, 3. Adam Prentice; 4. Jonathan Agnew, 5. Scott Sutherland; 6. Tommy Spinks, 7. George Stokes, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

16. David Young, 17. Robin Hislop, 18. Blair Macpherson, 19. Jamie Bova, 20. Grant Anderson.

Kick-off 3pm. Follow the scores live on Twitter

After a fantastic ten-try win against Edinburgh Accies last week, Ayr 2nd XV come into this match full of confidence, but, like the 1st XV, they know they will have a tough challenge against Watsonians, who sit a place above them in the table.

They are boosted by the return of winger Cameron Taylor, hooker Stuart Collier and second row Michael Badenhorst, who rejoin a dynamic squad.

Ayr 2nd XV
15. Sam Gray; 14. Cameron Taylor, 13. James Armstrong, 12. Sam Graham, 11. Euan Hamilton; 10. James Pinkerton, 9. Lewis Young; 1. Ben Paterson, 2. Stuart Collier, 3. Ruairidh Sayce; 4. Michael Badenhorst, 5. Logan Richardson; 6. Craig Brown, 7. Gregor Henry, 8. Cameron Reece.

16. Seth Rae, 17. Fraser Miller, 18. Alan Miller, 19. Jack Brown, 20. William Chan.

Kick-off 3pm. Follow the scores live via the Ultimate Rugby app.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Hawick v Ayr preview

Ayr 1st and 2nd XVs have away matches this Saturday, travelling to Hawick and Edinburgh Accies in the BT Premiership and BT National Reserve 1 respectively.

Every team that steps out on to the hallowed turf of Mansfield Park is in for a difficult afternoon, and it will be no different for Ayr as they take on the fiercely proud Hawick, who are currently languishing at the bottom of the table.

There's nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal, and cheered on by a boisterous crowd, the home team will be looking to make a glorious comeback against the current league champions.

"With new management in charge at Hawick, we expect to see a resurgence from their players," says Ayr head coach Calum Forrester. "Last week was our best performance to date, but we will need to raise our game again in order to build on that momentum."

In the squad, Scott Sutherland and Danny McCluskey return to action after recovering from injury, and Ryan Grant is back in a pink and black shirt since rejoining Glasgow Warriors. His fellow Warrior Brandon Thomson is on the bench, alongside Stuart Collier, who could make his 1st XV debut.

Ayr 1st XV
15. Grant Anderson; 14. Robbie Nairn, 13. Scott Lyle, 12. Stafford McDowall, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Frazier Climo, 9. Harry Warr; 1. Ryan Grant, 2. Lewis Anderson, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Jonathan Agnew, 5. Scott Sutherland; 6. Tommy Spinks, 7. George Stokes, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

16. Stuart Collier, 17. George Hunter, 18. Michael Badenhorst, 19. Brandon Thomson, 20. Danny McCluskey.

The 2nd XV take a very strong squad with them to Stockbridge for their match with Edinburgh Accies.

After last week's five-try victory against Heriot's, they are focused on continuing that high-tempo form.

Paddy Dewhirst and Lewis Young make a formidable half-back pairing, with pace and creativity throughout the backs.

Adam Prentice is welcomed back to the front row, whilst the back row of Craig Brown, Gregor Henry and Cameron Reece has an exciting mixture of youth, speed and guile.

Ayr 2nd XV
15. Zac Howard; 14. Jamie Bova, 13. Sam Graham, 12. James Pinkerton, 11. Euan Hamilton; 10. Paddy Dewhirst, 9. Lewis Young (c); 1. Fraser Miller, 2. Ruairidh Sayce, 3. Adam Prentice; 4. Jack Brown, 5. Logan Richardson; 6. Craig Brown, 7. Gregor Henry, 8. Cameron Reece.

16. Seth Rae, 17. Bill Lyburn, 18. Adam Paxton, 19. Alan Miller, 20. William Chan, 21. James Armstrong.

Kick-off 3pm. Follow the scores live via the Ultimate Rugby app.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Ayr 41 Heriot's 17

Ayr roared to a bonus-point victory over Heriot's at Millbrae in round seven of the BT Premiership.

It was the proverbial flying start for the men in pink and black as inside centre Stafford McDowall's galloping break released fly-half Frazier Climo and he cruised away for the opening try, which outside centre Scott Lyle converted, to the delight of the home crowd. 7-0.

Heriot's went on a rumble up the park, thanks to number eight Jack Turley, but it was Ayr winger Robbie Nairn who was in full bull-dozer mode, his opposite number John Rae not standing a chance at stopping him when he had the ball in hand.

Rae, though, was equally dangerous early on, and Climo had to spring into action to bring him crashing down. Second rows Michael Badenhorst and Jonny Agnew and hooker Pat MacArthur also put in crunching tackles before Heriot's full-back Ross Jones kicked a penalty. 7-3.

Lyle then stepped up to the tee and nailed a long-range kick. 10-3.

Props George Hunter and Steven Longwell let loose, before Lyle broke away and brilliantly offloaded to winger Craig Gossman, who raced over the line for the try. Lyle converted. 17-3.

Heriot's were awarded a penalty try soon after, with referee Ben Blain adjudging Ayr had illegally prevented them from scoring. 17-10.

Lyle then put that monster boot to use again and kicked another penalty from close to the half-way line. 20-10.
Lyle had another kick at goal when Heriot's prop Struan Cessford was sin-binned, but with the malfunctioning loudspeaker in the stand squealing away, he missed.

No matter to Ayr, as Nairn soon had the ball and was knocking over the Heriot's defenders like skittles. Agnew, scrum-half Harry Warr and flanker Tommy Spinks all showed great dexterity to keep the ball alive before it reached Gossman and he timed his pass well for full-back Grant Anderson to just squeeze in at the corner. Lyle took his short run-up to the conversion kick from between two of the advertising boards and landed it. 27-10.

A fumble from Ayr let Rae scoop up the ball and make a few metres before he was unceremoniously flattened by Nairn.

Ayr started the second half with gusto, Nairn leading the way, with captain Pete McCallum also on the rampage. McDowall brilliantly handed off a defender to sprint up the pitch but that particular phase of play came to nothing.

Ayr gave away a couple of penalties but Heriot's couldn't take advantage, especially when McCallum employed his volleyball skills to leap in the air and pat back an attempted kick for touch. Climo got the ball, kicked down field, and when Heriot's collected it and charged at him, the fly-half bundled them off the pitch.

Heriot's mobile back row of Turley, Michael Maltman and Jack McLean launched an attack, but the equally agile McCallum, Spinks and George Stokes were all over them in defence.

Ayr's scrum was on song too. With MacArthur off after an energetic and tenacious display, Lewis Anderson replaced him, Adam Prentice later joining the front row too in place of Longwell. The changes didn't affect the forwards and they put Heriot's under enormous pressure.

Despite a slightly soggy pitch, the backs were running riot. Gossman, McDowall and Climo combined to zig-zag through the blue and white shirts, with Gossman shooting off for a try, a pile of bodies left slumped on the grass in his wake. Lyle kicked the conversion before taking his leave. 34-10.

Paddy Dewhirst replaced him and was straight into the thick of things, linking up with McDowall to once again release Climo and the New Zealander turned on the gas and was unstoppable. Dewhirst converted the try. 41-10.
Ayr brought on the last of their replacements - Gregor Henry and Jamie Bova - in the final quarter, as Heriot's attempted to get a score.

With Agnew sin-binned for a professional foul, Heriot's took advantage of their increased numbers and attacked Ayr's line relentlessly. Badenhorst and Dewhirst put in a tremendous effort to stop them, but Turley claimed the try and Jones converted. 41-17.

Everyone in an Ayr shirt looked like they still had the appetite for more, and Hunter took them right up to the line but the ball was later knocked-on.

Heriot's held firm at their scrum, but Lewis Anderson and Henry smothered any attacking ambitions.

A Climo chip for the line was pounced on by Heriot's, and an exciting game was brought to an end.

Final score: Ayr 41 Heriot's 17.

Slaters Menswear man of the match: Stafford McDowall.

In the 2nd XV match, Ayr beat Heriot's 38-22. James Armstrong scored two tries, with James Pinkerton, Cam Reece and Johnny McCorkindale getting one each. Man of the match Matt Davidson converted all five and added a penalty.

Photos courtesy of Amy McGillivray. Please seek permission before reproducing for commercial purposes.

- Elena Hogarth.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Ayr v Heriot's preview

Ayr welcome Heriot's 1st and 2nd XVs to Millbrae on Saturday for round seven of the BT Premiership and BT National Reserve 1 respectively, with both matches kicking off at 3pm.

The Goldenacre side sit second in the BT Premiership table and are currently on a good run of form, but so are Ayr, and after winning last week's Ayrshire derby, they hope to have another victory in front of their home crowd.

Heriot's can turn on the power and the pace whether home or away, and Ayr head coach Calum Forrester is wary of the threat they pose.

"Matches between the two clubs have been tight affairs in recent years and we expect another battle again this weekend."

Ayr are boosted by the return from illness of inside centre Stafford McDowall and winger Robbie Nairn, who gets his first start for the club.

Whilst outside centre Danny McCluskey misses out through injury, flanker Blair Macpherson has recovered from his injuries and is named on the bench.

Assistant coach Pat MacArthur laces up his boots and starts at hooker, with his fellow Glasgow Warrior Brandon Thomson amongst the replacements.

Ayr 1st XV
15. Grant Anderson; 14. Robbie Nairn, 13. Scott Lyle, 12. Stafford McDowall, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Frazier Climo, 9. Harry Warr; 1. George Hunter, 2. Pat MacArthur, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Michael Badenhorst, 5. Jonathan Agnew; 6. Tommy Spinks, 7. George Spinks, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

16. Lewis Anderson, 17. Adam Prentice, 18. Blair Macpherson, 19. Paddy Dewhirst, 20. Brandon Thomson.

Kick-off 3pm. Follow the scores live on Twitter

In the 2nd XV match, Ayr field a strong team as they take on seventh-placed Heriot's.

David Young returns to a formidable front row alongside props Ruairidh Sayce and Fraser Miller, and there is pace throughout the backs in what will surely be another entertaining game.

Ayr 2nd XV
15. Johnny McCorkindale; 14. Sam Gray, 13. Matt Davidson, 12. Sam Graham, 11. Zac Howard; 10. James Pinkerton, 9. Lewis Young; 1. Ruairidh Sayce, 2. David Young, 3. Fraser Miller; 4. Jack Brown, 5. Logan Richardson; 6. Craig Brown, 7. Seth Rae, 8. Cameron Reece.

16. Stuart Collier, 17. Adam Paxton, 18. Euan Hamilton.

Kick-off 3pm. Follow the scores live via the Ultimate Rugby app.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Ayr Ladies 19 Stirling County Ladies 48

Ayr Ladies had a tough afternoon at Millbrae on Sunday, as they took on Stirling County in the BT Premier League.

The home team got off to a good start, looking strong at the scrum and lively in the loose, the back row of Danni Hands, Kelsey Swift and Rachael Mulholland putting energy into the attack. Fly-half Catherine Shennan and second row Joanne Jones pushed to Stirling's line and hooker Lisa Croniken got the try. Shennan converted. 7-0.

Jones flew off again, after scrum-half Rachel Morrison took a quick penalty, and was unstoppable as she charged away for the try. It was unconverted. 12-0.

County got a hold on the game, and Ayr had their work cut out trying to stop their speedy backs. Swift, Croniken, second row Sonja Liekens, centre Erin Marner-Low and Mulholland put in thumping tackles but the visitors grabbed a converted try. 12-7.

Replacement Neve Finlay blasted her way up the pitch, with Hands also putting her foot on the gas. Winger Lisa Main's quick pass to Griffiths set her on a jinking run but Stirling were ready with big tackles to bring any attack to a halt.

After regaining possession, County headed for the line, and, despite tackles by Swift and captain Laura Turner, scored an unconverted try in the corner. 12-12.

There was a break whilst a County player was attended to, but it didn't affect the visitors, and once again, Ayr's defence had to work hard to subdue their attack. Griffiths and prop Louise McLauchlan, along with Morrison and Jones, were tireless in the tackle but County's quick handling was getting them out of trouble. Soon they had a converted try to go into the lead just before half-time. 12-19.

Just after the resumption, Ayr launched themselves into several phases of attack, Hands making another break. Swift and winger Catherine Clark sped up the touchline but tough defence saw Clark dragged out of play.

Stirling added another converted try. 12-26.

McLauchlan poached County possession and Finlay burst through the defence with Shennan and Mulholland in support. A penalty for Ayr let Croniken break away, and the ball passed through the hands of McLauchlan and Griffiths before Jones got her brace. Shennan converted. 19-26.

Ayr brought on replacements Stephanie Wylie, Jennifer Kerr, Jenna Garrett and Sarah Braidwood just before there was another injury break for a Stirling player.

The ladies in pink and black turned County over, with Kerr charging through the defenders, with Finlay in support. A lovely flicked pass from the teenage back row found Jones who passed back to Finlay before Liekens was let loose and found Mulholland.

The number eight set off on an exciting run, handing off several County players before she was tackled into touch.

Stirling fought their way out of their own half and scored an unconverted try. 19-31.

They quickly added another. 19-36.

Braidwood, McLauchlan, Griffiths and Jones were busy tracking down the Stirling attackers, with Swift putting in some huge tackles, but County were too fast and too strong and ended the match with another two tries, one converted.

Final score: Ayr Ladies 19 Stirling County Ladies 48

Photo courtesy of Alan Graham. Please seek permission before using any photos for commercial purposes.

- Elena Hogarth.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Marr 6 Ayr 19

Ayr beat Marr at a damp and soggy Fullarton in the BT Premiership.

It was the first competitive meeting between the two sides in nearly 40 years and the sidelines were packed with expectant fans. If they had been expecting a game of free-flowing rugby, they would have been disappointed, as a war of attrition ensued.

The hosts were the first on the board, thanks to a Colin Sturgeon penalty. 3-0.

Marr were full of attacking intent early on, and Ayr captain Pete McCallum, props George Hunter and Steven Longwell, fly-half Paddy Dewhirst and full-back Grant Anderson had to grit their teeth and put in the tough tackles.

Barely ten minutes were on the clock when tempers flared and referee Sam Grove-White sent Marr captain Angus Johnston and the aforementioned Anderson to the sin bin.

Scott Lyle stepped up to the kicking tee after a dangerous tackle on Dewhirst got Ayr the penalty. 3-3.

Sturgeon replied moments later. 6-3.

Ayr fought hard for possession and were beginning to batter through the Marr defence, Tommy Spinks - the flanker turned second row turned flanker again - being the battering-ram-in-chief.

A spate of injuries for Ayr had forced several reshuffles throughout the week and on the day itself, with Spinks moving into the back row with McCallum and George Stokes, Michael Badenhorst starting in the second row and Gregor Henry taking his place on the bench.

All the changes and overwrought atmosphere of a long-awaited Ayrshire derby didn't seem to bother teenage half-backs Dewhirst and Harry Warr. They were calm and focused throughout, and even let their creativity show on a dreich day, Warr's eye for a cute popped pass releasing Frazier Climo, who was playing at inside centre.

Dewhirst put in a cross-field kick but the referee brought Ayr back for advantage and Lyle kicked the penalty. 6-6.
Ayr winger Craig Gossman was bobbing about, just waiting for a pass to fly on to, but the match took a turn for the worse with a series of ineffectual kicks for territory, knocks-on and turn-overs that came to nothing.

Marr had the stuffing knocked out of them when second row Kyle Hatherell was shown a red card for a dangerous tackle. Lyle kicked the points for Ayr. 6-9.

The home team rallied, Glasgow Warriors' Greg Peterson - a former Ayr draft player - leading the charge, and they displayed great courage to press for the line. Ayr held them up.

They had two scrums on the five-metre line, and at the second, McCallum appeared with the ball and Ayr cleared their lines. A few kicks more, and Ayr had possession again, hooker Lewis Anderson motoring through the purple shirts, with Lyle, the other Anderson, Longwell and centre Danny McCluskey in support.

Half-time brought some respite for players and fans alike. But it was straight back into a cauldron of tension and emotion in the second half.

Sturgeon missed a penalty kick just after the resumption, but his team didn't let up when they had the ball in hand, Stokes, second rows Badenhorst and Jonathan Agnew and Longwell exhausting themselves in defence.

Lyle, Badenhorst, Gossman and Spinks linked up nicely when Ayr regained possession, and Gossman was on the receiving end of a lovely inside pass from Dewhirst, with Warr, Spinks, McCallum and Agnew in support. But that purple and gold defence was determined.
Again, all structure went out the window, the occasion seemingly getting to both sets of players. The referee had a tight grip on the game, and marched Marr back ten metres for mouthing off.

Ayr found their composure in the final quarter, McCallum leading from the front, with Hunter on his usual devastating form in the loose.

Hard work from Agnew, Lyle, both Andersons and Longwell, and jinking footwork by Dewhirst, created opportunities for Ayr. But the ball was later knocked on from a line-out. Ayr just used their bulk at the scrum though, shoving Marr and turning over. Again, Marr showed bravery and resilience and held Ayr up to prevent the try.

However, the hosts' next attempt to stop a score was illegal and a penalty try was awarded to Ayr. 6-16.

McCallum charged from the back of a scrum and McCluskey zig-zagged through the defenders, but Marr were later caught off side, and Lyle kicked his fourth penalty. 6-19.

Ayr brought on replacements Jamie Bova and Sam Graham, the latter making his BT Premiership debut and putting in a fierce tackle almost straight away as Marr had a final hurrah. They were pinged for holding on, with Lyle booting the ball off the park to bring a bruising afternoon to an end.

Final score: Marr 6 Ayr 19.

Photos courtesy of Alan Graham. Please contact Alan before using his images.

- Elena Hogarth.