Thursday, 28 September 2017

Ayr v Stirling County preview

Ayr and Stirling County compete for the Cairdeas Quaich at Millbrae on Saturday, kicking off at 3pm in the BT Premiership.

The additional silverware marks the friendship between the two clubs but the teams will be putting that to one side until the final whistle as they battle for points in the league. County are currently second and will be looking to maintain that spot, whilst on the back of an encouraging win against Currie Chieftains last weekend, Ayr are focused on moving up the leader board.

"Last week was a much improved performance," says Ayr head coach Calum Forrester. "The challenge for us is to put in a performance for the full 80 minutes this weekend against a Stirling side that is full of confidence having started the season strongly."

Three former Ayr players return to Millbrae in County colours, with Ross Curle, Kerr Gossman and Peter Jericevich starting against their old team-mates.

In the Ayr squad, the starting line-up is unchanged from last week. Tommy Spinks is named on the bench after shaking off an injury, and Robbie Nairn could make his debut after joining the club in the summer.

Ayr 1st XV
15. Grant Anderson; 14. Scott Lyle, 13. Danny McCluskey, 12. Stafford McDowall, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Frazier Climo, 9. Harry Warr; 1. George Hunter, 2. Robbie Smith, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Robert McAlpine, 5. Scott Sutherland; 6. Blair Macpherson, 7. George Stokes, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

16. Lewis Anderson, 17. Adam Prentice, 18. Tommy Spinks, 19. Paddy Dewhirst, 20. Robbie Nairn.

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

The 2nd XV also play host to Stirling County in BT National Reserve 1.

After drawing with Currie Chieftains A last week, Ayr look to return to their try-scoring form.

Once again, there is a good balance of young talent and experience in the squad, with Stuart Fenwick making a possible comeback off the bench.

Ayr 2nd XV
15. Johnny McCorkindale; 14. Jamie Bova, 13. Matt Davidson, 12. Sam Graham, 11. Cameron Taylor; 10. James Pinkerton, 9. Lewis Young; 1. Ruairidh Sayce, 2. Stuart Collier, 3. Fraser Miller; 4. Seth Rae, 5. Adam Paxton; 6. Craig Brown, 7. Gregor Henry, 8. Cameron Reece.

16. Stuart Fenwick, 17. Alistair Hutton, 18. Logan Richardson, 19. James Armstrong, 20. Sam Gray.

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

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Currie Chieftains 15 Ayr 24

Ayr got back to winning ways with a 24-15 win against Currie Chieftains in the BT Premiership at Malleny Park.

The visitors were calm, cool and collected from the off, the forwards bossing the early set-pieces, whilst the backs were full of controlled precision.

Second row Robert McAlpine led the charge in the loose, with centre Stafford McDowall handing off to maraud his way up the pitch. Scrum-half Harry Warr, second row Scott Sutherland and prop George Hunter - the latter two on their return after a few weeks' absence - kept the ball moving quickly until a long pass from fly-half Frazier Climo found Craig Gossman, who stepped in off his wing.

Play then switched to the other side, with Hunter in the thick of the action. His nicely timed pass was seized upon by captain Pete McCallum, who motored over for an excellent try. Winger Scott Lyle easily converted. 0-7.

The work-rate only increased from there, Gossman ready to spring onto any loose pass by Currie, McCallum and Lyle ready to spring onto any Currie attacker.

After a free kick at the scrum for Ayr, hooker Robbie Smith mowed down the home defenders and Gossman suddenly shot off like a rocket up the touchline and over the whitewash for a try. Lyle got the tricky conversion. 0-14.

Even when the Chieftains were lively with ball in hand, big tackles from Smith, McDowall and flankers Blair Macpherson and George Stokes stopped them in their tracks. They forced the turnover, and Stokes broke away. A few kicks followed, then Climo barged through the bodies with McDowall and Gossman in support. But the game came to a halt with Currie second row Hamish Bain stretchered off, injured.

Currie had a penalty line-out but the throw went too far, and although they got the scrum when Ayr knocked on, they were pinged and later gave away another for not rolling away. It was in a good position for Lyle and he summarily got the three points. 0-17.

Lyle was back at the tee moments later after his brilliant catch and run got Ayr back into the Chieftains' half; centre Danny McCluskey deftly popped the ball to McCallum and the captain got his brace. Lyle converted. 0-24.

Currie had a chance to get on the board just before half-time but the penalty kick by fly-half Jamie Forbes was missed.

Ayr carried on harrying and harassing the home team at the start of the second half, Climo and McCallum the thorns in their side. McCallum dotted the ball down over the line but the teams were called back for a knock-on.

Currie then felt the full force of the Ayr pack, as they were bullied off the ball at the scrum. McCallum, McDowall, Smith, McCluskey and Hunter swept through the home defence but the ball was knocked on before they could get to the try-line.

Glasgow Warriors' Brandom Thomson made his Ayr debut, replacing full-back Grant Anderson. Sutherland soon followed Anderson to the sidelines, but for ten minutes in the sin bin after a prolonged discussion between the refereeing team. Although it seemed Warr had been tackled high, it was his team-mate Sutherland who got the yellow card for an earlier unknown infringement.

From the penalty line-out, Ayr turned over and Warr cleared. But Currie took that line-out quickly and winger Ben Robbins scurried away for a try. The conversion angle was too wide for Forbes. 5-24.

Currie began to get a hold on the game and would have been headed for the try-line again were it not for a superb flying tackle by Stokes, with excellent follow-up defence by Climo and Macpherson.

Lyle had a final kick at goal, but missed this time.

Still, it looked like Ayr might get that bonus-point fourth try, Climo and Thomson combining nicely to move play out of their own half. A couple of handling errors put paid to any such hopes.

Smith and McDowall took a well-earned rest, and were replaced by the equally energetic youngsters Lewis Anderson and Paddy Dewhirst. Soon after, Michael Badenhorst replaced Sutherland, who had returned from the sin bin for a few minutes.

Badenhorst was straight into action with some hefty tackles, as was Gossman, but Currie's backs had a spring in their step, and no sooner had slippery centre Harvey Elms seemingly been halted than he was away for a try. Forbes missed the conversion. 10-24.

The home fly-half burst through the Ayr defence for a fine try under the posts but he inexplicably missed the kick for the extras right in front of the sticks. 15-24.

A hefty tackle on Gossman left the diminutive winger splayed on the turf, but he was able to get to his feet and thankfully walk unaided to the sidelines, meaning McDowall was back on for the last few minutes.

Both teams searched for one last try but neither could find it.

Final score: Currie Chieftains 15 Ayr 24.

In the 2nd XV match, James Armstrong scored a try for Ayr, converted by Matt Davidson, who also kicked four penalties. But Chieftains A came roaring back in the second half, and it was 19-19 at full-time. Sam Graham was Ayr's man of the match.

- Elena Hogarth.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Currie Chieftains v Ayr preview

Ayr travel east to Malleny Park to take on Currie Chieftains in the fourth round of the BT Premiership, kicking off at 3pm on Saturday.

Playing at the picturesque ground in Balerno on the leafy outskirts of Edinburgh is always a tough proposition for any visiting team, but Ayr will be hoping there is a repeat of last year's away victory after a couple of disappointing matches at the start of this season.

"There were lots of positive to take from our second half display (against Melrose last week)," says Ayr head coach Calum Forrester, "but we will need to tighten up on our defence in order to get a result this weekend."

Ayr are buoyed by the return of prop George Hunter and second row Scott Sutherland, and Glasgow Warriors' Brandon Thomson could make his Ayr debut from the bench.

Ayr 1st XV
15. Grant Anderson; 14. Scott Lyle, 13. Danny McCluskey, 12. Stafford McDowall, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Frazier Climo, 9. Harry Warr; 1. George Hunter, 2. Robbie Smith, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Robert McAlpine, 5. Scott Sutherland; 6. Blair Macpherson, 7. George Stokes, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

16. Lewis Anderson, 17. Adam Prentice, 18. Michael Badenhorst, 19. Paddy Dewhirst, 20. Brandon Thomson.

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

Ayr 2nd XV have been on try-scoring form at the start of their BT Reserve 1 campaign, and after last week's loss to Melrose Storm, they will look to bounce back and keep the scores coming against Currie Chieftains A, kicking off at 3pm at Malleny.

Gregor Henry, Adam Paxton and Jack Brown all make a return to the squad after injury.

Ayr 2nd XV
15. Matt Davidson; 14. Jamie  Bova, 13. James Armstrong, 12. Sam Graham, 11. Euan Hamilton; 10. James Pinkerton, 9. Lewis Young; 1. Ruairidh  Sayce, 2. David Young, 3. Fraser Miller; 4. Alan Miller, 5. Adam Paxton; 6. Seth Rae, 7. Gregor Henry, 8. Craig Brown.

16. Stuart Collier, 17. Jack Brown, 18. Cameron Taylor, 19. Johnny McCorkindale.

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

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Ayr 17 Melrose 34

Ayr came up against a ruthless Melrose at Millbrae on Saturday in round three of the BT Premiership.

The visitors from the Borders showed their intent early on, with barrelling hooker Russell Anderson scoring the first try, and centre Craig Jackson converting. 0-7.

A fumble at the re-start from Melrose allowed Ayr winger Craig Gossman to harry and harass the opposition, but they tidied up and cleared. A strong Ayr line-out followed, with captain Pete McCallum driving on before centre Scott Lyle stepped up to the kicking tee for a penalty. 3-7.
Melrose were bristling with energy, full-back Fraser Thomson a live-wire all day, and his initial jinky run led to winger Sam Pecqueur's try, which Jackson converted. 3-14.

Lyle was back at the tee after a high tackle on Gossman but the kick went wide.

Ayr were working hard, and the scrum was solid. In the loose, second rows Robert McAlpine and Jonathan Agnew were making a nuisance of themselves, and fly-half Frazier Climo and centre Stafford McDowall were trying to make something happen, but they couldn't get through that water-tight Melrose defence.

Gossman hit the ball like a train, but Ayr were later pinged for holding on, and Melrose moved out of the danger zone and into Ayr's half. Before anyone knew it, winger Ross McCann had scored a try and Jackson converted. 3-21.
Ayr hooker Lewis Anderson and prop Steven Longwell were strong with ball in hand, and scrum-half Harry Warr got stuck into the tackles, but Melrose soon had the upper hand at the set-piece and got a penalty at the scrum, which Jackson kicked. 3-24.

Gossman out-foxed the opposition at the re-start, zooming on to the ball and firing it to flanker Tommy Spinks, with fellow back-rower Blair Macpherson and Climo combining to make their way through the black and yellow shirts.

However, little errors were starting to creep into Ayr's game, and Melrose were lightning quick to capitalise. A spilled ball in their own twenty-two was scooped up by McCann. With no-one at home for Ayr, he hared away up the wing for a try that thrilled the travelling fans. Jackson's metronomic boot did the rest. 3-31.

Ayr hit back immediately, forwards and back working well together to send full-back Grant Anderson over. Lyle converted just before half-time. 10-31.
Melrose began the second half with another penalty. 10-34.

Ayr claimed a turnover, and Lewis Anderson, Spinks and Longwell charged for the line. They didn't quite make it, but a couple of line-outs kept them in a good attacking position. When they trundled for the whitewash, Melrose prop Ruairi McLeod illegally collapsed the maul, was summarily sent to the sidelines for ten minutes and Ayr were awarded the penalty try, which Lyle converted. 17-34.

Those were the last points of the match, but Ayr desperately tried to close the gap. Fresh legs in second row Michael Badenhorst, centre Paddy Dewhirst and prop Robbie Smith pepped them up.

Ayr strung together some promising phases, but Melrose fly-half Jason Baggott flew on to a pass and was away for a try had it not been for Dewhirst, who pivoted into a tackle and brought him crashing to the ground.
Spinks and Macpherson gritted their teeth and flew into the defenders, with Macpherson bashing them out of the way at will. A penalty line-out let Ayr drive for the line and Dewhirst dodged past the tacklers to go over the line but the ball was adjudged to have been knocked on.

Still, Ayr pressed on, young guns Dewhirst, Lewis Anderson, Smith and Badenhorst leading the charge, with McCallum and replacement Jamie Bova showing a clear pair of heels at times, but there was no getting near that Melrose try-line.

The defence did well to keep Melrose from adding to their points tally, Longwell, Badenhorst and winger Danny McCluskey tackling with might and forcing some wild passes from Melrose. The game, however, fizzled out and the referee brought things to an end.

Final score: Ayr 17 Melrose 34.

Ayr man of the match: Tommy Spinks.

Photos courtesy of George McMillan.

In the 2nd XV match, Ayr were beaten 34-45 by Melrose Storm. Ayr's tries were scored by Johnny McCorkindale (two), Cameron Reece, James Armstrong and Cameron Taylor, with a conversion by Armstrong. Ben Paterson was Ayr's man of the match.

- Elena Hogarth.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Ayr v Melrose preview

Ayr host Melrose at Millbrae for the second time in a few weeks, kicking off at 3pm on Saturday in the third round of the BT Premiership.

This will be the fourth time in the calendar year the two teams have played each other, after the BT Premiership final, the BT Cup final and the BT Charity Shield, but fans are still not getting sick of seeing the men in pink and black and the men in black and yellow going head-to-head, as an exciting, entertaining match is guaranteed.

It has been a good week of training for the home team, and head coach Calum Forrester is looking forward to seeing his troops back out on the pitch after last week's loss.

"The players were hugely disappointed with their performance against Glasgow Hawks but the great thing about the BT Premiership is that we have another opportunity to go out this weekend and make amends."

There is a reshuffle in the backs, with Danny McCluskey going to the wing and Scott Lyle partnering up with Stafford McDowall at centre, and Harry Warr taking over from an injured David Armstrong at scrum-half.

Jonathan Agnew starts in the second row, and Robbie Smith moves back to hooker, with Steven Longwell returning to tighthead prop after three months of playing in Australia.

Ayr 1st XV
15. Grant Anderson; 14. Danny McCluskey, 13. Stafford McDowall, 12. Scott Lyle, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Frazier Climo, 9. Harry Warr; 1. Ryan Grant, 2. Robbie Smith, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Robert McAlpine, 5. Jonathan Agnew; 6. Blair Macpherson, 7. Tommy Spinks, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

16. Lewis Anderson, 17. Adam Prentice, 18. George Stokes, 19. Paddy Dewhirst, 20. Jamie Bova.

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

After a fantastic 41-19 win against Glasgow Hawks last weekend, Ayr 2nd XV go into their BT Reserve 1 match with Melrose Storm at Millbrae with two wins from two, but the visitors always pose a threat home or away.

Backs Johnny McCorkindale, James Armstrong and James Pinkerton all return to the squad, as does second row Adam Paxton.

Ayr 2nd XV
15. Sam Gray; 14. Cameron Taylor, 13. Sam Graham, 12. Zac Howard, 11. Euan Hamilton; 10. Johnny McCorkindale; 9. Lewis Young; 1. Ben Paterson, 2. Stuart Collier, 3. Fraser Miller; 4. Alan Miller, 5. Michael Badenhorst; 6. Craig Brown, 7. David Young, 8. Cameron Reece.

16. Ruairidh Sayce, 17. Mandeep Samra, 18. Adam Paxton, 19. Seth Rae, 20. James Armstrong, 21. James Pinkerton.

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

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Ayr 18 Glasgow Hawks 28

Glasgow Hawks spoiled the party on Ladies' Day at Millbrae, as they out-muscled Ayr in round two of the BT Premiership.

With spectators crowding the sunny sidelines and the stand with ice creams and drinks in hand, the two teams enjoyed a great atmosphere to play in, and it was the home side who naturally fed off it early on.

Ayr caught a missed kicked for touch by Hawks, with full-back Grant Anderson and winger Craig Gossman stretching their legs. Centre Stafford McDowall and prop Robbie Smith pushed play on, before scrum-half David Armstrong and prop Ryan Grant exchanged the ball, and Anderson barged over for a try. Fly-half Frazier Climo couldn't convert. 5-0.

It was a changed back row, with Blair Macpherson moving to the second row in place of the injured Scott Sutherland and Tommy Spinks taking the blindside berth. George Stokes started at openside and Pete McCallum captained from number eight as usual. All four, and lock Robert McAlpine, injected energy into the opening quarter but Hawks were ready to pounce on any opportunity.

Although they had been shoved into touch as they headed for the try-line, they charged down a kick from the remnants of the ensuing line-out and second row Kiran McDonald bolted for the whitewash. Centre Jack Steele converted. 5-7.

With tempers boiling over as they so often do in this west derby, Hawks gained a penalty, took the line-out and winger Kyle Rowe put his foot on the gas for a try. Steele couldn't convert. 5-12.

Ayr got back into the visitors' half thanks to strong play by Climo, a neat step round the defence from Gossman and the usual bashing-through-the-defenders by Macpherson and hooker Lewis Anderson. A scrum in a plum position in Hawks' twenty-two followed but Ayr were penalised for collapsing it.

It was all too easy for Hawks to work their way back up the park and Steele added a penalty before half-time. 5-15.
Steele was back at the kicking tee at the resumption. 5-18.

Then Climo was. 8-18.

Then Steele was again. 8-21.

Centre Danny McCluskey managed to battle through the Hawks defence on an exciting run before Climo, McDowall and Gossman showed off their fancy handling skills. They were rudely interrupted by Hawks number eight Jake Eaglesham who found himself in the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on. Climo kicked the points. 11-21.

McCluskey set up Ayr's attack again, with solid support from Gossman. A scrum saw Armstrong whip the ball to McDowall, with McAlpine on hand to stretch play across the field, where full-back Anderson, Grant and Stokes powered through the red and black shirts. Quick work by hooker Anderson found Climo, and the ball went to the hands of McCallum who rampaged over the line. Climo added the extras. 18-21.
Spinks put his head down and bulldozed through the Hawks back row before Smith dealt with a flailing Steven Findlay, the big prop struggling to cope with his lively opposite number.

Climo had a chance to level the scores with another kick at goal but it went wide.

A bit of momentum had gone out of the contest until McDonald woke everyone up with a tremendous gallop through mid-field and all the way to the try-line, showboating behind the posts with the ball in his big paw, hoisted triumphantly in the air. Thankfully for Hawks' small yet vocal band of supporters, the second row remembered to ground it before continuing his gleeful celebrations. Fly-half Ross Thompson converted. 18-28.

Ayr got themselves back into the Hawks half thanks to a monster kick from winger Scott Lyle that came from deep within his own half and bounced and bobbled perfectly over the touchline at the five-metre mark.

The home team rang the changes, with prop Steven Longwell - only just returned from playing in Australia for the summer - replacing Grant, and Jonathan Agnew - fresh from scoring a try for the 2nd XV earlier in the day - taking over from Stokes.

Despite the pressure put on them by Lyle's kick, Hawks were not for turning. They battled out of their half and gained a penalty line-out. Ayr poached it, with McCallum charging away but they were later pinged for holding on.
Ayr tried in vain to get to the Hawks try-line with the clock running down, but it was no use, even with McAlpine, Agnew, replacement Paddy Dewhirst, Lyle and McDowall making in-roads. Time had run out.

Final score: Ayr 18 Glasgow Hawks 28.

Ayr 2nd XV beat Glasgow Hawks 2nd XV 41-19, with Ruairidh Sayce, Cameron Reece, Craig Brown, Euan Hamilton, man of the match Michael Badenhorst, Jonathan Agnew and Cameron Taylor scoring the tries, and Sam Gray and Sam Graham adding the conversions.

- Elena Hogarth.

Ayr Ladies 5 Cartha QP Ladies 14

A poor forecast caused Ayr Ladies to decamp to Marr College Playing Fields on Friday evening for their BT Premier League clash with Cartha QP Ladies.

The rain wasn't as heavy as anticipated but the near-constant drizzle and cold breeze certainly dampened spirits on the artificial pitch and the sidelines.

It was a scoreless first half hour as the two teams cancelled each other out. Cartha twice had the chance to get over the line for a try but solid defence prevented them. Flanker Kelsey Swift, captain and prop Laura Turner and fly-half  Catherine Shennan led the way in defence.

Joanne Jones, playing at number eight early on with Jennifer Kerr in the second row, made a break from the back of Ayr's first scrum, with Shennan and centres Connie Griffiths and Emily Irving in support. The ball was chipped on and Cartha collected and cleared.

Ayr secured their line-out but the ball was later turned over by Cartha before they knocked on and then gave away a penalty for a high tackle on winger Erin McSorley.

Possession was changing hands as quickly as the wind was changing direction in Troon, with neither team able to breach the other's defence. Prop Louise McLauchlan, centre Catriona Cowan and flanker Rachel Morrison managed to suppress Cartha's attack, with McSorley, Griffiths and number eight Rachael Mulholland launching attacks for Ayr.

Hooker Lisa Croniken had one powerful charge at the line but couldn't quite get there. An Ayr scrum a few minutes later held firm under immense pressure from Cartha, with Mulholland breaking away. Turner, McLauchlan and second row Sonja Liekens were in support, until Croniken ran through the Cartha defenders for an excellent try out wide. Shennan couldn't make the conversion. 5-0.

It was an absorbing last ten minutes of the first half, as the teams went back and forth, this way and that, desperate to break through. Beautiful handling from Croniken and Irving got Ayr up the park.

However, Cartha were ferocious in defence, and wrestled back possession. Jones, full-back Sarah Braidwood and scrum-half Niamh Durnan put in the tackles to prevent any scores before half-time.

Cartha were energetic and enthusiastic at the resumption, running from their own half for a converted try. 5-7.

A few minutes later and they were off again, scoring between the posts. 5-14.

Ayr settled down to some hard work, giving Cartha a taste of their own medicine at the scrum, and even took it against the head.

They forced their way into Cartha's half - a superb hand-off from Mulholland just one highlight of Ayr's attack - and stayed there, determined to get another score as the rain steadily fell. Swift was at the forefront with her fellow forwards, but Cartha's defence was exemplary and they held Ayr up.

Ayr had another go from the scrum but the ball was knocked on.

Still, Ayr would not give up. Captain Turner rallied her troops, wingers McSorley and Lisa Main pressed the line, and when Cartha regained possession, player of the match Griffiths and Swift kept them in their own half with tenacious tackling.

It was a long final five minutes as Ayr searched for more points but Cartha's defence would not buckle and the visitors from Dumbreck took the win.

Ayr Ladies' next match is away to RHC Cougars on Sunday 17th September.

Final score: Ayr Ladies 5 Cartha QP Ladies 14.

- Elena Hogarth.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Ayr v Glasgow Hawks preview

Ayr welcome Glasgow Hawks 1st and 2nd XVs to Millbrae on a busy Ladies' Day.

The 1st XV kick off at 3pm in the second round of the BT Premiership and their first home league game of the season.

It's Ladies' Day, which this year sold out in record time and will raise funds for the Little Art School Trust. The additional 350 female fans will no doubt create a great atmosphere for the west coast derby.

Ayr and Hawks played each other four times last season, with Ayr coming out on top in all meetings, and after a narrow win against Boroughmuir last week, the home side will be hoping to put in a good performance. The visitors come to Millbrae on the back of an encouraging win against Marr on the main pitch at Scotstoun in the first round.

"Hawks played some good rugby last weekend," says Ayr head coach Calum Forrester, "and we will need to tighten up our defence against a dangerous attacking side in order to get a result on Saturday."

In the squad, Ryan Grant makes his first start, following an appearance from the bench last week for the former Scotland star. Adam Prentice moves to the replacements alongside the returning Steven Longwell, and Brandon Thomson, who has been released by Glasgow Warriors for the fixture.

Ayr 1st XV
15. Grant Anderson; 14. Scott Lyle, 13. Danny McCluskey, 12. Stafford McDowall, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Frazier Climo, 9. David Armstrong; 1. Ryan Grant, 2. Lewis Anderson, 3. Robbie Smith; 4. Robert McAlpine, 5. Scott Sutherland; 6. Blair Macpherson, 7. Tommy Spinks, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

1st XV replacements
16. Steven Longwell, 17. Adam Prentice, 18. George Stokes, 19. Paddy Dewhirst, 20. Brandon Thomson.

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

Ayr 2nd XV also take on their counterparts from Old Anniesland but at the earlier time of 2pm at Millbrae.

Harry Warr captains the side from fly-half, with Cameron Taylor returning to the squad on the right wing.

There is a speedy second row in new Ayr players Michael Badenhorst and Jonathan Agnew, whilst the bench is made up of strong and versatile replacements.

Ayr 2nd XV
15. Sam Gray; 14. Cameron Taylor, 13. Sam Graham, 12. Zac Howard, 11. Jamie Bova; 10. Harry Warr (c), 9. Lewis Young; 1. Ben Paterson, 2. Stuart Collier, 3. Ruairidh Sayce; 4. Jonathan Agnew, 5. Michael Badenhorst; 6. Alan Miller, 7. Craig Brown, 8. Cameron Reece.

2nd XV replacements
16. Mandeep Samra, 17. Fraser Miller, 18. Seth Rae, 19. Ruairidh Bottomley, 20. Euan Hamilton.

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

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Boroughmuir 28 Ayr 30

Ayr got their BT Premiership title defence off to a thrilling start, leaving it late to defeat Boroughmuir at Meggetland.

A good crowd had turned out for the first league game of the season, and the players were welcomed on to the pitch by a pipe band before the 1st and 2nd XVs from both sides and the spectators observed a minute's silence in memory of Boroughmuir club stalwart Arthur Ross who recently passed away.

The home team launched themselves into attack with gusto, led by flanker Aubrey MnCube and centre Ronan Kerr. Ayr second row Robert McAlpine and centres Danny McCluskey and Stafford McDowall organised the visitors' defence and when Boroughmuir got over the try-line, the men in pink and black were well placed to hold the attacker up.

Boroughmuir were determined to catch the defending champions off guard, taking a quick line-out and winger Jordan Edmunds racing away. He couldn't escape Ayr scrum-half David Armstrong, who putting in a thumping tackle to force a knock-on.

Ayr's scrum was steady, young props Robbie Smith and Adam Prentice and hooker (and assistant coach) Pat MacArthur proving an immovable force early on.

Full-back Grant Anderson was launched into attack from the solid set-piece. Armstrong slipped the ball to winger Craig Gossman and he scurried away. Possession then changed hands rapidly, with Armstrong and McDowall trying in vain to stop the Boroughmuir speedsters. Centre Mark Hare got the opening score, fly-half Chris Laidlaw converting. 7-0.

Ayr got themselves into Boroughmuir's twenty-two, with McAlpline, MacArthur and flanker Tommy Spinks firing into attack. A penalty line-out saw Ayr drive over the line but they were held up.

There then commenced what seemed like an interminable series of Ayr scrums on the Boroughmuir five-metre line, with tempers spilling over into a scuffle. MnCube was yellow-carded for a professional foul but it didn't affect his team-mates and they turned the tables on Ayr at the scrum before another bout of shirt-pulling and squaring-up broke out.

Boroughmuir were awarded a penalty and kicked for touch, with Spinks leaping into the air to pat the ball back on to the pitch for Armstrong to scoop up and race away, but the flanker was adjudged to have been in touch.

Ayr got their chance to attack a few minutes later, wingers Gossman and Scott Lyle on either side of fast handling from McDowall, Armstrong, Prentice and Spinks, but they were pinged for holding on.

MacArthur, McAlpine and captain Pete McCallum were involved in attack before Boroughmuir reclaimed possession and their hooker Johnny Matthews broke. Scrum-half Johnny Adams finished it off with a try converted by Laidlaw. 14-0.

Ayr brought on British and Irish Lion prop Ryan Grant to bolster a scrum now under pressure from the hosts.

McCluskey, Gossman, Spinks, second row Scott Sutherland and flanker Blair Macpherson added zing to Ayr's attack, and just before half-time, a strong drive from a penalty line-out got Ayr into a good position. The ball found fly-half Frazier Climo and he held firm to get over the line before converting his own score. 14-7.

The visitors started the second half with more vim and vigour, replacement hooker Lewis Anderson bursting through the home defence. Smith, Gossman and Lyle got in on the act too before Boroughmuir turned over. But they couldn't get away from McDowall, who dragged their attacker off the pitch.

Another barge from Lewis Anderson opened up the attack for Climo and Armstrong before Spinks charged for the line and Macpherson got the try. Climo's conversion attempt hit the post. 14-12.

A kick bounced perfectly for Boroughmuir full-back Greig Cannie and he seemed certain to score in the corner until Climo swooped in with a terrific tackle to shove him into touch.

The line-out was snaffled by Matthews before Cal Davies scored under the posts for the hosts and Laidlaw converted. 21-12.

Ayr hit back immediately, Climo zooming on to a Boroughmuir pass in his own half to score an exciting interception try. Lyle took over the kicking as Climo's leg was strapped up by the medical team, but just missed the conversion. 21-17.

Paddy Dewhirst came on in place of McDowall, and immediately linked up with Climo to cause a bit of creative chaos in mid-field. McCallum, Macpherson and Smith backed them up. Dewhirst dived over the whitewash but Boroughmuir held him up.

A strong Ayr scrum saw McCallum charge off with Armstrong in support, and the scrum-half found a gap for the try. Lyle converted from out wide. 21-24.

Boroughmuir thrilled their fans with their fast and furious play. Winger Ciaran Whyte, MnCube and Cannie combined to send over Hare for his second try, with Laidlaw converting in front of the posts. 28-24.

Lewis Anderson, Grant and Smith worked well together in the loose as well as the set-piece, and the whole pack hunkered down to spoil Boroughmuir's scrum.

Dewhirst mopped up the Meggetland men's mistakes, with McAlpine selling a dummy to exploit a hole in the defence. Spinks, Gossman and Macpherson whipped the ball across to the other side of the pitch for Armstrong, McCallum and Climo to find a way to another try. Smith barrelled through the defenders but a later knock-on halted the attack.

Not that it seemed to matter to McCallum, who worked some magic after Boroughmuir's scrum and appeared with the ball in hand. That attacking attempt also went awry but Ayr ended up with a penalty near the sticks and Lyle kicked it with ease to narrow the scoreline. 28-27.

The next ten minutes felt like an eternity to both sets of fans, but the players never let their energy levels slip.

Ayr's mission was clear: get some points - any points - before the clock ticks past eighty minutes. And with the digital clock at Boroughmuir kaput, nobody but the referee seemed to know when that would be.

Macpherson was in full barging back row mode, bashing the blue and green shirts out of the way at will, with McCallum, Spinks and replacement second row Jonathan Agnew in support. Winger Jamie Bova joined the fray in place of Lyle.

A monster kick for touch by Climo got Ayr into a perfect position but despite Lewis Anderson and Grant rumbling to the try-line, Boroughmuir were fantastic in defence - spurred on by the cries of head coach Peter Wright, which could no doubt be heard from the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle three miles away - and turned over and cleared.

Another line-out for Ayr spelt more danger for Boroughmuir but the ball was knocked on, and it looked all over for the visitors.

But Ayr shoved the scrum and although Boroughmuir got the ball away, the clearance didn't go far enough. The ball landed in the arms of Armstrong, and Smith, McAlpine and Spinks took it into the twenty-two.

With Armstrong attended to by physio Helen Reid, Gossman took over scrum-half duties, marshalling his men into position until he got the ball back to Climo. The fly-half ignored the heavy strapping on his leg and whacked the ball towards the posts with Boroughmuir defenders almost on top of him. The kick sailed between the uprights to put Ayr into the lead and win them the match. 28-30.

Ayr return to Millbrae this Saturday for their first home league game against Glasgow Hawks.

Final score: Boroughmuir 28 Ayr 30.

Ayr man of the match: Blair Macpherson.

Ayr 2nd XV beat Boroughmuir 2nd XV 19-16, with tries by Euan Hamilton, Zac Howard and Michael Badenhorst, with Matt Davidson adding the conversions. Scrum-half Harry Warr was man of the match.

- Elena Hogarth.

Ayr Ladies 19 Stewartry Sirens 43

Ayr Ladies welcomed south-west rivals Stewartry Sirens to Millbrae for an entertaining opening fixture in the BT Premier League under the floodlights on Friday evening.

It was a physical game from the start, with Ayr back row Neve Finlay, Kelsey Swift and Rachael Mulholland and centres Connie Griffiths and Emily Irving leading the defence with some fierce tackling.

Quick work in attack by half-backs Rachel Morrison and Catherine Shennan got the ball into the hands of second row juggernaut Joanne Jones and she sprinted unimpeded to the line, swerving through the Sirens defenders, for a thrilling opening score. The conversion attempt was out wide and Shennan struck the kick perfectly. 7-0.

The attack continued in a lively vein, with captain Laura Turner and hooker Lauren Gunn speeding up the pitch.

A knock-on gave the Sirens a scrum but Ayr gave them an almighty shove and as the ball popped out, pink and black hands scooped it up and winger Lisa Main headed for the line only to be tackled into touch.

They were back near the line moments later, and a quick tap-and-go saw Jones fly over for her second try, which Shennan summarily converted. 14-0.
The home back row continued to make progress but the visitors were readying themselves for a comeback, and despite the defensive attentions of Ayr winger Erin McSorley and prop Louise McLauchlan, they shot off for an unconverted try. 14-5.

Ayr full-back Kirsty Wilson danced up the wing to the oohs and aahs of the crowd, and from a later scrum, Shennan and McSorley combined well to bring yet more pace to proceedings.

Stewartry were struggling at the scrum, with the Ayr front row of Turner, Gunn and McLauchlan putting them under pressure all evening. But they were tenacious, refusing to buckle even when a player down after a yellow card.

They looked certain to score a try but McSorley did brilliantly to prevent them from grounding.

Moments later and the visitors got their five points, turning over an Ayr ball to get an unconverted try. 14-10.

Their tails were up and they added a converted score just on half-time. 14-17.

Ayr started the second half well, Griffiths and Finlay leading the attack, with Gunn handing off the defenders with ease, and Jones hitting great lines. But the Sirens had the bit between their teeth and they were off at a gallop.

The visitors scored three tries in a row, converting two. 14-36.
Second rows Jones and Sonja Liekens had their hands full in defence, with Griffiths and Mulholland backing them up but Stewartry had their eye on more scores. They got over the whitewash again only to knock-on. It didn't faze them, and they were soon scoring and converting. 14-43.

They had tired themselves out for the remainder of the match, and Ayr took advantage, poaching at the line-out and dominating the scrum. Jennifer Kerr made her debut, coming on in the second row and getting stuck straight into the set-piece.

Morrison and Shennan directed play back into the Sirens' half, and that speedy back row moved their team-mates towards the danger zone for the visitors. After one attempt for the try-line by Mulholland, she broke from the back of a scrum and got the score. Shennan couldn't convert. 19-43.

Stewartry received their second yellow card of the night, this time for a high tackle on Griffiths, who was unhurt.
Mulholland, Jones and Turner had one last charge at the line, but time ran out, and the referee brought the game to an end.

Ayr Ladies are back at Millbrae this Friday, taking on Cartha QP Ladies in the second round of BT Premier League fixtures.

Final score: Ayr Ladies 19 Stewartry Sirens 43.

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

- Elena Hogarth.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Boroughmuir v Ayr preview

Ayr begin the defence of their BT Premiership title away to Boroughmuir on Saturday, kicking off at 3pm at Meggetland, and there is a surprise addition to the squad.

Scotland international and British and Irish Lion Ryan Grant has been named on the bench after joining the club on a short-term basis to provide front row cover.

"I've been friends with Pat MacArthur (Ayr assistant coach) for a long time, so he called me and asked if I was busy, and could I help out," says prop Grant. "Ayr is as close to a professional set-up as you can get in Scottish club rugby, and as I step out of that professional world, playing for Ayr is a nice transition. It's a high quality of rugby and they are a talented bunch of boys."

Ayr head coach Calum Forrester is delighted to welcome Grant to the club.

"It's fantastic to have someone of Ryan's quality and experience to join us over the next few weeks in the absence of Steven Longwell and George Hunter."

Grant has previously donned the pink and black shirt as part of the professional player draft, and as well as MacArthur (himself on duty on the pitch with Ayr this weekend, starting at hooker), he knows several of the players well.

It's a largely established squad for the first game of the league, but new players get their chance to shine, with Scott Lyle starting on the right wing, and Tommy Spinks making up a formidable back row with Blair Macpherson and captain Pete McCallum. New second row recruit Jonny Agnew is amongst the replacements.

"This week's training has gone well," says Forrester, "and we will need to be at our best to get the result we want at Meggetland."

15. Grant Anderson; 14. Scott Lyle, 13. Danny McCluskey, 12. Stafford McDowall, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Frazier Climo, 9. David Armstrong; 1. Robbie Smith, 2. Pat MacArthur, 3. Adam Prentice; 4. Robert McAlpine, 5. Scott Sutherland; 6. Blair Macpherson, 7. Tommy Spinks, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

16. Lewis Anderson, 17. Ryan Grant, 18. Jonathan Agnew, 19. Paddy Dewhirst, 20. Jamie Bova.

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