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.