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.