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.