Spring had sprung in Ayrshire yesterday, and it seems that the strange glowing orange orb in the sky above Millbrae somewhat blinded Ayr during the first half of their must-win match with Gala. Despite a valiant effort in the second half, the men in pink and black were outshone by their nuggetty opponents.
With both teams gunning for a place in next season’s British and Irish Cup, a forceful encounter was expected, and it was Gala who began with the greater intensity. No sooner had the whistle blown than they had a shot at goal, after Ayr gave away a penalty. Fly-half Lee Miller started as he meant to go on and deftly kicked Gala’s first points for a 0-3 lead.
After some probing play from Ayr and several attempts to cross the whitewash by Gala, the Borders side were awarded another penalty, again kicked by Miller. By twenty-one minutes, they had yet another penalty converted by Miller, making the score 0-9.
Gala displayed some roving play and at twenty-four minutes, scrum-half George Graham shot through the Ayr defence for the first try. Miller duly kicked the conversion, stretching their lead to 0-16.
Things got worse for the home side, as Gala chalked up yet another try with number eight Euan Dods bundling over the line. Miller’s conversion took the score to a rather alarming 0-23 with only ten minutes left of the first half.
However, Ayr did not panic. They steadily worked their way up the park and a solid line-out led to the first try for Ayr, with Colin White plunging for the points. Andy Wilson unfortunately missed the conversion, but the scoreboard now looked slightly less depressing at 5-23.
The second half started with a bang for the men in maroon. Winger Craig Robertson swooped for try number three, and Miller’s conversion made it 5-30. Things were looking pretty bleak for Ayr, whom the crowd thought were on the receiving end of some harsh decisions. But they did not help their own cause with several fumbled passes.
You can’t keep the men in pink and black down, though, and they began to get some shape to their game. Nine minutes in and Scott Sutherland grabbed Ayr’s second try. It went unconverted but the gap in the scores narrowed to 10-30.
Some great tactical kicking from Ayr’s Robbie Fergusson kept up the pressure and their third try came from another line-out. Gordon Reid, back for the afternoon from Glasgow Warriors, barged his way over the line at thirteen minutes. Fergusson converted to make the scores 17-30.
It was a physical match, and tempers began to fray with a few scuffles breaking out here and there. Unfortunately, four minutes after Reid’s try, he was red carded after another heated exchange with the Gala front row.
Gala took advantage of Ayr’s depleted numbers, with scrum-half Graham getting his second and Gala’s fourth try. Replacement Gregor Hunter took over the kicking duties, pushing Gala’s lead to 17-37. Hunter wasn’t as accurate with the boot as Miller, missing a penalty a few minutes later.
Ayr managed to cope with fourteen players, and worked the ball well through the hands of the backs. At twenty-nine minutes, they looked certain to score a try with Ross Curle chipping ahead and outstripping the chasing Gala player, only to be obstructed. To the delight of the increasingly vexed home crowd, the referee awarded a penalty try. Substitute Sylvain Diez knocked over the conversion, taking the scores to 24-37.
Gala were awarded yet another penalty, which this time Hunter successfully got over the post, to make their lead 24-40. Ayr had no thoughts of throwing in the towel, with breaks from Wilson, Diez and Curle. In the dying minutes, they got their fifth try, with replacement scrum-half Murray McConnell finding a way through the well-organised Gala defence. Diez missed the conversion, making the final score Ayr 29 Gala 40.
- Eléna Hogarth