Ayr 10 Gala 24
A historic third RBS Cup final win in a row wasn’t to be for Ayr on a drizzly Saturday afternoon at Murrayfield, as they were beaten by a determined and efficient Gala.
Following on from Helensburgh’s defeat of Dunbar in the Bowl final and Dunfermline’s triumph over Musselburgh in the Shield final, the men in pink and black took to the pitch with great purpose and began the match well.
Ayr looked like they would draw first blood, when just over a minute into the game, there was a sudden plunge for the try line after a well-worked move from the line-out. Gala’s defence, however, was just too good, and it would prove to be so for the rest of the encounter.
The maroons opened the scoring at five minutes, with Lee Millar slotting over a penalty to make it 0-3. Millar’s accuracy with the boot and the flood of penalties continued for the next seventy-five minutes.
Both sides appeared nervous, with Gala desperate to get some silverware to mark their ascent from the lower leagues and Ayr just as eager to retain the trophy to end an inconsistent season on a high. Knocks-on, fumbled and forward passes, line-out steals and missed kicks for touch marred the match, which had a stop-start rhythm thanks to disciplinary problems.
At fourteen minutes, Ayr had a chance to draw level, with Ross Curle kicking a penalty to bring the scores to 3-3. Both teams seemed to settle and attempt to assert their game plans. Gala launched some pulsating attacks, which were snuffed out by the exhaustive defensive efforts of Ayr’s back row of Robbie Colhoun, Jonno Willis and Andy Dunlop.
Ayr were down to fourteen men at twenty-eight minutes, with Curle finding himself in the sin bin. While they valiantly tried to hold on, it was only a matter of five minutes before Gala scored a try. Snappy winger Craig Robertson managed to dive in at the corner and keep away from the touchline, despite the attentions of Ayr defenders. Millar’s conversion stretched Gala’s lead to 3-10.
Just three minutes later, Gala found themselves a man short when prop Ewan McQuillan tripped Ayr’s scrum-half Murray McConnell and was yellow-carded. This gave the Millbrae men the impetus to attack, with a sustained attempt to force their way over Gala’s try line after another solid line-out. Prop Denford Mutamangira finally managed to burrow his way over to the delight of the pink and black-clad army of fans. Robbie Fergusson’s successful conversion levelled the scores at 10-10 at half-time.
Ayr tried to tip the balance in their favour at the restart, with breaks from full-back Grant Anderson and Curle. But Gala’s rock steady defence meant these challenges came to nothing. When the men in maroon weren’t defending as though their lives depended on it, they were hoofing it up the wings or producing superb kicks to touch.
Millar had another shot at goal at forty-six minutes, but it was just out of his range. Ayr’s indiscipline came back to haunt them four minutes later, when replacement winger Andy Wilson was sent to the sin bin for taking Robertson out in the air.
Gala went for touch and the line-out, but despite being a man down, Ayr smothered any scoring chances. Centres Mark Stewart and Curle combined well to track down the dangerous Gala backs.
However, things went from bad to worse as Ayr’s hooker Stuart Fenwick joined Wilson in the bin at fifty-four minutes after the referee ruled he had deliberately knocked-on. Millar went for the posts, making the scores 10-13.
Ayr tried to get back into the match, but were pinged for crossing and shortly after, knocked-on. The seven-man scrum was holding up well, but the penalties against them kept coming. Millar added another three points at fifty-nine minutes, helping Gala to pull away at 10-16.
Ayr got the chance to try and catch up two minutes later, but Curle missed the penalty kick. Millar slotted another kick at sixty-six minutes to stretch the lead to 10-19. The inevitable occurred at seventy-one minutes with McQuillan barging his way over for the Borderers. Millar missed the conversion, but Gala had gained an unassailable lead of 10-24.
Time ran out for Ayr, who despite breaks from Anderson and Curle couldn’t claw back any more points. It was a disappointing day for everyone involved with Ayr, but a great achievement to make the Cup final three years in a row. Gala were deserving winners on a great day for men’s and women’s club rugby in Scotland.
- Eléna Hogarth.