Saturday, 31 March 2012

Ayr battle into RBS Cup final

Ayr 30 Boroughmuir 25

There’s something about Ayr and the Scottish Cup.  No matter what has come before – in this case, a hugely disappointing loss to Gala last week – the men in pink and black always manage to lift their game for the Cup.  It was no different on Saturday afternoon, as they took on Boroughmuir to book a place in the final at Murrayfield.

Despite an excellent take by Boroughmuir at the kick-off, it was Ayr who started better, nosing ahead with a penalty after two minutes.  Robbie Fergusson’s kick got the scoreboard going at 3-0. 
Ayr certainly seemed the more forceful side, with backs and forwards attempting to burst through the Boroughmuir defence.  A sustained period of pick-and-go came to nothing though, as the Meggatland team were just too doughty on their own line.

Ayr’s outside centre Ross Curle and right winger Andy Wilson got their hands on the ball and combined well to move play up the park.  Another kickable penalty followed at eleven minutes, Fergusson again being successful and making the scores 6-0.  The crowd only had to wait a minute before Curle shot over the line for the first try.  Fergusson converted for a 13-0 lead.

Boroughmuir got themselves on the scoreboard soon after, with Ally Warnock kicking a penalty, to make it 13-3.  Their roving play soon brought more points, as inside centre Stevie Wilson appeared on the wing and touched down for a try.  Warnock couldn’t convert to take the scores beyond 13-8.

Ayr kept up the pressure, with a charge down from back row replacement Andy Dunlop and a great foray up the wing from Wilson.  However, it was hooker Stuart Fenwick who crossed the line for Ayr’s second try, just sneaking in at the corner.  Fergusson missed the tricky conversion from the touchline, but Ayr still led 18-8.

Just as the crowd were beginning to relax, Boroughmuir came storming back, with a try from flanker Alex Henderson, converted by Warnock.  At 18-15, the men in blue and green were creeping closer.  Wilson again pinned his ears back on the wing, but lost the ball in a ferocious tackle.  Returning captain Mark Stewart also looked to be breaking away when crossing was deemed to have occurred.  A high tackle just before half-time gave Boroughmuir another shot at goal, which Warnock successfully took, making the scores 18-18.

Composure was needed from both teams as the second half began.  Ayr were instantly in their opponents’ half thanks to a beauty of a kick from Fergusson and planned on staying there.  An excellent drive from the pack had the crowding roaring, but it was Fergusson’s chip for Curle that had them on their feet.  Alas, it was a Boroughmuir hand that got to it first as it bobbled over the try line.

Boroughmuir’s scrum-half Sam Johnson made an excellent break to take the action right up to Ayr’s try line, but some terrific defence and scavenging from the home side led to a turn-over and a kick from lock Colin White that any back would be proud of.

At fifty-four minutes, Ayr’s third try came from the ever-popular Zimbabwean prop Denford Mutamangira, who received raucous applause from the fans when he was substituted shortly after burrowing over the line.  Fergusson converted to make the scores 25-18.  Fergusson had another shot at goal soon after, but missed the penalty kick.

Yet again, Boroughmuir refused to be bowed, which is perhaps what led to the horrible-looking high tackle on replacement scrum-half AJ Macfarlane.  Despite the crowd’s calls for a yellow card, no-one was sent to the bin.  The incident seemed to unsettle Ayr, as they missed their kick for touch. 

Shortly after, Boroughmuir’s giant Dutch winger Sep Visser (brother of Edinburgh’s giant Dutch winger Tim) appeared out of nowhere and almost ran the length of the pitch for a superb individual try.  Warnock’s conversion levelled the scores at 25-25.

With ten minutes to go, Ayr worked their way slowly and surely back into Boroughmuir’s half.  After some rumblings at the corner and a conference between referee and linesman, Andy Dunlop was judged to have scored a try.  It went unconverted, but Ayr were back in the lead at 30-25.

Boroughmuir and Visser were not done yet, with the powerful winger once again making for the try line.  Only a brilliant covering tackle from White stopped him.  It seemed like the whistle would never be blown, but Ayr kept ball in hand and it was finally booted on to the stand roof which was duly raised by the Millbrae fans as their team grabbed their place in the RBS Cup final for the third year in a row.  Final score, Ayr 30 Boroughmuir 25.

- Eléna Hogarth

Friday, 30 March 2012

Ayr v Boroughmuir preview

After the crushing disappointment of last Saturday's loss, Ayr go into their RBS Cup semi-final against Boroughmuir looking not only for redemption but also the chance to compete in the Scottish Cup final for the third year in a row. 

Ayr's influential captain Mark Stewart returns to the starting line-up, having managed to shrug off a niggling injury.  Bright young things Murray McConnell and Robbie Fergusson are reunited at scrum-half and fly-half respectively.  This is a huge game, with both teams desperate to get to Murrayfield for finals day on Saturday 21st April. 

"It goes without saying that this is now the biggest game of the season," head coach Kenny Murray said.  "Boroughmuir are likely to take some confidence from their win against us at Meggatland a few weeks ago.  But this is the Cup and we are the Cup holders.  Our players are determined to get to Murrayfield and keep that trophy."

A raucous crowd is, as ever, expected at Millbrae and Murray hopes the team will send the supporters home happy.

Team (subject to change on match day):
Denford Mutamangira, Stuart Fenwick, Gordon Sykes; Scott Sutherland, Colin White; John Willis, Robbie Colhoun, Graham Fisken; Murray McConnell, Robbie Ferguson; Steven Manning, Mark Stewart (captain), Ross Curle, Andy Wilson, Grant Anderson.
Subs: Andrew Macfarlane, Andrew Kelly, Andrew Dunlop, AJ Macfarlane, Cammy Taylor.

Good luck!

Ayr v Boroughmuir, kick-off 3pm, Millbrae.


Sunday, 25 March 2012

Ayr v Gala match report

Ayr 29 Gala 40

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

Friday, 23 March 2012

Ayr v Gala preview

After last week's six-try extravaganza against Currie, Ayr's chances of grabbing a place in next season's British and Irish Cup improved.  However, a win over Gala at Millbrae this weekend is vital if the men in pink and black want to keep their hopes of qualification alive.  Gala will come into the match with their tails high after a good win over Melrose last week. 

Reflecting on the win at Malleny, Ayr's head coach Kenny Murray said: "Despite missing some key players last week, we performed well and to score five tries before half-time was very encouraging."

Murray, though, is looking forward to a great clash with Gala.  "Like many other games in Premier A, this is a must-win game for both teams, with a cup final feeling to it."

There are two changes to the starting line-up, with prop Denford Mutamangira coming in for Gordon Reid, who returns to pro duty with Glasgow Warriors.  Richard Dalgleish replaces Cammy Taylor on the wing. 

A special mention goes to Ayr's Under-20s internationalists Murray McConnell, who takes his place on the bench, and Robbie Fergusson who starts again at fly-half.  Fergusson played two games in twenty-four hours last week, having turned out for Scotland in their dramatic win against Italy Under-20s, and then, just a few hours later, hopped on a flight to Edinburgh to take on Currie. 

Team (subject to change on match day):
Denford Mutamangira, Stewart Fenwick, Gordon Sykes; Scott Sutherland, Colin White; Jonno Willis, Rob Colhoun, Andy Dunlop; AJ Macfarlane, Robbie Fergusson; Andy Wilson, Steven Manning, Ross Curle, Richard Dalgleish, Grant Anderson.
Subs: Graham Fisken, Andy Macfarlane, Pa Thompson, Murray McConnell, Sylvain Diez.

Good luck!

Ayr v Gala, kick-off 3pm, Millbrae.

A quick reminder that it is a charity fun day on Saturday, with all funds raised going to the Vanessa Riddle Appeal.  The lucky ladies will be lunching before kick-off, but the fun continues post-match.  See the social pages for details.  Remember to bring some (not so) spare change for the rattling buckets!


Friday, 16 March 2012

Currie v Ayr preview

Ayr head into their tie against rivals Currie on Saturday knowing they must convincingly win every match left of their Premier A campaign to qualify for next season's British and Irish Cup.  Their efforts will be boosted by the return of Gordon Reid to the front row, as he is released by his pro team Glasgow Warriors for the clash at Malleny Park, and is joined by fellow Warrior Mike Cusack.  Following their impressive displays for Scotland Club XV, Rob Colhoun, Ross Curle and Scott Sutherland are back in pink and black. 

Coach Kenny Murray says of the crucial encounter: "This is a huge game for Ayr and is a must-win if we have any chance of getting a British and Irish Cup place.  Games against Currie are always physical encounters and this week's game will be no different."

Team (subject to change on match day):
Gordon Reid, Stewart Fenwick, Gordon Sykes; Scott Sutherland, Colin White; Jonno Willis, Rob Colhoun, Andy Dunlop; AJ Macfarlane, TBA; Cammy Taylor, Steven Manning, Ross Curle, Andy Wilson, Grant Anderson.
Subs: Mike Cusack, Denford Mutamangira, Andy Macfarlane, Graham Fisken, Sylvain Diez, Richard Dalgleish.

Good luck!

Currie v Ayr, kick-off 3pm, Malleny Park, Balerno, Edinburgh.


Tuesday, 13 March 2012

McConnell gets start in final U20s game of Six Nations

Ayr's talented scrum-half Murray McConnell has been named in the starting line-up of Scotland Under-20s' final match of their Six Nations campaign.  Peter Wright's youngsters head to Calvisano, Brescia to take on the Italian Under-20s side in an effort to bounce back from last week's tough loss to the Irish.  Having warmed the bench for much of the tournament, McConnell finally gets the chance to make an impact from the get-go.  His Ayr team-mate Robbie Fergusson is among the substitutes.  Former Ayr player Mark Bennett keeps his place at outside centre.  The full story is available here.

The match kicks off at 6pm, and updates are available at  EH

Friday, 9 March 2012

Whitecraigs concede West Regional Cup final

Due to an injury crisis, Whitecraigs have had to pull out of tomorrow's West Regional Cup final.  Struggling all week to put together a full team to face Ayr, Whitecraigs have conceded the tie, sending Ayr into the Scottish Cup semi-finals, where they will face either Boroughmuir or Heriots.  EH

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Ayr players back in action for Scotland

After their impressive display at Millbrae, Scotland's Club XV head to Old Belvedere, Dublin to take on Ireland this Friday (kick-off 6.30pm).  Once again, some of Ayr's finest take up starting positions.  Ross Curle will hope to repeat his try-scoring display, as he is named again at outside centre.  Scott Sutherland is back in the second row and man-of-the-match from a fortnight ago Rob Colhoun keeps his place in the back row.  Read the full story here.

Ayr's young guns Murray McConnell and Robbie Fergusson take their places on the bench for the Scotland Under 20s' match against their Irish counterparts on Friday at Dubarry Park, Athlone (kick-off 7.05pm).  Former Ayr tyro Mark Bennett, now playing for French Top 14 side Clermont Auvergne, makes his long-awaited comeback from injury to start at outside centre.  Read the full story here.

Good luck to all!