Ayr faced a redoubtable Edinburgh Accies side on Saturday at Millbrae in the RBS Premiership, but overcame their spirited challenge to score four tries, securing a precious bonus point and putting themselves three points clear of Gala at the top of the table.
The home team dominated the first half, getting on the scoreboard just six minutes into proceedings. After some excellent work at the line-out from second row Scott Sutherland and a trademark bullocking run from prop Denford Mutamangira, Sutherland's fellow lock Nick Campbell (pictured above) barrelled over for a try, much to the delight of the packed stand. Scrum-half Peter Jericevich missed the conversion. 5-0.
Things got a little frantic, with both sides knocking-on several times. Accies proved themselves an almost immovable force in the scrum, but Ayr dominated the line-outs, with some superb takes from Sutherland, Campbell and captain Calum Forrester.
At fourteen minutes, Ayr's second try was scored. Centre Dean Kelbrick and full-back Grant Anderson were within centimetres of touching down just a few phases earlier, but it was prop Nick Cox who crossed for another five points. Jericevich couldn't make it seven. 10-0.
Four minutes later, Accies got on the scoreboard with a penalty kicked by Ruairidh Bonner. 10-3.
This spurred Accies on, with winger Sam Pecqueuer making an impressive charge up the pitch. He was, however, unceremoniously stopped in his tracks by his opposite number Robbie Fergusson.
A few minutes later, Fergusson showcased his own fleet footwork, touching down in the corner for Ayr's third try. The tricky touchline conversion from Jericevich didn't go over. 15-3.
Ayr got a ticking off from referee Andrew McMenemy for repeated infringements, and Accies took advantage with a kickable penalty, easily slotted by Bonner. 15-6.
As half-time loomed, Ayr looked to be over the try line again, but Craig Gossman was held-up by some sturdy Accies defence.
Accies stepped up their attack considerably in the second half, scoring their only try at forty-four minutes, Pecqueuer taking advantage of yet another strong scrum to barge over the line. Bonner missed the conversion, but that wasn't surprising with Jericevich charging full pelt at him. 15-11.
The visitors continued to apply pressure, but Ayr worked very hard to secure a valuable turn-over on their own 22. Slight panic seemed to creep into the home side's game but some good defence from Kelbrick, Hayden Wisnewski and Gossman steadied the ship. They moved play up into Accies' half and an excellent drive from yet another great take at the line-out from Campbell led to a sustained period of attack.
It looked like Cox was over for another try, but his efforts were thwarted by Accies' defence. A few minutes later, as the game entered the final quarter, replacement hooker Wisnewski found his way over the line. Ross Curle took over kicking duties, and with the conversion plum in front of the posts, grabbed the extras. 22-11.
Accies' handling errors returned to haunt them, as knocks-on put paid to any more points.
There was a stoppage of some minutes as Gossman received treatment. Heroic in defence all afternoon, there were gasps from the crowd as he lay flat out on the pitch, but the tough wee nugget got back to his feet and played on.
It looked like Accies might have the final say, but Ayr's strong defence bundled them into touch before they could get to the line. A few moments later, Curle gladly booted the ball off the pitch and the referee blew the whistle for full-time.
Man-of-the-match was Nick Campbell, and the final score was Ayr 22 Edinburgh Accies 11.
- Elena Hogarth