Sunday, 3 March 2013
Ayr 31 Stirling County 13
Ayr overcame a difficult first half against a determined Stirling County to claim their semi-final spot in the RBS Scottish Cup. On a mild day at Millbrae, the RBS Premiership league champions eventually ran in four tries after a slow start.
Both teams seemed evenly matched to begin with, but it was the visitors who pushed the hardest. Ayr did themselves no favours, their infringements on the Stirling five-metre line leading referee David Changleng to award a penalty try when it seemed County were about to go over and score. With the conversion right in front of the posts, centre Brian Archibald nabbed the extras. After ten minutes, the scoreboard read 0-7.
Five minutes later, Ayr gained a penalty in a kickable position and stand-off Finn Russell bisected the posts with ease. 3-7.
Ayr were a bit more settled with points on the board, and the forwards led the way, with some solid work from teenage prop D'arcy Rae, second row Colin White and openside flanker Andy Dunlop. But errors were still made with forward passes and knocks-on spoiling things, and although Stirling also made mistakes, they continued to wrack up the points, with a drop goal from stand-off Stuart Edwards. 3-10.
The home side didn't panic, with Dunlop, blindside flanker Graham Fisken and prop Denford Mutamangira on the charge. They just couldn't get through the tough County defence though, but the penalties against the visitors - for holding on and coming in from the side - bolstered Ayr. They showed real patience and it was Dunlop who crashed over for a try at thirty-three minutes. Russell nabbed the extras. 10-10.
As half-time loomed, Ayr's scrum-half Peter Jericevich, second row Scott Sutherland and Fisken all showed good hands to move play into Stirling's half, but to no avail.
Just after the resumption of play, Ayr's captain Calum Forrester burst into a canter that had the large crowd yelling him on, but Stirling again somehow got the ball back. Hooker Alex Moffat made a real nuisance of himself, bullocking his way around the pitch.
At forty-seven minutes, the visitors got three more points from another penalty kicked by Archibald. 10-13.
However, County counldn't contain Ayr for long, and outside centre Robbie Fergusson started off the move that led to winger Richard Dalgleish diving over on the right wing for Ayr's second try. It was a difficult conversion for Russell, but he made it. 17-13.
The flood gates opened, and two minutes later, Ayr had another try. Gossman showed some real brilliance to catch a high ball and dance his way through the defence and over the line. Russell again easily slotted the conversion. 24-13.
Ayr continued to infringe, though, and the referee awarded another penalty, but Archibald's kick hit the post.
Stirling weren't downcast, and pressed on with their attacking play, but they came up against some excellent Ayr defence, particularly that of replacement hooker Hayden Wisnewski.
Gossman was on his usual firework-like form, with the tiniest spark setting him off. At twenty-two minutes, he scored again, seemingly coming from nowhere and breaking tackles at will. Russell made another difficult conversion look easy. 31-13.
Ayr fought for most of the possession for the rest of the half, although Stirling did not fade away, but there were no more scores. When County did make a break, courtesy of winger Ross Aitken, it was superbly snuffed out by Dalgleish's doughty defence.
Gossman was unsurprisingly awarded man-of-the-match just as the whistle was blown to send Ayr into the Cup semi-finals. Final score Ayr 31 Stirling County 13.