Ayr overcame a stubborn Glasgow Hawks and a tricky first half to secure a bonus point away win, scoring five tries along the way.
It was billed as a west coast derby and with several former Hawks players in the Ayr ranks, there was always going to be an edge to the contest.
The home side were the more nervous, knocking on at the kick-off. Ayr used the possession superbly, stand-off Finn Russell kicking on and outside centre Ross Curle and wing Craig Gossman moving the ball to the line. A pile-up ensued and second row Callum Templeton burrowed over for a try with just a minute on the clock. Russell couldn't get the extras. 0-5.
Hawks settled down and inside centre David Milne and number eight Ross Miller ventured into Ayr's half. At four minutes, full-back James Gormley successfully kicked a penalty. 3-5.
Despite the quick start, proceedings slowed, the scrums in particular taking an age until both front rows were given a lecture by the referee. The line-outs, too, weren't working well for Ayr, with a few knocks-on. Losing captain Calum Forrester to an injury didn't help either.
Hawks camped out in Ayr's half but couldn't break through the visitors' defence, Gossman in particular putting in some lion-hearted tackles on nippy Gormley. Ayr were caught off-side at twenty-one minutes and Gormley kicked another penalty. 6-5.
Four minutes later, Ayr full-back Grant Anderson brought the attack to life with some strong running and a neat pass to unleash Gossman before scrum-half Murray McConnell darted unchallenged through Hawks' defence and scored. Russell's conversion curled in. 6-12.
Stylish running from Kerr Gossman got Ayr out of their own half and an exciting dash up the wing from his elder brother brought the crowd to life, but with Curle tackled minus the ball, the move came to nothing. The stop-start nature of the match meant it wasn't living up to the hype.
Just before half-time, Hawks nosed in front with a try from scrum-half Paddy Boyer and conversion by Gormley. 13-12.
Ayr sharpened up their line-out in the second half, with assured takes from Templeton and Scott Sutherland. But Hawks stretched their lead after Gormley stormed up the wing and dived over for a try. There was just no stopping him. He couldn't convert his own score though, nicely distracted by Ayr's replacement scrum-half Peter Jericevich charging at him. 18-12.
A few minutes later and, thanks to some clever running from Russell, Ayr worked their way to Hawks' line and Jericevich dug the ball out of a pile of bodies and dotted down. Russell was unsuccesful with the conversion. 18-17.
Man-of-the-match Curle was leading in defence and attack, as was Templeton, who seemed to be enjoying stretching those long legs. A gallop from him took Ayr into Hawks' 22 and it looked like Anderson would score only to knock on.
The visitors didn't have long to wait for another try. Some poaching at the line-out got the ball to Craig Gossman, who kicked up the wing and collected neatly to touch down in the corner. Curle converted. 18-24.
Things really livened up with tremendous tackling from prop Denford Mutamangira and flanker Graham Fisken leading to turnovers. Ayr began to unsettle Hawks' scrum too and the home side got sloppy. At sixty-eight minutes, Jericevich had a shot at goal after Hawks were penalised for being offside, but the ball hit the post.
Two minutes later and inside centre Robbie Fergusson sliced his way through the Hawks defence with some brilliantly angled running to score a well-deserved try. Curle couldn't convert. 18-29.
Ayr weren't breathing a sigh of relief just yet. Gormley was again applying pressure in attack and the extremely mobile Miller was managing to outstrip the Ayr defence. He appeared from the back of a maul and crossed the whitewash with a few minutes to go. Jericevich's charge again put Gormley off his convervsion attempt. 23-29.
Gormley, Miller and hooker Finlay Gillies were rumbling about the pitch but to no avail. The match ended with an exchange of penalties, Curle and Gormley each successfully getting three extra points for their teams.
It may not have been the rip-roaring derby everyone was hoping for, but it was another good away win for Ayr.
Final score: Glasgow Hawks 26 Ayr 32.
- Eléna Hogarth
Photos by Rob Hardie of Touchline Images.
Photos by Rob Hardie of Touchline Images.