It was a subdued Millbrae crowd who watched a tame Ayr side go down to Heriot's on a cold, dull afternoon yesterday.
The visitors had managed to pip Ayr to the post by one point when they had played at Goldenacre earlier in the season and another close game was expected. But Heriot's stamped their authority on the match from the get-go and Ayr could do nothing to get into it.
The opening proceedings were fairly even between the two sides, with each having possession and looking to launch attacks through the backs. But it was Heriot's who had the spring in their step and inside centre Cameron Ferguson broke through the Ayr defence to release winger Max Nimmo for a try under the posts at eight minutes. Scrum-half Graham Wilson converted. 0-7.
Ayr hooker Fergus Scott was in a lively mood all afternoon and he tidied up a scrappy line-out to burst through the Heriot's defenders and start the home side's first properly threatening attack. The ball was quickly moved through the backs until it found full-back and captain Grant Anderson, but he was bundled into touch.
With Ayr's Peter Jericevich making his first start of the season at stand-off, there were effectively two scrum-halves on the pitch and this certainly speeded up the passing, but Heriot's defenders were all over the backs and Ayr could barely breach the 22.
Heriot's Nimmo and his fellow winger Liam Steele were rock solid in defence, as well as itching for any opportunity to break, Steele chipping on but finding no way through. Another kick from Heriot's was charged down by Ayr winger Kerr Gossman and nicely collected by second row Scott Sutherland, who passed to inside centre Robbie Fergusson, but again, they got nowhere.
The game descended into the dreaded aerial ping-pong, as both teams seemed unsure what to do with the ball and aimlessly kicked it back and forth.
When Heriot's finally decided to keep the ball in hand, they were penalised for holding on and Ayr outside centre Ross Curle made a lovely kick for touch, giving the Millbrae men an excellent position in which to attack from the line-out. Prop Nick Cox made for the line only for the referee to adjudge that he had been held up.
It all went wrong for Ayr after that, with a handling error from Anderson on his own line allowing Nimmo to pounce on the loose ball for his second try at thirty minutes. Wilson got the conversion from out wide. 0-14.
Ayr tried to get keep their heads, although Jericevich seemed to have his squeezed by a Heriot's defender in a high tackle. But Ayr had the penalty reversed when flanker Andrew Dunlop saw red and tipped a Heriot's man off the pitch, causing referee David Changleng to bring out the yellow card with a few minutes to go in the first half.
Ayr can be commended for not leaking any points when down to fourteen men, with winger Craig Gossman once again putting in tackles with belie his stature.
Ayr number eight Graham Fisken and Dunlop, when he returned from the sin bin, made breaks but they were unsupported and Heriot's turned over.
Wilson had his first kickable penalty at fifty minutes but the ball sailed wide of the posts.
Ayr were getting shoved about in the scrum but were still managing to get the ball away to the backs. It was just the last ten metres to the tryline that the Gossman brothers couldn't make. It was through no fault of their own but thanks to the Heriot's defenders who were swarming all over them.
With the crowd roaring that the visitors were off-side on several occasions, it was the home team who were penalised for it at fifty-nine minutes and Wilson got the ball over the crossbar this time. 0-17.
The men in pink and black weren't about to end the match scoreless as the final fifteen minutes loomed. Anderson used his trademark strong running to evade the Heriot's defence and cross for a much-needed try. Russell couldn't make the wide conversion. 5-17.
The Millbrae faithful always believe, but it became quite clear that their players weren't going to be able to mount a comeback. Despite attacks from Curle and Fergusson and a cross-field kick from Russell for Craig Gossman to catch - which he did, only for him to be pushed into touch - Ayr could get no more points.
Final score: Ayr 5 Heriot's 17.
- Elena Hogarth.