Thursday, 31 January 2013

Ayr v Cartha QP preview

Ayr's RBS West Regional Cup semi-final at Millbrae against Cartha Queen's Park has something of a personal edge to it.  Ayr head coach Kenny Murray and assistant coach Peter Laverie are life members of Cartha and the club is used as a pick-up point by Ayr's bus, so players and coaches on both sides are well known to each other.

Despite the differences in leagues, Ayr are taking the tie very seriously.

"Cartha have a strong pack and some very experienced backs and will be looking to put one over us," says Laverie.

He identifies Graham Williamson, Peter Hollier, Nicol Smylie, Andy Scott, Andrew Noble and Alan Howie as Cartha's danger men. 

"We've analysed Cartha's set piece and phase play and have prepared accordingly," Laverie continues.  "This is an absolute nugget of a derby.  Both teams know each other well and the clubs enjoy an excellent relationship."

The most notable change to the line-up from last week's RBS Premiership tussle with Heriot's is David Young at hooker, who has impressed in his outings for the 2nd XV.  Graham Fisken starts at blindside flanker and experienced winger Cammy Taylor takes his place on the bench.

Team (subject to change on match day):

15. Grant Anderson, 14. Craig Gossman, 13. Ross Curle, 12. Dean Kelbrick, 11. Kerr Gossman; 10. Finn Russell, 9. Peter Jericevich; 1. Byron Schmidt, 2. David Young, 3. Nick Cox; 4. Scott Sutherland, 5. Colin White; 6. Graham Fisken, 7. Andrew Dunlop, 8. Calum Forrester (capt).


16. Ross Doneghan, 17. Stuart Fenwick, 18. Shingai Mpofu, 19. Richard Dalgleish, 20. Cammy Taylor.

Please note the early kick-off of 1.30pm.


Sunday, 27 January 2013

Heriot's 16 Ayr 22

Ayr overcame a doggedly determined Heriot's and their own indiscipline to record a tough away win at Goldenacre yesterday in freezing cold conditions.

Heriot's began in great style with some fantastic handling but, whether it was the drop in temperature or pressure from the visitors, fumbled several passes and missed out on many a chance to get early points on the board.

Heriot's inside centre Cameron Ferguson always seemed to be threatening to break, but he and his fellow backs were quickly closed down by Ayr, with scrum-half Peter Jericevich and winger Craig Gossman, two of the smallest players on the pitch, leading the way with some excellent tackles.

It was fairly scrappy until, at sixteen minutes, Gossman chipped up the wing for Ross Curle to chase.  Ayr's flamboyant outside centre touched down in his usual inimitable style.  Fly-half Finn Russell missed the conversion.  0-5.

Six minutes later, Heriot's replied with a great break from winger Max Nimmo that led to a fine try by hooker Kevin Bryce.  Scrum-half and captain Graham Wilson's conversion attempt hit the post.  5-5.

The travelling supporters were biting their nails for the rest of the half, watching Heriot's backs making some exciting breaks and stealing Ayr's scrum.  At twenty-eight minutes, the home side nudged their nose in front with a successful penalty kick from Wilson.  8-5.

Three minutes later, Ayr's misery was compounded when replacement centre Robbie Fergusson was sin-binned for off-side.  The men in pink and black didn't panic, and full-back Grant Anderson steadied the ship with some superior tactical kicking whilst under considerable pressure.

Five minutes before half-time, Russell brought the scores level with a successful penalty kick.  8-8.

The second half started badly for Ayr, with Anderson having a kick charged down, and Heriot's winger Michael Paterson crossing the whitewash.  Wilson's conversion again hit the post.  13-8.

Ayr's squad was bolstered by Glasgow Warriors' props Ed Kalman and Jon Welsh, who are making come-backs from long-term injuries.  Both played well, but it was Welsh who was sniffing out the scoring opportunities, crossing for his first try at forty-eight minutes.  Russell got the extras from a difficult angle.  13-15.

The home side got straight back into attack but could only get a chance at a penalty goal, which Wilson missed. 

Replacement scrum-half Murray McConnell made his presence felt with a terrific dart from the base of the scrum to the Heriot's try line but was tackled just in the nick of time.  Someone in pink and black seemed to burrow over, but referee Phil Davies needed his assistant to confirm that Welsh had indeed grabbed a try.  Russell converted.  13-22.

Ayr showed some real ambition in both attack - hooker Stuart Fenwick galloping his way up the park - and defence - Kalman's crunching tackle causing knocks-on - but it was momentarily undone by Nick Campbell's yellow card at sixty-seven minutes.  The big second row did not retire ten metres and the man with the whistle was swift in sending him to the bin.  Wilson successfully kicked the penalty.  16-22.

Ayr's scrum was under pressure without Campbell, but Heriot's couldn't capitalise on the extra man, juggling the ball like a hot potato on Ayr's 22.  The visitors defended with a calm resolve and despite Heriot's best efforts, the score remained 16-22 until the final whistle.

- Elena Hogarth

Friday, 25 January 2013

Heriot's v Ayr preview

Ayr head to Goldenacre on Saturday to face Heriot's, knowing that they can't afford to take their foot off the gas with only four ties left in this season's RBS Premiership.  Heriot's ran Ayr close at their last encounter at Millbrae in September and will have the added home advantage.

"With a game in hand over Melrose who sit above them in the league, Heriot's will be desperate to secure that fourth spot and a return to British and Irish Cup action," says Ayr head coach Kenny Murray.  "Heriot's will have our full respect and attention this Saturday."

He adds: "In what remains a tight and exciting league, this match throws up the prospect of a really tough encounter."

Ayr's squad is bolstered by two Glasgow Warriors on the injury comeback trail.  Props Ed Kalman and Jon Welsh have been regular draftees for Ayr over the past few seasons and have turned out for Stirling County in recent B&I Cup matches.

Besides their addition, there are few changes to the team that faced Hillhead/Jordanhill in the RBS West Regional Cup a fortnight ago.  Centre/winger Robbie Fergusson drops to the bench following his Scotland under-20s duties.  Stuart Fenwick starts at hooker with David Young amongst the replacements, where he is joined by back rower Graham Fisken, who has recovered from a dead leg.

Team (subject to change on match day):

Grant Anderson, Craig Gossman, Ross Curle, Dean Kelbrick, Kerr Gossman; Finn Russell, Peter Jericevich; Nick Cox, Stuart Fenwick, Jon Welsh; Scott Sutherland, Nick Campbell; Colin White, Andrew Dunlop, Calum Forrester (capt).


David Young, Ed Kalman, Graham Fisken, Robbie Fergusson, Murray McConnell.

Kick-off 2pm.  Follow score updates on Facebook or Twitter.


Friday, 18 January 2013

GHA v Ayr preview

Ayr will - weather permitting - play their fifth match in fifteen days tomorrow in their rearranged RBS West Regional Cup tie against GHA.  Wintery conditions scuppered the game in its original slot last month and the continuing cold spell could see the match relocated or cancelled again.  The frost covers are down at GHA's ground but Ayr have also offered to hold it at Millbrae, should Braidholm succumb to the cold.

Both teams are eager, however, for the tie to go ahead, with GHA head coach Stuart Lang keen for his players to be tested against the Premiership leaders.

"From our team selection, we have given GHA every respect," says Ayr head coach Kenny Murray, "as they have some very good players and it is right that they have those goals.  GHA have a good back division and some very promising young forwards.  With some very good performances this season, they have given themselves a real chance of securing the one promotion spot in Championship A."

Murray continues: "The Cup is very important to us, having played in the last three finals and winning twice, so we will definitely be going all-out for a victory on Saturday."

Ayr are fielding a full-strength team, with only Graham Fisken missing due to a dead leg.

Team (subject to change on match day):

Grant Anderson, Kerr Gossman, Ross Curle, Dean Kelbrick, Craig Gossman; Finn Russell, Murray McConnell; Byron Schmidt, Stuart Fenwick, Nick Cox; Scott Sutherland, Colin White; Ross Doneghan, Andrew Dunlop, Calum Forrester (capt).


D'arcy Rae, David Young, Shingai Mpofu, Peter Jericevich, Robbie Fergusson.

Please keep an eye on our website, Facebook page and Twitter feed for updates on the location and status of this match.


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Seven Ayr players in Scotland Club International squad

The squad for this year's Scotland Club International fixtures against Ireland and France has been announced and seven Ayr players have been named along with collegues from all ten RBS Premiership clubs and two players from the RBS National League.

Backs Ross Curle, Craig Gossman, Murray McConnell and Dean Kelbrick join forwards Nick Cox, George Hunter and Scott Sutherland in the 36-man squad.  The Ayr men will hopefully get the chance to turn out at their home ground of Millbrae, as it hosts the Scotland v Ireland Club International on Friday 8th March. 

Last year's match at Millbrae against a French XV - won by Scotland 25-18 - was extremely well attended, and we look forward to welcoming many fans again in March.

Read the full story here.


Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Ayr v Ardrossan preview

Ayr are still playing catch-up on their delayed RBS West Regional Cup matches, and this evening welcome Ardrossan Academicals to Millbrae.  It's been a busy few weeks for the men in pink and black, with head coach Kenny Murray keeping his mind on his players' well-being.

"Squad management is important in terms of keeping players fresh and giving everyone an opportunity to stake a claim for a first XV place," he says.  "A number of players who have been playing well for the 2nds have been selected and several players coming back from injury will get another playing opportunity to improve their match fitness."

One such player is Kerr Gossman, who after his hat-trick on Saturday against Hillhead/Jordanhill, continues his comeback from long-term injury.  His elder brother Craig, also a hat-trick scorer at the weekend, is rested along with Ross Curle, Dean Kelbrick and Murray McConnell in the backs and forwards Nick Cox, Denford Mutamangira, Hayden Wisnewski, Andrew Dunlop, Colin White and captain Calum Forrester.

Graham Fisken returns to the squad, linking up with Ross Doneghan and Shingai Mpofu in the back row.  Under-18s prop Alan Miller and fellow youngsters Gavin Lowe, Ben Rankin and Scott Houston make the move from the 2nds to take their places on the bench.

Team (subject to change on match day):

Grant Anderson (capt), Kerr Gossman, Robbie Fergusson, Richard Dalgleish, Cammy Taylor; Finn Russell, Peter Jericevich; Byron Schmidt, Stuart Fenwick, D'arcy Rae; Craig Brown, Scott Sutherland; Shingai Mpofu, Ross Doneghan, Graham Fisken.

Replacements: David Young, Alan Miller, Ben Rankin, Gavin Lowe, Scott Houston.

Kick-off 7.30pm!

- Elena Hogarth

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Hillhead/Jordanhill 5 Ayr 55

It may have been a nippy day at Hughenden but Ayr turned up the heat with a nine-try victory over Hillhead/Jordanhill in their postponed RBS West Regional Cup match.

Hills appeared to get off to the better start with a good break from winger Andy Leslie, but it was Ayr who nabbed the first try after just five minutes.  Captain Calum Forrester went over for the score.  Fly-half Finn Russell claimed the conversion.  0-7.

The next ten minutes or so were a bit ragged, with loose passes from Hills and Ayr unable to take advantage of their mistakes and infringements.  But there was some determined defence from the visitors, with second row Scott Sutherland putting in a huge thumping tackle on Hills flanker Geoff Dunne.

Hills got their first chance to get some points on the board but scrum-half Davie Armstrong missed the penalty kick.

At twenty-four minutes, Ayr prop Nick Cox got the next score, bundling over for a try after some impressive charges.  Russell got the extras.  0-14.

The messy play came back with knocks-on and forward passes, but Ayr capitalised with a try from winger Craig Gossman.  Russell missed the conversion.  0-19.

Five minutes into the second half and Ayr were scoring again, this time replacement scrum-half Murray McConnell crossing the whitewash.  Russell couldn't get the conversion.  0-24.

The Ayr backs were enjoying stretching their legs with some scintillating breaks from full-back Grant Anderson and outside centre Ross Curle.  It was Curle's fast footwork and slick passing that led to the elder Gossman's second try.  Russell's successful conversion brought the scores to 0-31 at fifty-two minutes.

Hills' troubles were exacerbated by the sin-binning of Armstrong for a professional foul at fifty-six minutes.  Two minutes later, Kerr Gossman, making his long-awaited return from a broken hand, flew up the wing for try number six.  Russell's conversion attempt was short.  0-36.

The younger Gossman had clearly decided not to let big brother hog the limelight and snatched another score - from a terrific break by replacement centre Robbie Fergusson - mere minutes after his first.  Russell was again short with the conversion.  0-41.

Replacement hooker Hayden Wisnewski proved he could motor just as well as Ayr's backs and his nifty footwork led to yet another try for a Gossman - this time Craig.  Russell slotted the conversion.  0-48.

It was a degrading scoreline for the home side, but they kept their chins up and took their chances where they could.  Second row David Fisken fought his way over the line for Hills' only try.  Leslie couldn't convert.  5-48.

With eight minutes to go, Ayr found themselves down to fourteen men when Curle let himself down by being sin-binned.  Hills applied some pressure, second row Jonny Agnew bagging an interception but it came to nothing.

Kerr Gossman matched Craig's hat-trick, when he grabbed his third and Ayr's ninth try in the final seconds of the match.  Russell converted with ease to make the final score 5-55.

- Elena Hogarth

Friday, 11 January 2013

Hills v Ayr preview

There's no rest for the wicked, and after victories over Melrose last weekend in the RBS Premiership and then on Tuesday in a friendly against the Scotland under-20s, Ayr square up to Hillhead/Jordanhill in their postponed RBS West Regional Cup encounter.

Undefeated in the Cup and leading the Premiership, Ayr head to Hughenden under no illusion that this will be an easy run-out, especially as Hills had such a good win over Watsonians last week.

"We are not underestimating how difficult this match may be," says Ayr head coach Kenny Murray.  "We have three remaining Cup games and we will be looking to play with the same accuracy and intensity as we have been playing in the last few months."

"With players coming back from injury and competition increasing for a number of positions," he continues, "the Cup gives us a chance to try different combinations and give fringe players a chance."

The most notable inclusion in the this week's team is winger Kerr Gossman, who gets his first start in many months after recovering from a broken hand. 

Ross Doneghan starts at blindside flanker after an impressive performance against the Scotland under-20s.  Zimbabwean international Shingai Mpofu also had a good game on Tuesday evening and takes his place on the bench.

Team (subject to change on match day):

Grant Anderson, Craig Gossman, Ross Curle, Dean Kelbrick, Kerr Gossman; Finn Russell, Peter Jericevich; Byron Schmidt, Stuart Fenwick, Nick Cox; Colin White, Scott Sutherland; Ross Doneghan, Andrew Dunlop, Calum Forrester (capt).

Replacements: Hayden Wisnewski, D'arcy Rae, Shingai Mpofu, Murray McConnell, Robbie Fergusson.

Please note that kick-off is 2pm.

- Elena Hogarth

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Ayr Rugby Academy in today's Scotsman

Colin White, academy manager and first XV regular, speaks to David Ferguson about the academy and developing rugby both at Ayr and nationally, in today's Scotsman.  Read the full story here.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Ayr 32 Melrose 24

Playing Melrose home or away is always a challenge, and Ayr certainly found their first match of 2013 a hard-fought encounter as the Borderers snapped at their heels like the proverbial terrier.

Ayr shot out of the blocks with some early pressure.  Although they struggled with the forceful Melrose scrum, the home side made plenty of ground thanks to the bulldozing efforts of prop Denford Mutamangira. 

It was his fellow front-rower Nick Cox who got the first score at just four minutes, when he plunged over Melrose's try line.  Fly-half Finn Russell slotted the conversion.  7-0.

Ayr were in a marauding mood in the first half, turning over several times and stealing Melrose's line-out throws.  They didn't have it all their own way, giving away too many penalties.  It was clearly a tense affair, as Melrose knocked-on once too often (as did Ayr) and brief scuffles broke out.

Ayr kept their eyes on the prize though, getting their second try at ten minutes, with hooker Hayden Wisnewski burrowing over after a series of attempts to break the doughty Melrose defence.  The Ayr front row may have struggled in the set-pieces, but they more than made up for it elsewhere.  Russell missed the conversion, making the score 12-0.

Ross Curle seemed delighted to be back at Millbrae after an extended period on the sidelines due to a ban, and showed some magic, taking a high ball and shooting off up the park.  He wasn't the only one with some gas, as captain and number eight Calum Forrester flying on more than one occasion.

It was Curle's centre partner Dean Kelbrick who claimed the next try at twenty-five minutes, displaying superb footwork to race up the right wing after Cox barged his way through several defenders.  Russell couldn't manage the extras.  17-0.

Melrose began to string together some threatening phases of attack, with fly-half Richard Mill sparking some fire in his backs.  Ayr's winger Robbie Fergusson made some big tackles and Russell put in an assured performance with some good clearance kicks and all-round bossing of the game.

Ayr's scrum problems weren't helped when Mutamangira was replaced due to a knee injury.  At thrity-five minutes, Melrose got their first chance for points when centre Andrew Skeen successfully kicked a penalty.  17-3.

The remaining five minutes of the half were topsy-turvy as the teams traded possession.  Just before half-time, Melrose put considerable pressure on the Ayr scrum and referee Johann van der Merwe tired of it collapsing, eventually awarding the dreaded penalty try.  It was easily converted by Skeen.  Ayr's lead was suddenly disappearing.  17-10.

Ayr aren't the team to panic, but both sides seemed edgy at the start of the second half.  Russell missed a kick for touch, each team was penalised for off-side and Melrose again had problems with their handling. 

Melrose used their strong scrum to gain ground and number eight Andrew Nagle and openside flanker Grant Runciman combined to trundle up the wing.  It looked like Runciman would score, only for Russell to determinedly track him down and drag him to the ground. 

Ayr got back into the swing of things with an exciting try at forty-seven minutes.  Scrum-half Peter Jericevich darted through a gap in the Melrose defence, found the equally nimble Curle who fired the ball back to Jericevich and he flew in under the posts to send the crowd wild.  Russell converted.  24-10.

It began raining fairly steadily and the teams engaged in a little aerial ping-pong.  Ayr again fell foul of the referee, but Melrose couldn't capitalise, knocking-on more than once.  But they camped out on Ayr's line and were only repelled by some ferocious defence from the home side, cheered on vociferously by the large crowd.

The referee once more found Ayr wanting and awarded another penalty try at seventy minutes, converted by Skeen.  24-17.

Three minutes later, Ayr showed real tenacity to grab another try, replacement prop D'arcy Rae and second row Nick Campbell going for the line before Forrester crossed.  Russell's conversion was just wide.  25-17.

Melrose wouldn't lie down though, replying a couple of minutes later with a try from blindside flanker John Dalziel.  Skeen converted to take the score to 29-24

The crowd roared their team on though, despite Melrose's continued attack.  With just a minute to go, Russell stepped up to take a penalty, easily slotting it to make the final score 32-24 and get himself the man of the match award too.

- Elena Hogarth

Friday, 4 January 2013

Ayr v Melrose preview

Ayr's players are refreshed, ready and raring to go against Melrose this Saturday after an extended Christmas break.  It won't be a gentle start to 2013 fixtures as, although Melrose are fourth in the table to Ayr's first and twenty points behind the Premiership leaders, the visitors will be keen to get revenge for the trouncing Ayr gave them at the Greenyards earlier in the season. 

Ayr head coach Kenny Murray sees this season's Premiership structure as levelling out the playing field.

"The beauty of the new ten-team format is that every game will have significant meaning, probably right to the end of the season," he says.  "We are in a situation where every game is a must-win."

Nevertheless, Murray is looking forward to the encounter between his men and the Borderers.

"Games between the two teams have always been a good advert for the club game," he enthuses, "and I expect this one to be as physical and intense as ever."

There are no significant changes to the squad, but Ross Curle starts at outside centre with Robbie Fergusson moving to the wing.

Team (subject to change on match day):

Grant Anderson, Robbie Fergusson, Ross Curle, Dean Kelbrick, Craig Gossman; Finn Russell, Peter Jericevich; Denford Mutamangira, Hayden Wisnewski, Nick Cox; Nick Campbell, Scott Sutherland; Colin White, Andrew Dunlop, Calum Forrester (capt).

Replacements: D'arcy Rae, Stuart Fenwick, Graham Fisken, Murray McConnell, Cammy Taylor.

- Elena Hogarth

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Pat signs new deal with Glasgow Warriors

Ayr hooker and Millbrae favourite Pat McArthur has signed a new deal which keeps him at Glasgow Warriors until 2016. Pat joined Warriors from Ayr in 2009 and the 26 year old, despite some unfortunate injuries, is a well-established figure in the Warriors' squad and must be knocking on the door for international honours.