Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Giving 100%: a chat with Emily Irving

Emily Irving is the latest of Ayr's young stars to be called up to represent Scotland at under-20s level.  The 17-year-old Belmont Academy student made her debut for Scotland Women under-20s on Saturday at Lasswade in their 17-7 victory over their Finnish counterparts - very impressive for someone who only took up rugby last summer. 

"Ayr Ladies is brilliant," she enthuses.  "I love playing for them.  I've made loads of close friends.  Everyone is so nice, both players and coaches."

Emily was spotted by Scotland selectors whilst playing in Ayr's defeat of Strathclyde University (pictured above) last November - when she was awarded player-of-the-match - and her appearances for Ayr under-18s.  However, she had a bit of a wait to see if she had made the squad for last week's match and was relieved when she got the good news.

"I was unbelievably nervous about the Finland game, but once I was on the pitch, the adrenalin took over and I couldn't help feeling proud to be wearing the thistle and playing for my country."

Evaluating her own performance, Emily says: "I put 100% into the full eighty minutes of the game, so I like to think I played my best."

"She has been outstanding this season and a key figure in our under-18 and senior sides at Ayr," says coach Stuart Fenwick.  "She is a real driving force to those now trying to follow in her footsteps next year."

When asked about her plans for the future, Emily simply answers: "To take rugby as far as I'm able to, and just get better!"

After recent performances, everyone at Ayr RFC is sure of that.


Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Press round-up

Please find below the links to some articles on the weekend's triumph.

Head coach Kenny Murray talks to Neil Drysdale in today's Herald.

There are match reports of the win over Currie and securing of the RBS Premiership title in the Sunday Herald, the Scotland on Sunday and yesterday's Scotsman.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Winning weekend!

It's been a fantastic weekend of rugby in Scotland with the highlight for Ayr RFC naturally being crowned RBS Premiership Winners 2012/2013 on Saturday after a seven-try victory over Currie at Millbrae.

It started on Friday evening as Glasgow Warriors beat Ulster 20-14 in the Rabo Direct Pro12, with former Ayr player Pat MacArthur starting at hooker.  Nick Campbell also featured, coming on as a replacement for Ryan Wilson with ten minutes to go.

At the same time, Ayr's two young tyros Robbie Fergusson and D'arcy Rae (pictured below) were turning out for Scotland under-20s in their narrow victory over their Irish counterparts at Netherdale.

On Saturday morning, Scotland Women under-20s recorded an encouraging 17-7 victory over Finland at Lasswade, with Ayr's Emily Irving making her age-grade international debut.  A match report and video are available here.

The excitement of Saturday afternoon at Millbrae led to a few sore heads on Sunday when the club welcomed international supporters to watch Scotland beat Ireland, with Irish stew laid on as well face painting and a mechanical bull to keep the small and big kids happy.
It's been a great weekend and it's onwards and upwards, as Ayr turn their attention to the Scottish Cup next Saturday when they welcome Stirling to Millbrae. 

Ayr 39 Currie 13

Although coaching staff and players were adamant that Ayr's RBS Premiership encounter with Currie at Millbrae was just another league game, the supporters - including 200 additional female fans there for Ladies' Day - were on the edge of their seats throughout the match, as they knew a bonus point win for Ayr and a defeat of second-placed Gala by Stirling would secure the men in pink and black the league title.  While everyone in the crowd kept an eye on the score at Bridgehaugh via the wonders of technology, Ayr did what they did best - gritted their teeth, scored tries and won.

The sun was shining in Alloway and Ayr got straight into attack-mode, with chips and chases from outside centre Ross Curle and winger Craig Gossman, and inside centre Dean Kelbrick on battering ram duty.  It looked like Gossman would touch down within a few minutes of kick-off, but he couldn't quite jink himself out of the way of the Currie defence.

Gossman didn't have to wait long to get his fourteenth try of the season.  Curle brilliantly slipped a tackle and shot off before firing the ball to Gossman for the score.  Scrum-half Peter Jericevich missed the conversion.  5-0.

Ayr pressed on, with Gossman and Curle again proving the thorns in the side of Currie.  The visitors more than played their part though, even if the scoreline suggested otherwise.  They just couldn't contain Ayr.  After a terrific take by openside flanker Andy Dunlop, who was on fine form all afternoon, from a high ball by full-back Grant Anderson, winger Richard Dalgleish darted up the touchline for Ayr's second try at eighteen minutes.  Curle had a go at the wide conversion but his attempt was just short.  10-0.

Three minutes later, Currie got their first chance for points with a penalty in a kickable position, but after some yoga-like deep breathing and meditative concentration from full-back Jamie Forbes, he missed.  However, the opportunity arose again at twenty-four minutes when Ayr were pinged for holding on and Forbes slotted the kick over.  10-3.

Ayr did seem to get a bit jittery and a quick line-out take that went horribly awry was only stopped from being a try for Currie by an excellent tackle from Ayr captain Calum Forrester.  They steadied the ship in the line-out, with second rows Nick Campbell and Scott Sutherland on great jumping form.  The latter was also extremely mobile in the loose, but couldn't get over the line when the opportunity arose.  Props Denford Mutamangira and Nick Cox and blindside flanker Colin White were also denied by a tough Currie defence.

The visitors' inside centre John Houston was continually sniffing out any breaks but never found his way to the tryline.  It was the boot of Forbes which again got them some points, kicking another penalty at thirty-seven minutes.  10-6.

Ayr slowed right down in their attacking endeavours at the end of the first half, and it seemed that they would never cross the line until Anderson squeezed in at the corner.  That meant the conversion was to be taken out on the wing again and Curle couldn't make it.  15-3.

The second half began with a promising charge by White but it came to nothing and Currie got another penalty chance a minute later.  Forbes missed.  Ayr were unlucky to lose Curle with rib trouble, but the backs reshuffled with Glasgow Warriors Elite Development player Murray McConnell coming on at scrum-half, Jericevich moving to the wing and Dalgleish taking Curle's place at centre.

Putting Jericevich to wing was a providential move, as some strong work from Dalgleish and hooker Stuart Fenwick released him to do a horizontal star jump in the corner for Ayr's fourth try.  He converted his own score from a very tricky position.  22-6.

There was a stoppage of some time for Currie's Jack Broadley, who was treated by both medical teams for a very bloody nose and he eventually had to be escourted off.  The breather did Ayr good and they came back with a strong scrum at a Currie put-in. 

It looked like Gossman had gone over again at sixty minutes, but referee Peter Allan adjudged him to have knocked-on.  Four minutes later, however, Forrester dived over the line and there was nothing wrong with the grounding that time.  Jericevich couldn't get the extras.  27-6.

Ayr's replacements made their presence felt, with some good attacking play from McConnell and some hefty tackles from hooker Hayden Wisnewski.  It was flanker Graham Fisken who stole the limelight though with another of his off-like-a-rocket sprints for the line.  That was Ayr's sixth try and it was deftly converted by Jericevich.  34-6.

As news began to filter through via Twitter of Stirling's winning position against Gala, the crowd was so preoccupied that Currie's try almost went unnoticed.  At seventy-four minutes, openside flanker Michael Entwhistle snuck in at the corner and Forbes made the conversion.  34-13.

It was almost all over, but Ayr weren't done yet.  Jericevich had had an outstanding day and sealed it with another great try, this time picking up a chip from Anderson to touch down, much to the delight of the crowd who knew that Stirling's defeat of Gala meant Ayr were league champions.  Jericevich, unfortunately, couldn't convert.  39-13.

Currie, to their credit, carried on and launched a last-minute attack, but Dalgleish ferretted the ball away and, enjoying himself so much, decided he and fly-half Finn Russell would run it.  However, it was wisely booted off the pitch and Ayr and their loyal fans could celebrate an exciting victory and a well-deserved league title.


All photos by Rob Hardie/Touchline Images.  To see more, please visit our Facebook page.


Friday, 22 February 2013

Emily to make Scotland Women U20s debut

It's not just the young men of Ayr RFC who will be in age-grade international action this weekend.  Ayr Ladies star Emily Irving has been called up to the Scotland Women under-20s team to face Finland on Saturday at Lasswade. Emily has turned out for both Ayr under-18s and senior teams and caught the Scotland selectors' eye with some outstanding play. She is the first female under-20s international to come through the club in a number of years, and everyone involved with the development of girls' and women's rugby at Millbrae is very proud and excited about her progress.

We'll have more on this story next week.


Ayr v Currie preview

The last home league match of the season takes place on Saturday as Ayr face Currie at Millbrae (kick-off 3pm).  It is a must-win game for the men in pink and black as they take on the only team to have beaten them this season and endeavour to secure the RBS Premiership league title.

"We are aware that Currie will be desperate for the points this week as a loss could send them into the relegation race," says Ayr head coach Kenny Murray.  "This will make for probably one of the most intense Ayr v Currie games over the past few years."

There is sure to be a terrific atmosphere at Millbrae on Saturday as it is also Ladies's Day, so there will be an additional 200 ladies cheering on the team.  The stand was packed last week for Ayr's victory over Edinburgh Accies, and as the race for the title heats up, the fans will be in full voice.

Murray continues: "Last week's game was a good win for us and we were pleased with many aspects of our performance.  Every game we play at the moment has a cup final feel to it and the players are having to rise to each occasion."

There is only one change to the starting line-up, with Richard Dalgleish taking Robbie Fergusson's place on the wing whilst the youngster is on Scotland under-20s duty.  On the bench, Glasgow Warriors Elite Development player Murray McConnell returns after recovering from injury.

Team (subject to change on match day):

15. Grant Anderson, 14. Richard Dalgleish, 13. Ross Curle, 12. Dean Kelbrick, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Finn Russell, 9. Peter Jericevich; 1. Denford Mutamangira, 2. Stuart Fenwick, 3. Nick Cox; 4. Scott Sutherland, 5. Nick Campbell (TBC); 6. Colin White, 7. Andrew Dunlop, 8. Calum Forrester (capt).


16. Gordon Sykes, 17. Hayden Wisnewski, 18. Graham Fisken, 19. Ross Doneghan or Cammy Taylor, 20. Murray McConnell.


Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Robbie & D'arcy in Scotland U20s action

Ayr's youngsters continue to catch the attention of international selectors.  After Gavin Lowe was called up to the under-18s training squad yesterday, two of his fellow young guns will be lining up against Ireland under-20s this Friday.  Centre Robbie Fergusson will start for Scotland under-20s after previous appearances from the bench, and prop D'arcy Rae will bolster the substitutes at Netherdale on Friday evening.  Kick-off is 7.30pm and admission is free.

Read the full story here.


Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Lowe in Scotland U18 training squad

Ayr's Gavin Lowe has been named in the Scotland under-18 squad for this weekend's traning camp.  The U18s play their first match of the season on Sunday 3rd March against England.

Gavin has been prolific with the Ayr U18s, and in his senior appearances this season has scored four tries and kicked seven conversions.

Read the full story here.


Sunday, 17 February 2013

Ayr 22 Edinburgh Accies 11


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

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Pat, Gordy and Mark in record Warriors victory.

Ayr favourites Pat McArthur, Gordon Reid and Mark Bennett played a significant part in Glasgow Warriors' record win in Wales against the Dragons. Mark scored an early try, whilst Pat and Gordy laid the foundations up front.

Go here for the full story.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Ayr v Edinburgh Accies preview

Ayr welcome Edinburgh Accies to Millbrae this weekend in a resumption of RBS Premiership competition after the excitement of winning the Glasgow Cup last week.  It was a hard-fought victory for the men in pink and black, and in light of Accies' good win over Melrose, they will be focussing solely on this encounter, even if they are at the "business end" of the season, as Ayr's assistant coach Peter Laverie puts it.

"The coaches and players are only concentrating on this one match," he says.  "We will need to play at our best to gain the all-important points but every ounce of preparation has gone into just that and the players know what they have to do."

Some of Ayr's rising stars return to club duty after international and Pro12 outings last week.  Robbie Fergusson, who put in an impressive shift for Scotland under-20s on Saturday, starts on the wing.  After his assured performance in his first Pro12 match for Glasgow Warriors on Sunday, Finn Russell is back at fly-half. 

Nick Campbell, who also featured in the Warriors' entertaining victory over Zebre, returns in the second row, and the ever-popular Nick Cox has recovered from injury to start in the front row alongside Stuart Fenwick and last week's man-of-the-match Denford Mutamangira.

"Competition for places is high in the squad, with all our players desperate to get on the park," reveals Laverie.  "This could be a real cracker of a game."

Team (subject to change on match day):

15. Grant Anderson, 14. Robbie Fergusson, 13. Ross Curle, 12. Dean Kelbrick, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Finn Russell, 9. Peter Jericevich; 1. Denford Mutamangira, 2. Stuart Fenwick, 3. Nick Cox; 4. Nick Campbell, 5. Scott Sutherland; 6. Colin White, 7. Andrew Dunlop, 8. Calum Forrester (capt).


16. Hayden Wisnewski, 17. D'arcy Rae, 18. Ross Doneghan, 19. Graham Fisken, 20. Richard Dalgleish.

Kick-off 3pm.


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Finn In Warriors Win In Parma

Ayr stand-off Finn Russell played his part in Warriors' five point victory on Sunday when they beat Zebre by 36 points to 20.



Go here for the full story of the game.

Robbie and D'arcy in Scotland Win over Italy

Ayr stars Robbie Fergusson and D'arcy Rae played their part in an excellent 30 - 17 victory at Netherdale on Friday night.

Go here for the full story.

Ayr win Glasgow Cup and thirteenth defence of McLaren Shield

Victory at Anniesland on Saturday, in a very tightly-fought contest, saw the Glasgow Cup returned to Millbrae. The win represented the thirteenth defence of the Bill McLaren Shield - a proud record to add to that of being the first ever club to have its name on the famous trophy.

The Bill McLaren Shield story so far:

06/10/12  Edinburgh Accies (a)
20/10/12  Aberdeen (h)
27/10/12  Boroughmuir (h)
10/11/12  Hillhead / Jordanhill (h)
17/11/12  GHA (h)
24/11/12  Ardrossan (a)
01/12/12  Gala (h)
22/12/12  Stirling (a)
05/01/13  Melrose (h)
12/01/13  Hillhead / Jordanhill (a)
15/01/13  Ardrossan (h)
26/01/13  Heriots (a)
02/02/13  Cartha (h)
09/02/13  Glasgow Hawks (a)

And now it goes full circle as Edinburgh Accies visit Millbrae this Saturday!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Glasgow Hawks 10 Ayr 15

Ayr withstood a ferocious Hawks team to win the RBS West Regional Cup, progress to the Scottish Cup quarter-finals and defend the Bill McLaren Shiel for the thirteenth time.  It was a freezing cold lunchtime encounter at Old Anniesland, but things got heated on the pitch.

Hawks did not start well, with their kick-off going straight out.  They swiftly gathered themselves together though, and piled the pressure on Ayr, not only at the set-pieces, but with some tremendously determined phases of attack. 

The home side, cheered on by a hugely excited crowd, camped out in Ayr's half and at eight minutes, scrum-half Haddon McPherson was bundled over by his forwards for the match's first try.  Full-back James Gormley converted.  7-0.

Ayr couldn't seem to get into the match, any attempts to stamp their authority quickly smothered by Hawks.  Some of Hawks' men were perhaps a bit too fired up, with Ayr winger Cammy Taylor taken out of the air by his opposite number Tom Steven.  He was summarily sent to the sin bin by referee Gary Gordon.

It didn't do any lasting damage to Taylor, who went on to have an excellent game.  His fellow winger Craig Gossman was under the cosh from his former team-mates (and the crowd) from the get-go, but still managed a few of his trademark scything runs.  All the attention on Gossman left Taylor to get on with some more-than-solid attack and defence. 

McPherson continued to be a thorn in Ayr's side with a terrific dash up the wing, which was only snuffed out when he was tracked down by Ayr captain Calum Forrester.  Ayr began to force their way into the match, with some determined play from former Hawks men Dean Kelbrick and Peter Jericevich.

The presence of so many former Hawks players - and a revved-up Hawks' determination to get their hands on the Cup - was perhaps the reason things got so heated, with tempers flaring throughout the encounter.  Referee Gordon had to give players from both sides several talkings-to.

Ayr didn't get on the scoreboard until five minutes before half-time, when soon after lock Scott Sutherland had been held up over the line, full-back Grant Anderson crossed the whitewash.  Jericevich missed the conversion.  7-5.

A few minutes later, fly-half Ross Curle dived over for Ayr's second try after several phases of attack.  Jericevich got the extras.  7-12.

The second half was just as intense, with the addition of Zimbabwean international prop Denford Mutamangira really helping Ayr's cause.  Hawks' indiscipline also bolstered Ayr, with winger Jono Wright yellow-carded just two minutes into proceedings.

It looked like Ayr would quickly grab another try, but Anderson's pass was deemed forward.  The visitors gained three more points, however, when they were awarded a penalty in a kickable position at forty-seven minutes.  Jericevich duly complied.  7-15.

Hawks came back at them, replacement hooker Callum Kerr leading the way with some bullocking runs.  At fifty minutes, they also got a penalty, kicked by Gormley.  10-15

From then on, Hawks were chasing a converted try, but never got it.  They managed to stop Gossman from scoring in the corner, but were unlucky to lose McPherson in the process, the lively scrum-half carried off injured in the final quarter.  Further misery was piled on when second row Ruaridh Wilson became the third Hawks player to receive a yellow card.

They stayed strong in the set-piece, however, and full-back Gormley made a great break which unfortunately came to nothing.  Curle also got in on the act, but his run ended in another round of handbags.  Hawks got another kick at goal, but Gormley couldn't make it.

Ayr were under extreme pressure for the rest of the game, but dealt with it well.  The crowd seemed to be losing its head, but Jericevich and Sutherland, the little and large of the Ayr team, showed particular calm to clear their lines and steal line-out ball respectively.

Hawks had one last go, but they were pinged for off-side at an attempted cross-field kick.  After what seemed like for ever, the referee blew the whistle and both sides put down their handbags and warmly acknowledged each other.

Denford Mutamangira was man-of-the-match, with the final score Glasgow Hawks 10 Ayr 15.

- Elena Hogarth

Friday, 8 February 2013

West Regional Cup final preview

Ayr face Hawks in the RBS West Regional Cup final tomorrow at Old Anniesland (kick-off 12pm), with a chance to reach the RBS Scottish Cup quarter-finals and defend the Bill McLaren Shield for the thirteenth time. 

It's another west of Scotland derby after last week's victorious encounter with Cartha QP, and several of Ayr's players know Hawks well - Dean Kelbrick, Craig Gossman and Peter Jericevich have previously played for the Glasgow club.

Ayr assistant coach Peter Laverie is full of praise for Glasgow Hawks.

"This will be a difficult game at Anniesland against a team which has been going well and remain serious contenders for the National League title," he says.  "We have a strong Cup record, having played in the last three finals at Murrayfield, and we have no intention of giving that up."

Laverie has identified Hawks' Mike Adamson, Ross Miller and Grant Strang as their danger-men, and acknowledges a strong behind-the-scenes team.

"They are well-coached by the effervescent Jamie Dempsey, that wise old sage Jimmy Sinclair and Cammy Little - when he can get a word in edgeways.  We expect a few surprises and the touchline banter to be first class, although we are more likely to win that contest."

There are a few changes to this week's team, with Kerr Gossman missing out after unfortunately picking up another arm injury last Saturday.  He is replaced by Cammy Taylor.  Richard Dalgleish returns at outside centre to cover for Robbie Fergusson, who continues his international duties with the Scotland under-20s squad.

Ross Curle moves to stand-off, as Finn Russell will be in Italy with Glasgow Warriors to face Zebre on Sunday.  Murray Beckwith is promoted to the bench after some fine performances for the 2nds.  Laverie notes that Beckwith used to "outstrip Mark Bennett for speed in the Glasgow age grade teams", so keep an eye on his fleet footwork.  Fellow Wunderkind Gavin Lowe joins him in the replacements.

In the forwards, Zimbabwean international prop Denford Mutamangira makes a welcome return.  Nick Cox, however, misses out due to a niggling strain.  Veteran tighthead Gordon Sykes bolsters the bench.

Remember the early kick-off of 12pm, allowing everyone plenty of time to roar on Ayr's Pat MacArthur, should he make his Scotland debut v Italy!

Team (subject to change on match day):

15. Grant Anderson, 14. Cammy Taylor, 13. Richard Dalgleish, 12. Dean Kelbrick, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Ross Curle, 9. Peter Jericevich; 1. Byron Schmidt, 2. Stuart Fenwick, 3. Denford Mutamangira; 4. Scott Sutherland, 5. Colin White; 6. Graham Fisken, 7. Andrew Dunlop, 8. Calum Forrester (capt).


16. David Young, 17. Gordon Sykes, 18. Ross Doneghan, 19. Gavin Lowe, 20. Murray Beckwith.

Kick-off 12pm, Old Anniesland.

- Elena Hogarth

Thursday, 7 February 2013

MacArthur on the bench for Scotland v Italy

Former Ayr player Pat MacArthur has been named on the bench for Scotland's next Six Nations match against Italy this Saturday.  He takes the place of Dougie Hall, his Glasgow Warriors team-mate, who has a knee injury.  Everyone at Ayr RFC will be keeping their fingers crossed that Pat will get the chance to make his international debut.

Read the full story here.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Ayr 36 Cartha QP 7

Ayr battled their way into the final of the RBS West Regional Cup with a victory over Cartha Queen's Park that was far more difficult than the scoreline suggests.

The men in pink and black not only had to overcome the doughty visiting team but also the Millbrae pitch, which had the consistency of the perfect chocolate brownie - crunchy on the outside yet gooey in the middle.  Perfect for eating but a real pain in the pantry to play rugby on.

Ayr started well with some fine attacking play from winger Kerr Gossman and assured defence from openside flanker Andy Dunlop.  The home side were certainly looking for points from the get-go, but it wasn't until nine minutes in that Craig Gossman crossed for the first try.  It was a difficult touchline conversion which fly-half Finn Russell couldn't make.  5-0.

Handling errors crept into both teams' games, and despite the excellent footwork from Gossman the elder, Ayr couldn't get over the line again as soon as they'd wanted.  Cartha were strong in the scrum, managing to mess things up for the hosts at the set piece and elsewhere.  However, when they did get possession - ripping the ball out of Ayr centre Ross Curle's hands being just one way - they couldn't do anything with it.

There was disappointment for the younger Gossman - Kerr, newly returned from injury - when he was helped from the pitch after a particularly shoddy-looking tackle from Cartha left him with a painful-looking bash to the arm.  He was replaced by the experienced Cammy Taylor.

Blindside flanker Graham Fisken was the next Ayr player to get a try, at twenty-eight minutes.  It was another on the touchline and Russell again couldn't get the conversion from the tricky position.  10-0.

Cartha weren't about to lie down and roll over and came back four minutes later with a try of their own from hooker Greg Gilmore, who was bundled over the line.  There was a huge roar of approval from the large number of travelling fans.  It was swiftly converted by Wayne Burrows to make the score 10-7 and prove that Cartha were in it to win it.

Their opponents' determination spurred Ayr on, with a half-break from Fisken and a charge for the line from Taylor, only for him to trip.  He picked himself up and Curle provided some momentum to get him closer to the whitewash, but Cartha's defence was too strong, holding both backs up.

Ayr didn't have to wait long for a score, prop Stuart Fenwick (pictured above) getting good ball from the line-out to grab a try two minutes before half-time.  Russell converted this time.  17-7.

Ayr blasted themselves into action at the resumption of play, with scrum-half Peter Jericevich taking off like a rocket from the back of a scrum.  He couldn't find his way to the line and Cartha managed to push themselves out of their own half.

There were some replacements early in the second half, with teenager Gavin Lowe coming on in the backs and - at the opposite end of the age spectrum - veteran forward Gordon Sykes making a welcome return to the Ayr 1st XV.

At forty-four minutes, Fisken, on fine form all afternoon, suddenly found himself in his own twenty-two with ball in hand and seemingly miles of open field.  There was nothing else for it but to pin his ears back and motor up the pitch to score a memorable try.  Russell didn't get the extras.  22-7.

For the next ten minutes or so, nothing much seemed to happen as the conditions hampered any kind of running rugby.  Cartha winger Tony Nywangweso was in dangerous form but couldn't make headway.

Cartha did get themselves into an attacking position, kicking up the wing, the ball bobbling over the line, but Ayr full-back Grant Anderson quickly grounded it.  Ayr replied with breaks from Gossman and Curle but to no avail.

Cartha were unlucky to find themselves down to fourteen men with ten minutes to go, when prop Fraser MacKinnon was sin-binned.  Ayr took advantage and replacement forward Ross Doneghan dived over for a try.  Curle took over the kicking duties, as Russell had been substituted, and nonchalantly claimed the conversion.  29-7.

It was a hard-fought match with a few nasty knocks, which saw Fisken join his bruised and battered team-mates on the sidelines, who included replacement flanker Shingai Mpofu.  The erstwhile Zimbabwean international captain did the splits in his attacking efforts and limped off just before full time.

It was Craig Gossman who started the scoring, so it was fitting that the diminutive winger had the final say with another try.  Curle slotted the conversion, bringing the final score to 36-7 at a muddy Millbrae and taking Ayr into a final against Hawks.

- Elena Hogarth