Friday, 29 November 2013

Ayr v Heriot's preview

Ayr are at home again this week and welcome Heriot's to Millbrae for another vital match in the RBS Premiership.  The disappointment from last Saturday's loss to Gala has been dealt with and attention now turns to putting in a strong performance against the Goldenacre side who are one place above Ayr in the table.

"We're into the business end of the league campaign now and each result becomes crucial right across the league," says Ayr head coach Peter Laverie.  "A good win keeps Ayr in contention."

Laverie will be trying to get the inside scoop on Heriot's on the morning of the match when he gives their head coach Phil Smith a lift down to Millbrae.

"I may be tempted to throw him out on the Fenwick Moor, which would be a popular move even with his own players, but we will have a good chat about attacking rugby since both our teams like to play that way and I doubt the spectators will be disappointed this week."

Laverie has rotated the front row again this week, with Scotland under-20s prop D'arcy Rae taking the tighthead berth with Nick Cox at loosehead with Fergus Scott at hooker.

In the backs, Finn Russell returns after his starting debut for Glasgow Warriors last week, meaning Ross Curle moves to outside centre and Robbie Fergusson shuffles over to the inside spot.


15. Grant Anderson (capt.), 14. Craig Gossman, 13. Ross Curle, 12. Robbie Fergusson, 11. Kerr Gossman; 10. Finn Russell, 9. Murray McConnell; 1. Nick Cox, 2. Fergus Scott, 3. D'arcy Rae; 4. Peter McCallum, 5. Scott Sutherland; 6. Callum Templeton, 7. Andrew Dunlop, 8. Graham Fisken.


16. David Young, 17. George Hunter, 18. Graham Williamson, 19. Peter Jericevich, 20. Richard Dalgleish.

Kick-off 3pm.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Ayr Ladies 15 Glasgow University 24

Ayr Ladies experienced their first defeat in their RBS Women's National League Division 2 campaign when they came up against a well-organised and fired-up Glasgow University side at Millbrae on Sunday.

After a shaky start from both teams, Ayr settled down and produced some exciting breaks from number eight Lisa Croniken, prop Gemma Swankie and outside centre Laura Turner.  However, Glasgow were extremely tough in defence and quickly snuffed out any attacks from Ayr.

The forwards coped well at the scrum, winning several against the head, and second row Lynda Morgan proved a safe pair of hands at the line-out. 

Ayr managed to match Glasgow's defence, with terrific tackles from Croniken and flanker Laura Sommerville.  In fact, each side seemed to be cancelling the other out and the first thirty minutes were scoreless until Glasgow went over for an unconverted try.  0-5.

Ayr struck back five minutes later, with Croniken charging up the touchline to release winger Emily Irving, who touched down for her first try.  She couldn't convert it.  5-5.

The second half began well for the visitors, with their full-back speeding away from the fifty-metre line to score under the posts.  The conversion was successful.  5-12.

Ayr dug deep and put Glasgow under pressure at the scrum, winning it against the head once more to allow Irving to get her second try.  Her conversion was short.  10-12.

Glasgow then pinned Ayr in their own half for several minutes, but a brilliant run from replacement back Daryl Paterson saw the pink ladies break free.  Alas, it wasn't enough, and despite tough tackles from prop Louise McLauchlan and hooker Amy McGillivray, Glasgow crossed for another try.  The conversion hit the post.  10-17.

It was a physical encounter, with several Ayr players hurt, and after another injury break, the university side scored under the posts again.  The conversion took the score to 10-24.

Ayr kept their heads up, stealing Glasgow line-out ball and McGillivray making a break to push on into the opposition half.  Each side turned over and knocked on a couple of times, but it was Glasgow who managed to launch an attack, only to be scuppered by an excellent tackle from replacement back Hazel Malakoty. 

Despite Glasgow's unusual rallying cry of "Up the Badgers" ringing round Millbrae, Ayr weren't put off, with inside centre Laura McTaggart deftly taking a high ball under pressure.  Their scrum was also still functioning well and they continued to batter away at Glasgow's solid defence until Irving got over the tryline with five minutes to go.  She couldn't manage the wide conversion.  15-24.

Ayr continued to plug away but Glasgow University coach, and Ayr men's first XV captain, Calum Forrester has clearly passed on all his defensive expertise, and there was no way through for them. 

Final score: Ayr Ladies 15 Glasgow University 24.

- Elena Hogarth.


Sunday, 24 November 2013

Ayr 13 Gala 20

Ayr's matches with Gala are always tough encounters, but yesterday's game had the feeling of an epic battle as smoke engulfed the pitch and players emerged bloodied and battered. 

If the men in pink and black were the Picts, then the mighty maroons were the Romans, building a wall of defence so strong and high that nobody could get up, over, through or round it.

It all started so promisingly for the home team.  Determined to make amends after last week's away loss to Currie, Ayr launched an early attack but it was a sign of things to come that they couldn't break down Gala's defence.

Ayr had the first chance for points with a kickable penalty, and with regular kicker Ross Curle having his leg heavily strapped, it was full-back and captain Grant Anderson who stepped up to the tee, only to miss.

Much of the first forty minutes was played in Gala's half, but they coped well with the onslaught from Ayr, scrum-half Murray McConnell and prop Nick Cox proving difficult to wrestle to the ground.

When Gala did manage a turn-over, they failed to clear their lines, sending the ball straight into the arms of winger Kerr Gossman, who shot off up the touchline and nicely flicked the pass to Anderson, who was bundled off the pitch.

Nevertheless, Ayr got a penalty as Gala continued to infringe, despite warnings from referee Graeme Wells.  Ayr took the line-out and a strong drive saw them trundle in the direction of Gala's try-line only for that stout maroon defence to shove them off-course.

Gala centre Ewan Scott had been pushing his luck with the referee and Wells finally got fed up and sent him to the bin for a professional foul at thirteen minutes.  Winger Craig Gossman was handed the kicking duties and managed to boot the ball over.  3-0.

Despite being a man down, Gala still wouldn't capitulate, coping well at the set-pieces and dealing with some lovely angled kicking from hand by Anderson.  They couldn't hold out for ever though, and a move started by Cox from an Ayr lineout saw the ball make its way to the corner and into the hands of Grant Anderson, who dotted down for a try.  The angle was too wide for Gossman to get the conversion.  8-0.

Gala were so busy trying to close down the threat of Craig Gossman - by any means - that they seemed to forget about Kerr, and two minutes after Ayr's first try, he scooped up a loose ball and touched down for the second.  Again, Gossman the elder had the distance with the conversion but the ball sailed past the wrong side of the posts.  13-0.

With Gala back to fifteen, they worked their way out of their own half.  Centre Scott made a blistering break and would have shot under the posts but for a heroic tackle by Craig Gossman, which unfortunately left the wiry winger spread-eagled on the ground and created a big gap for prop Ewan McQuillin to canter through and get Gala's first try.  Scott converted.  13-7.

As expected in such a tense encounter, the players became bad-tempered at times and fisticuffs broke out.  Gala scrum-half and captain George Graham did not lead by example, immaturely refusing to hand over the ball to his opposite number McConnell and getting his team sent back ten metres.

Despite attacking line-outs for both teams, neither could score again in the first half. 

Gala took to the pitch for the second half with a renewed fire in their bellies and immediately set about camping out on Ayr's five-metre line.  The home defence managed to prevent them getting over for a try, with McConnell and Kerr Gossman wrapping up Gala's attackers, but referee Wells adjudged Ayr to be on the wrong side of the law at the scrum and awarded a penalty try.  Scott converted.  13-14.

Smoke began to roll in from a nearby fire and with the dusk descending, the floodlights coming on, the Millbrae faithful providing unfaltering vocal support and the Gala coaching team's querulous yowling from the sidelines, it all got a bit primal.

Craig Gossman found himself in the bin after taking a Gala player out of the air and his teammates' further indiscipline saw Scott get a kickable penalty which he took.  13-17.

Gala's tails were up and electric winger Gerald Sibanda thought he was on his way to a rip-roaring try only for Kerr Gossman to turn on his heel, track him down and hold on for dear life until his opposite number was hauled to the ground.

Even the referee seemed to be getting caught up in the atmosphere - or possibly smoke had hampered his vision - and it took Gala's physio to alert him to three players all lying injured. 

Ayr were doing everything they could to hammer the Gala defence, be it chips from Curle or charges from second row duo Scott Sutherland and Peter McCallum.  But there was no way through.

They didn't help themselves by giving away a penalty which Scott duly kicked.  13-20.

Gala, despite leading, again showed an impetuosity and kicked the ball away from Ayr when they should have just handed it over and the referee marched them back ten metres.

Still, Ayr could get nowhere.  It did look at one point like Sutherland had burrowed over but Wells didn't think so.  The ball went from side-to-side and the crowd roared their players on, but it was no use.

Gala held on and managed to do what they had failed to twice last season and beat Ayr.  Not only did the visitors chasten the home side, but very soon the Bill McLaren Shield, which Ayr had reclaimed at the Greenyards, was off the clubhouse wall and on a bus heading back to the Borders.

Final score: Ayr 13 Gala 20.

- Elena Hogarth

Friday, 22 November 2013

Ayr v Gala preview

Ayr welcome Gala to Millbrae on Saturday for a crucial clash in the RBS Premiership.  Ayr slipped back to fourth place in the standings after last weekend's disappointing away loss to Currie and will be hoping to make up some ground with a strong performance at home against top-of-the-table Gala.

"Gala are riding high this week after their win at Aberdeen," says Ayr head coach Peter Laverie.  "Still, they have to come to Millbrae where we will be looking to make amends and maintain our challenge for the league title."

The team has been slightly reshuffled this week.  With Finn Russell starting his first match for Glasgow Warriors, Ross Curle takes over at stand-off with Murray McConnell named as his half-back partner.

Winger Craig Gossman and flanker Callum Templeton return from injury, whilst Denford Mutamangira starts at prop.  Peter McCallum moves to the second row and Graham Williamson provides cover on what is yet again a very strong bench.

Laverie is looking forward to what will be a tough encounter.

"I have no doubt George (Graham) will have his troops well-marshalled and ready to go.  It could be some spectacle for the Millbrae faithful and Gala supporters.  Definitely worth seeing, I'd say."


15. Grant Anderson (capt), 14. Craig Gossman, 13. Robbie Fergusson, 12. Dean Kelbrick, 11. Kerr Gossman; 10. Ross Curle, 9. Murray McConnell; 1. Denford Mutamangira, 2. Fergus Scott, 3. Nick Cox; 4. Peter McCallum, 5. Scott Sutherland; 6. Callum Templeton, 7. Andrew Dunlop, 8. Graham Fisken.


16. David Young, 17. George Hunter, 18. Graham Williamson, 19. Peter Jericevich, 20. Richard Dalgleish.

Kick-off 3pm.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Finn gets his first start for Glasgow Warriors

Finn Russell has been named in the Glasgow Warriors team that will take on the Dragons at Scotstoun tomorrow night.  Although the youngster normally plays at fly-half for Ayr, he'll be starting at inside centre and will partner DTH van der Merwe. 

Former Ayr player Gordon Reid starts at prop, whilst fellow Millbrae man George Hunter is on the bench for the Warriors.

Good luck to all and here's hoping for another home win for Glasgow.

Read the full story here.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Pat on the bench for Australia match

Former Ayr player Pat MacArthur has the chance to get his third cap for Scotland after being named as a replacement for the final autumn international.  The Scots take on Australia at Murrayfield on Saturday, kicking off at 6pm.

Today's team announcement saw just the forwards confirmed for the match as the fitness of Tommy Seymour is waited upon to determine the backs line-up. 

Pat came off the bench during Scotland's victory over Japan two weeks ago to earn his second cap and fingers crossed he'll get on the pitch this Saturday too.

Best of luck to Pat and the rest of the team!

Read the full story here.

Money raised for Ayrshire Hospice

A bucket collection at the Ayr RFC Fireworks Night at the start of the month raised £352.10 for the Ayrshire Hospice. 

A huge thank you goes out to all those who rattled buckets on the night and the very generous individuals who donated.  It is much appreciated.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Three Ayr youngsters in Scotland U20s squad

Ayr teens Danny McCluskey, Gavin Lowe and D'arcy Rae have been named in the Scotland under-20s training squad. 

Backs McCluskey and Lowe and prop Rae will take part in a three-day training camp in Edinburgh from tomorrow.  They'll train alongside thirty-eight other talented young players who will be preparing for two big competitions next year, the under-20s Six Nations and the IRB Junior World Cup.

Good luck to all!

Read the full story here.

Mark signs long-term contract with the Warriors

Former Ayr player Mark Bennett has signed a three-year contract with the Glasgow Warriors that will see him stay at the Scotstoun-based side until May 2017.

The young centre follows in the footsteps of his fellow former Millbrae favourites Gordon Reid and Pat MacArthur who also play professionally for the RaboDirect Pro12 side. 

Read the full story here.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Currie 24 Ayr 15

Currie may play in the colours of a wasp, but it wasn't their sting that got Ayr at Malleny Park on Saturday, rather their dogged determination.  They were a Jack Russell with its jaws firmly clamped around Ayr's ankle for eighty minutes and the visitors couldn't shake them off.

It was a strange first half with neither side really getting anywhere.  The set-pieces were competitive, especially the scrum, and although the home team seemed keen to launch several attacks through their lively backs, they looked a bit tentative.

Ayr's forwards weren't quite their marauding selves, despite some good breaks from prop George Hunter and flankers Andrew Dunlop and Peter McCallum.  Each team conceded a few penalties but couldn't take advantage of line-outs on each other's five-metre lines. 

A strong breeze didn't help the kicking from hand, with Ayr stand-off Finn Russell wisely keeping it to a minimum, possibly after watching his diminutive counterpart George Horne's effort with the boot being blown backwards.

Currie winger Ruaridh Smith began to get things going but couldn't get past the solid defence of Ayr opposite number Richard Dalgleish.  Russell also put in some hefty tackles when Currie made forays into Ayr's half.

Ayr had their chances too, through winger Kerr Gossman and inside centre Dean Kelbrick, the best coming when Kelbrick shot through a hole in Currie's defence only to find Scott Sutherland on the wing and pass the ball to his knees (hand height on anyone other than the 6'6" lock).

Currie were building up a bit of momentum, led by number eight Ross Weston, who was on fine form all afternoon.  But Ayr dug deep, especially when second row Benn Cogley was sin-binned. 

They were bound to struggle with a man down, and Currie took advantage of an Ayr error at thirty-seven minutes to score, scrum-half Richard Sneddon nipping through a big gap in defence to grab a try.  Horne converted.  7-0.

Ayr had a renewed purpose in the second half, with strong running from Gossman, McCallum and replacement flanker James Eddie.  However, it was a sign of things to come when Horne thought he was away with an interception early on, only to be called back for off-side.

Ayr remained calm and camped out on Currie's line until the ball had been through almost every player's hands, but they couldn't get past the home defence.  Eventually Currie let up and a quick tap-and-go from replacement scrum-half Murray McConnell saw the ball find its way over the whitewash in the big paws of Sutherland at fifty-one minutes.  Russell's conversion was short.  7-5.

Currie hit back five minutes later after some hard work and several rucks saw outside centre Ethan Pollock get their second try.  Horne got the extras.  14-5.

The home team completely took their eye off the ball at the restart, allowing McCallum to scoop it up and dive over for a well-deserved try by the rambunctious young flanker.  The angle was too wide for Russell to convert.  14-10.

Ayr's backs livened up, with Robbie Fergusson, having replaced Gossman, linking up well with outside centre Ross Curle and full-back Grant Anderson.  The forwards displayed some heartening drives, but Currie just wouldn't be ground down.  Even when flanker Michael Vernal was yellow-carded with ten minutes to go, they refused to despair.

A minute later, Ayr prop Nick Cox scored in the corner from a ferocious drive.  Russell missed the conversion, but Ayr had nosed in front by a point.  14-15.

Still, Currie wouldn't lie down and roll over.  Ayr gave away a penalty right in front of the posts and Horne duly booted the ball over the crossbar with five minutes left on the clock.  17-15.

Ayr and their supporters always have the belief that they can fight it out until the bitter end, but so too do Currie.  Just as the seconds were ticking away, it looked like Ayr would fashion a try through the backs to break Currie's hearts, only for Smith to fly on to a long pass from Ayr and charge all the way to the other end of the pitch for a try to win the match.  Horne converted.  24-15.

The whistle was blown for full-time and Currie celebrated like they'd won the league.  Nobody could begrudge them the win after such a doughty performance.

Final score: Currie 24 Ayr 15.

- Elena Hogarth.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Currie v Ayr preview

It's top-of-the-table versus the bottom-of-the-table this Saturday as Ayr make another trip to Edinburgh, this time to take on Currie.  When Ayr took them on at Millbrae in September, it was a 29-0 victory for the home side and Currie will be hoping for some revenge to boost their season.

"Despite the difference in league positions I expect we will face a determined, committed performance from Ally (Donaldson)'s players," says Ayr head coach Peter Laverie, "and will remind ours that the previous game at Millbrae was a hard-fought encounter."

He continues: "Fixtures at Malleny Park are always difficult.  Currie have made it a real stronghold over the years.  The pressure is on us to maintain our standards and levels of performance. We have put ourselves in a good position to challenge for the league but it remains a tight competition and there's a long way to go."

Currie's line-up includes Edinburgh pros Tom Brown and Stuart McInally, whilst this week Ayr again have the services of Glasgow Warriors' James Eddie, who takes his place on a strong bench.

The front row is reshuffled with George Hunter and Stuart Fenwick starting.  Finn Russell returns at stand-off with Ross Curle moving to outside centre.


15. Grant Anderson (capt.), 14. Richard Dalgleish, 13. Ross Curle, 12. Dean Kelbrick, 11. Kerr Gossman; 10. Finn Russell, 9. Peter Jericevich; 1. George Hunter, 2. Stuart Fenwick, 3. Nick Cox; 4. Benn Cogley, 5. Scott Sutherland; 6. Peter McCallum, 7. Andrew Dunlop, 8. Graham Fisken.


16. Fergus Scott, 17. Denford Mutamangira, 18. James Eddie, 19. Murray McConnell, 20. Robbie Fergusson.

Kick-off 3pm.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Ayr RFC Race Night

Come and have a flutter at Millbrae on Saturday 7th December.  George McMillan is hosting this club fundraiser race night and are all welcome to attend after Ayr play Ulster Ravens that afternoon in the British and Irish Cup.

All the important betting info:


£10 to own
£5 to train
£2 to jockey


£60 owners
£30 trainers
£12 jockey

Come and join the Facebook event.

Peter Laverie in today's Herald

Ayr's head coach Peter Laverie speaks to Neil Drysdale in today's sports section of the Herald about taking the reins from Kenny Murray.

Read the article online here or on page ten of the print edition.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Edinburgh Accies 12 Ayr 34

Ayr secured another bonus-point away win on Saturday, this time beating Edinburgh Accies at Raeburn Place to climb to the top of the RBS Premiership table.

The forecast had been favourable all week, but prior to kick-off, Stockbridge, that refined area of the capital, was the victim of several short but heavy downpours and it seemed the game wouldn't be the most compelling to watch.  Certainly, the first fifteen minutes saw slips and drops and knocks-on.

Despite the difficult conditions, Ayr fired into the attack early on, with scrum-half Peter Jericevich and full-back Grant Anderson releasing winger Richard Dalgleish, only for Accies' defenders to bundle him into touch.

The home side were also ambitious in the opening exchanges and the likes of winger Jamie Farndale took them to within centimetres of Ayr's line.  They thought they were over for a try but the visitors' sturdy defence managed to hold them up.  Accies pressed on for a score moments later but couldn't get past solid tackles from flanker Andrew Dunlop and inside centre Dean Kelbrick.

Both sides were holding firm - literally on the slippery playing surface - at the scrum and Ayr perhaps had the edge in the line-out with great takes from second row Scott Sutherland and an assured first XV debut by fellow lock Benn Cogley. 

However, the backs couldn't make their mark on proceedings and the game descended into a dull period of aerial ping-pong.  Ayr stand-off Ross Curle and outside centre Robbie Fergusson tried to liven things up with some chips and runs, but the visitors had to rely on an infringement by Accies to get on the scoreboard when Curle kicked a penalty at sixteen minutes.  0-3.

Accies launched further attacks through Farndale and outside centre Ewan Campbell but failed to get anywhere, as did Ayr.  It took barrelling prop Nick Cox to get the first try for Ayr, driving over in the corner at twenty-three minutes.  Curle couldn't get the wide conversion.  0-8.

Ayr retained possession for a steady period but Accies were quick to shut down any moves from the backs and when they got their hands on the ball, showed real juggling skills not to knock-on.  They had their own chance to get three points at twenty-eight minutes, but stand-off Ruairidh Bonner missed the penalty kick.

Four minutes later, Ayr's backs were finally getting some space and Fergusson skipped his way along the touch line before some nice handling from Dunlop saw Fergusson finish off the move he'd started to go over for a try.  Curle missed the conversion.  0-13.

Accies dominated the rest of the half, having most of the possession.  They went for another pushover try but again Ayr held them up.  They then showed tremendous patience, moving the ball from one side of the pitch to the other, to finally score, winger Nyle Godsmark touching down.  Bonner's conversion attempt was short.  5-13.

The home team came out for the second half with real purpose and it was their patience again that saw them score their second try at forty-four minutes, number eight Callum Reid this time going over.  Bonner converted to take his side within a point of Ayr.  12-13.

Ayr kept calm and some strong running in the forwards, especially from Sutherland, Cox and prop Denford Mutamangira, got them into Accies' half.  Fergusson, Kelbrick and Curle were causing trouble for the opposition, the latter especially as he lunged for Accies' line on several occasions.  But the home defence held on to snuff out any try-scoring for the moment.

They couldn't contain Fergusson though, who shot over for his second and Ayr's third try of the afternoon after swift footwork and passing from winger Kerr Gossman and captain Anderson.  Curle nicely slotted the conversion.  12-20.

Godsmark and Farndale proved themselves a nuisance all afternoon, and it was only a doughty defensive effort led by Ayr's replacement scrum-half Murray McConnell that prevented them from wriggling their way over the line.

The Raeburn Place side were clearly getting frustrated at their failed attempts to score and fisticuffs broke out a couple of times, but referee James Matthew quickly restored order and kept the game moving along.

Dalgleish and Kelbrick were keen to jink about but the pitch still wasn't dry enough and the backs wisely got the ball to Cox and this time it was Ayr's turn to be held up over the line.  Dalgleish and replacement prop George Hunter each had a go at getting over, but Accies' defence was too strong.

With only minutes remaining and eager to get a fourth try for a bonus point, Ayr threw caution to the wind and decided to run it, substitute hooker Stuart Fenwick making two bursts up the park in quick succession.  But it was winger Gossman who broke through the defence to chip ahead for Dunlop to collect and slide over the line.  Jericevich took over kicking duties with Curle on the sidelines and deftly got the conversion.  12-27.

Ayr had to have the final say and it was Anderson who shrugged off the tackles in his own half to sprint all the way to the line for an excellent try.  Jericevich struck a terrific kick from the touchline to add the extras at the close of play.

Final score: Edinburgh Accies 12 Ayr 34.

- Elena Hogarth.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Edinburgh Accies v Ayr preview

Ayr have their second of three straight away games this Saturday, taking on Edinburgh Accies at Raeburn Place.  Although the men in pink and black had a great win over Melrose last week, Accies had an even larger victory over Aberdeen Grammar, running in five tries, and Ayr will be keen to stop a repeat performance.

"That same focus we had against Melrose will be needed for this week against a quick Edinburgh Accies side who play some very good rugby and will be keen to secure the points on their home patch," says Ayr head coach Peter Laverie.  "Bob Easson and Jonny Else have their squad working hard for each other and that is what makes them difficult to beat."

He adds: "It is up to us to get our basics right and impose our attack on them."

This week's squad is shuffled slightly due to injuries and player rotation.  The most notable change is Scotland under-20s trialist Benn Cogley who slots in to the second row alongside Scott Sutherland, meaning Peter McCallum moves to the back row. 

In the backs, Richard Dalgleish starts on the wing, with Kerr Gossman and Murray McConnell taking their places on what is a very strong bench.

15. Grant Anderson (capt.), 14. Richard Dalgleish, 13. Robbie Fergusson, 12. Dean Kelbrick, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Ross Curle, 9. Peter Jericevich; 1. Denford Mutamangira, 2. Fergus Scott, 3. Nick Cox; 4. Benn Cogley, 5. Scott Sutherland; 6. Andrew Dunlop, 7. Peter McCallum, 8. Graham Fisken.

16. David Young, 17. George Hunter, 18. Callum Templeton, 19. Murray McConnell, 20. Kerr Gossman.

Please note the earlier kick-off of 12.30pm.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Pat on the bench for Japan game

Former Ayr player Pat MacArthur will take his place as a substitute in the Scotland team to face Japan at Murrayfield in the first autumn international.  The young hooker already has one cap, which he earned during the summer, and will be hoping to make it two.  We'll all be crossing our fingers that he gets on to the pitch at some point on Saturday afternoon.

Read the full story of the Scotland team announcement here.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Melrose 17 Ayr 27

Ayr overcame wind, rain, a lacklustre first half and RBS Premiership leaders Melrose to kill several birds with one stone at the Greenyards on Saturday afternoon. 

It wasn't all about inflicting revenge after Melrose beat Ayr at Millbrae at the start of the season.  The visitors needed a win to push themselves up the table and a bonus point would have been very welcome, which was exactly what they got as they ran in four good tries.  There was also the added incentive of reclaiming the Bill McLaren Shield.

It didn't look like the day for running rugby as the rain poured endlessly before kick-off, but it eased off as the teams took to the pitch.  Melrose set their stall out early, with a break from winger Austin Lockington.  But it was Ayr who were first on the scoreboard, as the forwards and backs combined to move the ball side-to-side until it eventually found the hands of scrum-half Murray McConnell, who went over in the corner at five minutes.  Stand-off Ross Curle couldn't manage the conversion from out wide.  0-5.

However, it was a false dawn.  Although Ayr's line-out was working well with second rows Peter McCallum and Scott Sutherland both deftly taking the throw-ins from hooker Fergus Scott, the scrum was under constant pressure from Melrose and they really began to bully Ayr all over the field. 

The home side was itching to even up the scores and showed great patience until seventeen minutes, when hooker Todd Pearce pushed over for a try.  Inside centre Joe Helps converted.  7-5.

Both teams were pinged for off-side at various stages and Ayr were also penalised for holding on when they had worked hard to regain possession.  However, Helps missed his two penalty kicks at goal, the second hitting the post and going straight into the arms of Ayr's inside centre Dean Kelbrick, only for him to knock-on.

The resulting scrum saw Melrose fire the ball out to Lockington, who took off and looked to be heading for a try when Ayr's winger Craig Gossman put in a heroic tackle to pull his bigger opposite number into touch. 

Things took a turn for the worse Ayr at thirty-three minutes when Sutherland was sin-binned for a professional foul and a minute later, Melrose took a scrum on Ayr's five-metre line and number eight Andrew Nagle squirmed his way over for a try.  Helps converted.  14-5.

Ayr lost Gossman to a neck injury, but his replacement Richard Dalgleish put in some big hits of his own alongside hooker Scott to snuff out Melrose's pacey backs.  Number eight Callum Templeton made a good break and Ayr did well to pile on the pressure with just fourteen men, but it was all for nothing as the whistle came for half-time.

The opening exchanges of the second half were a bit shaky from both sides and it looked like Melrose were going to be the more composed and continue to dominate.  But the men in black and yellow should have known from the RBS Cup final in April that the men in pink and black like to see out the game till the bitter end. 

Ayr upped the tempo with some brilliant poaching from outside centre Robbie Fergusson and determined running from flankers Andrew Dunlop and James Eddie and winger Kerr Gossman. 

They worked their way into Melrose's half and despite the ball bobbling about all over the place with the rain back on, Ayr controlled it for long enough to score at fifty-two minutes.  Full back and captain Grant Anderson pounced as the ball went loose and dotted it down.  Curle struck the wide conversion perfectly.  14-12.

Melrose tried to release their backs but got nowhere.  Ayr were in the mood to show just why they are one of the most entertaining teams to watch.  They held firm at a scrum in their own twenty-two with replacement flanker Graham Fisken quickly getting his hands on the ball and galloping off through Melrose's defenders before off-loading well to Eddie who sprinted in under the posts for an excellent try.  Curle converted.  14-19.

Melrose narrowed the gap a few minutes later when Curle was adjudged to have deliberately knocked-on when going for an interception and Helps kicked a penalty.  17-19.

The visitors could have got a tad nervy but Anderson steadied the ship with a perfect kick for touch and props Nick Cox and Denford Mutamangira barrelled themselves about with gusto.  Ayr camped out on Melrose's five-metre line with the ball making its way through the forwards, but Mutamangira dropped it before he could get over for a try.

Curle provided some daylight between the two sides with a nicely struck penalty at seventy minutes.  17-22.

Melrose were coming back, as expected, with terrific breaks from full back Fraser Thomson and stand-off Richard Mill, but Kelbrick and Eddie's combined defensive efforts meant they couldn't get out of their own half. 

Curle had been in fine form in the second half and it was fitting that he should have flown over the line for Ayr's fourth try which secured the bonus point.  It was another blink-and-you'll-miss-it effort from Curle, who manoeuvred his way there after smooth handling from Kelbrick.  Unfortunately, the conversion was at too wide an angle for him.  17-27.

Time was running out for Melrose to comeback, but they were going to give it a go, getting within metres of Ayr's try-line only for the visitors to turn it over.  They regained possession with a turn-over of their own, but a huge tackle from Dunlop drove them back and they soon found themselves back in their half with nowhere to go, replacement back Tom Wilson mistakenly booting the ball off the field to give Ayr a well-earned victory and the Bill McLaren Shield.

Final score: Melrose 17 Ayr 27.

- Elena Hogarth.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Melrose v Ayr preview

Ayr are on the road again and this Saturday travel to the Borders to face Melrose at the Greenyards.  Despite a hearty home win over Stirling County last weekend, Ayr won't underestimate the challenge that awaits.

"Melrose have achieved their top spot following some excellent performances, including a sizeable victory at the start of the campaign on our turf, together with a strong team spirit," comments Ayr head coach Peter Laverie. 

"Our players will be keen to reverse the previous result.  Still, we need to focus on our performance on Saturday and ensure we do the basics well.  This will not be a game for the faint-hearted and I expect our big game players to step up to the mark and show what they are capable of."

Laverie is full of praise for his opposite number, John Dalziel, and his men.

"John has put together a hard-working, well-organised squad and they have some real threats throughout their team, none more so than their accomplished captain, Fraser Thompson.  On another note, I'm also looking forward to John's hospitality, in particular sampling the quality of his cellar."

There are few changes to Ayr's match day squad.  Stand-off Finn Russell is absent as he is on Pro12 duty in Connacht with Glasgow Warriors.  Ross Curle takes his place alongside October player of the month Murray McConnell at scrum-half.

Zimbabwe international prop Denford Mutamangira is named on the bench as Scotland under-20s prop D'arcy Rae will be starting for the second XV.  Warriors' James Eddie makes his fourth start in the pink and black shirt.

15. Grant Anderson (capt.), 14. Craig Gossman, 13. Robbie Fergusson, 12. Dean Kelbrick, 11. Kerr Gossman; 10. Ross Curle, 9. Murray McConnell; 1. Nick Cox, 2. Fergus Scott, 3. George Hunter; 4. Peter McCallum, 5. Scott Sutherland; 6. James Eddie, 7. Andrew Dunlop, 8. Callum Templeton.

16. Stuart Fenwick, 17. Denford Mutamangira, 18. Graham Fisken, 19. Peter Jericevich, 20. Richard Dalgleish.

Kick-off is at the earlier time of 2pm.  Follow Twitter for score updates.