There was a thrilling finish to Ayr's up-and-down match against a buoyant Hawick at a sunny and warm Millbrae, but the men in pink and black were beaten by the clock as well as the tough Borderers.
The day's proceedings began with both the first and second XVs lined up to join the crowd in applauding the life of Ayr RFC stalwart Ian 'Yogi' Hay, who recently passed away.
The match then got off to a rather shaky start as Ayr's kick-off failed to go beyond ten metres. Hawick had some trouble with their line-out and in the process of trying to poach the ball, Ayr second row Rob McAlpine landed awkwardly and had to be helped from the field.
It looked like Ayr would be first on the scoreboard after the ball was swiftly moved into the hands of winger Kerr Gossman, but his chip ahead went too far and he almost launched himself into the hedge at the end of the pitch trying to chase it.
Hawick's line-out troubles continued as Ayr managed to steal the ball twice in quick succession. Number eight Blair Macpherson and McAlpine's replacement Andrew Dunlop were on the charge, tidying up loose ball and blasting their way through tackles.
It was getting a bit ragged and breathless and it was Hawick who looked like they couldn't cope, knocking on and falling foul of the referee at the scrum. But flanker Rory Scott stayed calm and galloped off before being halt by a thumping double tackle from Ayr prop Nick Cox and Macpherson.
The first ten minutes seemed to last for ever with neither team getting anywhere. It was Ayr who slipped up and gave a penalty away in a kickable position, which outside centre Lee Armstrong booted between the uprights. 0-3.
Back and forth the possession went until Hawick collected a kick and lobbed a very casual pass in their own half only for Ayr's Cammy Taylor to fly on to it and race away for a try at fourteen minutes. Canadian centre Connor Braid's conversion attempt was very high but unsuccessful. 5-3.
Hawick gave themselves a shake after that and lively flanker Garry Lowrie and nippy scrum-half Greg Cottrell were soon appearing all over the place. It was another penalty against Ayr that gave them the chance at more points, but Armstrong missed the kick.
The visitors pressed on and despite the best defensive efforts of Gossman and flankers Callum Templeton and Will Bordill, stand-off Rory Hutton dived over for a try at twenty-one minutes. Armstrong converted. 5-10.
Hawick's tails were up and Ayr struggled to contain Lowrie, second row Michael McKee and winger Scott McLeod. The home side had their chances but things weren't clicking and with Hawick having sorted out their line-out, Hutton again found himself crossing for a try at thirty-one minutes. Armstrong missed the conversion. 5-15.
Two minutes later and Ayr had a penalty, but Braid couldn't manage it.
It looked like Ayr were making a bit of progress, even if Dunlop was having to tidy up a messy line-out, but an errant pass was shot on to by Hawick centre Joaquin Domingues and nobody could stop him sprinting under the posts. Armstrong converted. 5-22.
The scoreline had almost silenced the crowd but the players didn't look panicked. Second row Scott Sutherland was the proverbial tower of strength at the line-out and he and Cox led the drives but again they got nowhere.
Hawick perhaps got a bit over-excited with half-time looming and hirsute number eight Bruce McNeil made himself as popular as a wasp at a picnic with his abrasive antics and colourful language. After the referee had had a good chat to his assistant, McNeil found himself sent to the sin bin to cool down.
The second half began slowly for Ayr, despite Braid and prop Fraser Watt trying to get things moving. Scrum-half Murray McConnell, centre Dean Kelbrick and Macpherson tried to take advantage of Hawick's errors but it wasn't until the visitors repeatedly infringed at the scrum that Ayr were awarded a penalty try at fifty minutes. Braid got the conversion. 12-22.
Hawick had their eye on stretching their lead and it was Hutton again who propelled his team on with some jinky runs. It was Armstrong, though, who caught a neat cross-kick and dotted down for a try in the corner. The angle was too wide for him to convert. 12- 27.
Ayr were making a solid effort but the tryline remained illusive. Macpherson, Anderson and Templeton pushed play into Hawick's half but the good work was undone when they were penalised for holding on.
Replacement scrum-half David Armstrong was in about everything and some great interplay between Gossman, Kelbrick and Anderson woke the crowd up, but Hawick weren't letting Ayr make much progress.
An attempt to bundle replacement Stuart Fenwick over the line was deemed illegal by the referee and another go a few minutes later was snuffed out entirely by excellent Hawick defence.
The notoriously temperamental Millbrae clock was accurate for once and time was running out. Ayr stayed calm and, roared on by their faithful fans, they won their line-out, fired the ball through the hands of the backs until it found Gossman and he skipped over for a much-needed try. Braid was quick about converting. 19-27.
Was a great escape possible? Ayr and their fans always believe, and it seemed that Hawick were doubting themselves. They sent the restart straight out. They then gathered up a loose Ayr pass only to knock-on.
With a minute left, Anderson shot off, muscling his way through the defence to allow Bordill to score his first try in the pink and black shirt and send the crowd into raptures. Braid drop-kicked the conversion. 26-27.
Everyone raced back for the restart but it was too late as a final infringement from Ayr led to the referee blowing the whistle for full-time to give Hawick a well-earned away victory and let them take the Bill McLaren Shield back to Mansfield Park.
Final score: Ayr 26 Hawick 27.
- Elena Hogarth.