Ayr ran in eight tries against an energetic Hamilton to progress to the quarter-final stage of the BT Cup on a sunny afternoon at Laigh Bent.
The match was preceded by a minute's silence in memory of former Ayr player Richard Logg, who very sadly passed away on Boxing Day.
The BT National League Division 2 home side began well with a solid period of possession, but they were soon turned over by the BT Premiership visitors, with outside centre Robbie Fergusson hacking on for Ayr's first foray to Hamilton's try-line.
Hamilton tidied the loose ball up, but minutes later, Ayr's stand-off Gavin Lowe chipped on for full-back Craig Gossman to chase and collect for the opening try. Lowe converted, despite the bright winter sun streaming on to his eyeline. 0-7.
Hamilton were looking good at the set pieces, but Ayr managed some poaching at the line-out and second row Scott Sutherland set off on the first of a few charges. The ball was fired through several Ayr hands - captain Dean Kelbrick falling on his knees at one point to keep it alive - but a forward pass was thrown and Hamilton gladly scrummed down.
Hamilton were adventurous with ball in hand, wingers Craig Skilling and Martin Kennedy keen to have a run around, but they were also tenacious in defence with full-back Scott Whiteside and flanker Ben Wilson putting in some thumping tackles.
They had the home crowd cheering when a little kick from centre David Deuchar bobbled over Ayr's try-line. Scrum-half David Armstrong saved his team's blushes by pouncing on it, but moments later his opposite number Stephen Turnbull scampered over for Hamilton's first try. Stand-off Owen McLeish converted from a tricky angle. 7-7.
Ayr had to work hard to get out of their own half, with Kelbrick, Sutherland, lock Rob McAlpine and prop Stuart Fenwick on the attack, but again they were undone by a forward pass.
A few more sturdy scrums from Hamilton steadied the ship, but they couldn't contain Gossman and he soon flew over for another try, again converted by Lowe. 7-14.
Gossman was once more slicing his way through the defence after flanker Graham Fisken galloped off, and it was Fergusson who ran in for the try. Lowe's conversion attempt was short. 7-19.
Hamilton refused to wilt and bashed their way through the Ayr defence to allow Skilling to get their second try, converted by McLeish. 14-19.
Ayr winger Cammy Taylor grabbed the restart and raced off but a few phases later and the visitors were penalised for diving over. Hamilton's resulting line-out was good but they knocked on as they tried to release their backs and then collapsed the ensuing scrum.
Ayr launched another attack from a line-out, with number eight Pete McCallum leading the way. The ball found winger Richard Dalgleish and he scored in the corner. Lowe couldn't convert. 14-24.
Hamilton tried to apply some pressure but could do nothing to quell Ayr's rampaging scrum. The ball was soon moving from side to side before McAlpine got his paws on it and dived over for another Ayr try. Lowe's conversion attempt from out wide was again short. 14-29.
The home team looked like scoring just at the start of the second half, with captain Andrew Hill, flanker Scott Alexander and Skilling combining well to charge into Ayr's twenty-two. But the ball went loose just at the try-line.
A scrum and a line-out for Ayr gave them the upper hand and McCallum cantered off into Hamilton's half before being tracked down by their tacklers. A few handling errors by the visitors broke the game up briefly, but they regained possession and replacement prop George Hunter blasted his way to the try-line. He couldn't make it, but a scrum for Ayr let McCallum dive over under the posts. Lowe converted. 14-36.
Sutherland launched himself on to the ball at the restart and released Gossman, but Ayr were pinged for crossing. A couple of line-outs from Hamilton got them into a good position and Hill scored an unconverted try. 19-36.
Crossing again prevented Ayr from capitalising on great running, this time from replacement Blair Macpherson. Another forward pass also scuppered the visitors' attacking aspirations before Hamilton's temper frayed and Gossman and Taylor, the two smallest players on the pitch, found themselves briefly thrown around like rag dolls. Everyone kissed and made up after a ticking off from referee Dunx McClement.
Armstrong was on the prowl round Hamilton's scrum and managed to pinch the ball, firing it on to Macpherson. Fergusson and Hunter continued the good work, with the latter bowling his way over for a try. Lowe knocked over the wide conversion. 19-43.
Hamilton pressed on, but Armstrong and replacement flanker Will Bordill displayed some doughty defence and the home team knocked on. McCallum and Fergusson again pushed play into Hamilton's half from a good Ayr scrum, but Lowe couldn't collect his own chip.
Ayr showed patience against a side that refused to tire, and eventually Armstrong spotted a gap and skipped over for a try, which Lowe converted. 19-50.
Hamilton wanted a final hurrah, with Hill and Skilling making inroads but they couldn't get anywhere. Gossman, Hunter and Lowe also tried to have the last say for Ayr, but no further points were scored. The visitors were glad to reach the quarter-finals of the BT Cup, whilst Hamilton returned to the clubhouse with heads held high after a determined display.
Final score: Hamilton 19 Ayr 50.
- Elena Hogarth.
View photos of the match by Nick Schaschke here.