Sunday, 22 February 2015

Ayr 25 Heriot's 23

Ayr overcame mud, rain, snow, sleet, hail and the BT Premiership leaders Heriot's to record a much-needed win at Millbrae.

It was the club's fourteenth Ladies' Lunch, so over a hundred extra female fans added to the expectant atmosphere, and both teams certainly gave the crowd a lot to cheer about.

Ayr got on the scoreboard early on, with a Ross Curle penalty.  3-0.

However, it wasn't long before Heriot's evened things up thanks to a penalty by scrum-half Graham Wilson.  3-3.

There was trouble on the horizon as Heriot's marauding backs spotted a gap in the home defence and winger Colin Goudie flew over for a try.  Wilson couldn't manage the wide conversion.  3-8.

With the Millbrae faithful roaring them on, the men in pink and black kept their composure, and soon had another penalty chance when Heriot's strayed off-side.  Curle struck it perfectly from forty metres.  6-8.

Heriot's were on the scent of another try, but excellent defensive work from outside centre Robbie Fergusson, number eight Graham Fisken and Curle put a stop to it.  Alas, it was Ayr's turn to be off-side and Heriot's took the line-out, where they knocked-on.

The visitors then gave away a penalty at the scrum, and a good take at the line-out from Scott Sutherland allowed flanker Andrew Dunlop to unleash the backs.  The ball found its way to Sutherland's second row partner Rob McAlpine, whose enthusiasm in attack almost knocked over referee Cammy Rudkin.

Fergusson then made a scintillating break and kept going with several Heriot's tackles clinging on to him.  Scrum-half David Armstrong and Fisken moved things along and it looked like full-back Grant Anderson had dived over for a try, but the referee adjudged he had been held up.

A couple of scrums for Ayr let flanker Peter McCallum burst to the line but the ball got away from him before he could ground it.

It was winger Craig Gossman's turn to try and make it to the line.  He couldn't get there, and neither could Fisken as he was tackled high.  Curle stepped up to the tee and kicked the penalty.  9-8.

The slim lead didn't last for long as a drive from a line-out led to Heriot's hooker Dave McGregor grabbing a try.  Wilson missed the conversion, possibly distracted by Ayr winger Richard Dalgleish charging at him.  9-13.

Heriot's shot off into Ayr's half once again but they turned it over and Gossman hacked on for Dunlop to chase.  He was beaten to it by the visitors.

A penalty moved Ayr into Heriot's twenty-two and they launched an attack from the line-out.  The ball bobbled over the line and Curle pounced for the try.  He couldn't convert his own score though.  14-13.

Another exciting run from Fergusson had the crowd on their feet, but despite support from hooker Fergus Scott, it came to nothing.  Soon after, Heriot's were off-side again and Curle's kick sailed over the crossbar.  17-13.

With the rain now lashing down, Curle, in the last play of the half, had another penalty attempt from well inside his own half but it was short.

More wintery showers at half-time turned the turf into a mire, and the second half began with several kicks back and forth before Heriot's tried to run it.  They didn't get far as Armstrong was hot on their heels.  But Ayr then infringed and Wilson kicked the penalty.  17-16.

Wilson's talents weren't just restricted to the boot; he showed off his handling skills with a cheeky pass through his legs at the back of a Heriot's scrum.  His backs would have been away but for yet another tackle by Armstrong.  Heriot's then gave Curle another shot at goal and he took it.  20-16.

A kick from Armstrong was beautifully caught by Gossman, but McGregor was hurt in the ensuing melee and both sets of fans were saddened to see him leave the field.

The ball was getting slippery in the mud and it was up to Anderson to tidy up the spills.  Heriot's dismissed their own handling errors to propel second row Russell Nimmo towards the line and he scored at the base of the post.  Wilson converted.  20-23.

The visitors then lost their heads, with winger Charlie Simpson clearly obstructing Curle as he chased a kick, and second row Daniel Levison finding himself in the sin bin, where he was joined by one of the props.

With a two-man advantage, Ayr trundled to the line and prop Stuart Fenwick claimed the try.  Tempers frayed but it erupted into nothing more than some shirt-pulling.  Curle couldn't get the conversion.  25-23.

The final few minutes were tense, to say the least.  Heriot's had the majority of the possession and Ayr worked hard to pin them to the half-way line and not give away any penalties.  It looked like centre Josh Laird might squeeze through the home defence, but his side infringed to bring the match to an end.

Curle claimed the man-of-the-match award, but it was a terrific all-round performance from the entire squad.

Final score: Ayr 25 Heriot's 23.

- Elena Hogarth.

View Alan Graham's photos of the match here.

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