After some near misses in recent weeks, Ayr blew away the cobwebs on Saturday with a nine-try win against Stirling County in round five of the BT Premiership.
The visitors got off to a good start and coupled with Ayr straying offside, took the lead through the boot of stand-off Shaun Treweek. 0-3.
Treweek was good with ball in hand too and raced away to within centimetres of Ayr's line. Captain Ross Curle was on hand to prevent the score but landed in the sin bin and Treweek got another three points. 0-6.
Ayr got into their groove thanks to a swerving run from stand-off Frazier Climo. Prop Javan Sebastian was also quick on his feet and was the only chaser when scrum-half Ali Price chipped ahead. County beat him to it, but number eight Pete McCallum and George Hunter, starting at blindside flanker after his foray into the second row last week, put in the hefty tackles.
Stirling's captain Struan Robertson was full of menace in the loose but his team received a ticking off for repeated infringements in Ayr's half. The home team took the line-out and drove on only for the ball to come bobbling out of the maul. It went backwards though, Climo scooped it up and fired it to Robbie Fergusson who went over for the first try. The conversion attempt from Climo was wide. 5-6.
Price and wingers Haddon McPherson and Cameron Taylor were on the look-out for opportunities to get into County's half but it was Climo who found another gap and slipped through the defence to release McCallum, who squeezed in at the corner. Climo converted. 12-6.
Stirling's powerful number eight Vaka Manu had a good first half and almost got on the score sheet with a strong run to the line but the Ayr defence was solid and they turned over and cleared.
The visitors did add to their points tally when Ayr were off their feet at the ruck, Treweek kicking the penalty. 12-9.
Ayr's forwards had a busy afternoon, with some superb turnovers from prop Steven Longwell and a hand-off by openside flanker Blair Macpherson getting some oohs and aahs from the busy crowd on Ladies' Day at Millbrae.
Stirling were pinged for not rolling away, second row Robert McAlpine took the line-out and McPherson sped off for try number three. It went unconverted. 17-9.
Climo more than made up for his missed conversions with his brilliant vision for gaps and the ability to slide through them. His good work let Taylor loose and the winger flew over the line for the bonus point, leaving the now beleaguered County defence in his wake. Climo got the extras this time. 24-9.
And he did it again moments later, jinking his way from his own half to let Hunter smash his way over for the fifth try. Climo converted. 31-9.
There was more to come from prop-second-row-flanker Hunter. County were feeling the pressure and giving away penalties. An Ayr line-out saw a repeat performance from Hunter and Climo. 38-9.
Birthday boy Danny McCluskey was nearly over the line to mark his twenty-first but the ball was spilled. Ayr exerted their dominance by taking the scrum against the head and Hunter got his hat-trick. Climo's failed conversion brought the half to an end. 43-9.
The second half just couldn't compete with the first. County had a bit more possession but couldn't do anything with it.
The home team were called up for some knock-ons too, one in particular upsetting the crowd. Curle, largely quiet at full-back, looked to be off on one of his exciting runs and chipped on. The Millbrae faithful were convinced it came off his knee but it was deemed a knock-on.
County were so close to scoring after a squint put-in at the scrum from Ayr but the ball went awry just at the line.
Sebastian went on another charge and got Ayr into a great attacking position. It was McCallum who crossed in the corner for his second try of the game and fifth in five matches. Climo's conversion was short. 48-9.
Ayr emptied their bench and replacements Samuel Kenny, Lee Scott and Russell McKeown got stuck into the tackles as County searched for a try. They didn't score it themselves but they did get the points as the referee awarded a penalty try and replacement hooker Lewis Anderson found himself in the sin bin for collapsing the maul. Treweek converted. 48-16.
Ayr's second half siesta syndrome reared its ugly head again and their napping, plus a penalty against them for not rolling away, let County replacement Mark Hunter barrel over for an unconverted try. 48-21.
McCallum and Macpherson mopped up a sloppy Stirling line-out but their fancy footwork was all for nothing as Ayr were pinged for crossing.
The match was slowly stumbling to an end but there was one last burst of energy from both teams. Stirling's efforts in Ayr's half were snuffed out as they were shoved off the park. The fans were still waiting for that little bit of magic from Curle and it seemed that he'd saved his best till last. Alas, what appeared to be him throwing a pass to himself was forward, according to the referee.
Ayr wanted to get beyond that fifty-point mark though and some strong running from McKeown, second row Scott Sutherland and replacement back Archie Russell moved them closer. From an Ayr line-out, Longwell crashed over for the final try of the day, which Curle converted. 55-21.
Final score: Ayr 55 Stirling County 21.
- Elena Hogarth.
Photos by George McMillan.