Sunday, 29 November 2015

Ayr 20 Gala 13

Ayr maintained their position at the top of the BT Premiership after grinding out a mud-splattered win against Gala at Millbrae.

Anyone who had seen the forecast for heavy rain and high winds knew this encounter was not going to be pretty, but there was a good number of pink and black and maroon devotees in the crowd, despite the awful conditions.

There was lively play from Ayr props George Hunter and Javan Sebastian, flanker Will Bordill and scrum-half David Armstrong early on, but Gala were the first on the scoreboard after their stand-off David O'Hagan struck a penalty.  0-3.

As expected, there was a lot of kicking and a number of handling errors, but second rows Blair Macpherson and Andrew Dunlop blasted their way through the visiting defence and number eight Pete McCallum was almost over the line, only for the ball to be dislodged in the tackle.  Ayr had the advantage though and stand-off Frazier Climo lined up the kick.  3-3.

Climo had another shot at goal shortly after, but pushed it wide.  O'Hagan, too, had another opportunity but the wind was swirling and the ball drifted wide.

Ayr went on the attack via centres Danny McCluskey and Ross Curle and Glasgow Warriors' Junior Bulumakau, in his first outing in the pink and black shirt, but the ball went loose and some quick thinking from Curle saved the day as he chased down the hacked on ball from Gala and cleared.

Gala were hacking all over the place but their best chance was grounded by Armstrong, who had a busy afternoon, as did his counterpart in maroon, George Graham.

Armstrong led his men out of their own half with a sniping run from the back of a scrum and it was powerfully carried on by Macpherson and Sebastian, but the slippery conditions caused more knocks on.

Ayr were getting themselves into trouble at the scrum, giving away a penalty for the front row coming up and then getting marched back ten metres.  Gala took it quickly through Graham, but an enormous tackle on second row Callum Rowlandson by McCluskey shoved them back.

Ayr then strayed offside and were punished by O'Hagan's boot.  3-6.

It was the visitors' turn to have scrum trouble.  The home side proved steady at their set pieces and after a few phases, Macpherson plunged through the bodies and the mud for the try, which Climo converted just before half-time.  10-6.

Ayr's line-out continued to work well in the second half, with hooker Lewis Anderson looking assured with the throw-ins and flanker Callum Templeton deftly securing ball in the air.

Gala put the scrum under pressure though and they capitalised on Ayr's mistakes.  A line-out let replacement front row Gary Robertson burrow over for a try, converted by O'Hagan.  10-13.

The industrious Bordill had to leave the field injured and Ayr fans were getting a bit uneasy as Gala found gaps in the defence to charge into the opposition half and turned over when Ayr did have possession.  But they didn't help themselves by missing kicks for touch.

One such error allowed Armstrong to tidy up and release Climo, who ghosted through flailing maroon defenders and sped off.  Curle was in support and flew in under the posts for the try.  Man-of-the-match Climo converted.  17-13.

Climo added another three points moments later.  20-13.

The clock was ticking down (metaphorically - the wonky Millbrae timepiece cryptically displayed the word 'UP' throughout the match) and Gala can never be counted out in these situations.  They had a last-minute penalty thanks to Ayr holding on, but they knocked on.  Ayr happily scooped up the wayward ball and booted it off the park for the win.

Final score: Ayr 20 Gala 13.

- Elena Hogarth.

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