Friday, 30 September 2016

Boroughmuir v Ayr preview

It's another trip east for Ayr as they visit Meggatland to face Boroughmuir in the BT Premiership on Saturday.

After a heartening win against Melrose last week to top the table and remain the only unbeaten side in the league, Ayr are hoping to continue in that vein this week. The home team will have other ideas.

"Boroughmuir will be looking to bounce back after some narrow losses in recent weeks despite playing some good rugby," says Ayr RFC head coach Calum Forrester. "Last week was our most complete performance of the season so far and we will be looking to improve on what was a mature and disciplined display."

In the squad, prop Adam Prentice makes his first start, with hooker James Malcolm returning to the line-up after missing out last Saturday.

After some good performances for the 2nd XV, Graham Hunter is amongst a dynamic group of substitutes and could make his 1st XV debut.

Craig Stevenson is promoted from the bench in place of Robert McAlpine, who has received a thoroughly deserved call-up to the Glasgow Warriors squad for their Pro12 game against the Dragons tonight.

15. Grant Anderson (c); 14. Cameron Taylor, 13. Danny McCluskey, 12. Stafford McDowall, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Frazier Climo, 9. David Armstrong; 1. George Hunter, 2. James Malcolm, 3. Adam Prentice; 4. Craig Stevenson, 5. Scott Sutherland; 6. Will Bordill, 7. Gregor Henry, 8. Blair Macpherson.

16. David Young, 17. Steven Longwell, 18. Robert McAlpine, 19. Graham Hunter, 20. Richard Dalgliesh.

Kick-off 3pm! Follow the scores live on Twitter.

It's a 3pm kick-off for Boroughmuir 2nd XV v Ayr 2nd XV, and the scores will be updated via the Ultimate Rugby app.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Davie and Gregor share POTM

The first player of the month award has been claimed by back row Gregor Henry (above) and scrum-half David Armstrong (below), both of whom had 20% of the online vote.
It's been a rapid rise for Henry, who only made his 1st XV debut for Ayr this season and clearly caught fans' attention with his hard-working performances.

Armstrong had a remarkable recovery from nine stitches in his leg - sustained after a maul drove over the top of him at Heriot's - to come back and boss proceedings in some very difficult games.

The player of the month award is sponsored by Slaters Menswear.

Gregor is sponsored by Luce Bay Plant Hire and Davie is sponsored by Launch.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Ayr 11 Melrose 7

The good old west coast wind and rain couldn't dampen the spirits at Millbrae on Saturday afternoon as Ayr came through a stern test against Melrose to remain the only unbeaten side in the BT Premiership and top the table.

Both teams had racked up the tries in the first four rounds of league competition, but there was no chance of a high-scoring match in such damp conditions. It was going to be a case of sticking it out, and that was what Ayr did.

The visitors set their stall out early, running the ball from their own twenty-two, and when they lost possession, they quickly turned it back over.

Ayr thought they would have a bit of a saunter in the mud too, scrum-half David Armstrong, winger Cameron Taylor, centre Stafford McDowall, stand-off Frazier Climo, number eight Blair Macpherson and prop Steven Longwell moving the ball through the hands.

Inevitably, on such a day, there were errors aplenty and Melrose pounced on all.

The men from the Greenyards turned over in their own twenty-two and flew off. Full-back Fraser Thomson chased a kick into Ayr's half only to pull up with an injury that forced him to leave the pitch for the remainder of the game.

It was scrum-half Murdo McAndrew who claimed the ball and got over for the try, stand-off Jason Baggott easily converting. 0-7.

Ayr had the chance to get on the scoreboard but Climo's penalty kick just curved away from the posts.

After a good kick for touch by full-back Grant Anderson that slid through the hands of Thomson's replacement Struan Hutchinson to give Ayr the line-out, the home team set off for the line with flanker Gregor Henry leading the way, but they were called back for crossing.

Henry had another go a few minutes later from another Ayr line-out, with second row Scott Sutherland, centre Danny McCluskey and winger Craig Gossman in support. The points came from the boot of Climo, however, as he kicked a penalty. 3-7.

There were a few wayward line-outs from both sides, but Ayr hooker David Young safely got the ball to George Hunter in Melrose's twenty-two, and the prop delicately flipped it to Armstrong. The scrum-half spotted the narrowest of gaps but his pass back to Young went awry.

More slipping and sliding and knocks-on occurred until Melrose put boot to ball but flanker Will Bordill charged it down and kicked on. Macpherson and Henry could see space out on the wing but the referee spotted a forward pass.
Another Climo penalty got Ayr within a point of the visitors. 6-7.

There were further attacking chances for both sides just before half-time, but Melrose were scuppered by thumping tackles by Gossman, whilst charges for Ayr from Armstrong and second row Robert McAlpine came to nothing.

Melrose started the second half well and were looking to spark their creative backs with a cross-field kick but it just wasn't the day for it. Baggott had a penalty kick but missed.

Ayr got into a slow and steady mind-set, barging rather than running, with forwards and backs working together to gradually move out of their own half.

Sutherland can always be relied on to thump his way through the defence, and it was such a move that released Taylor, Hunter and Bordill. Climo's cross-field kick went into Melrose hands but they had strayed off-side and Climo's next kick was for the corner.

Again, Melrose were where they shouldn't have been and Climo lined up a penalty. The kick was unsuccessful but it was still live and Melrose had a job to retrieve it and clear with Ayr's forwards swarming all over them metres from the try-line.
Melrose found themselves down to fourteen men when prop Nick Beavon was sin-binned for repeated professional fouls, but Ayr found it difficult to take advantage until it came to scrum time.

They dominated with the experienced Beavon on the sidelines, and Armstrong twice propelled himself at the line, finally being held up by the black and yellow defence.

Ayr were strong at the scrum again and the ball flew out to Anderson who timed his pass to Taylor well, the winger stepping away from the touchline and leaving the Melrose defence confused enough so he could dive over for a try. The conversion angle was too wide for Climo. 11-7.

Ayr were quickly back into attack through Macpherson and later Armstrong, Longwell and McCluskey. Another penalty opportunity arose but Climo couldn't land the kick at goal.

The final ten minutes were edge-of-the-seat stuff for the packed stand as Melrose camped out in Ayr's twenty-two, taking line-out after line-out. But Ayr defended solidly, poaching and clearing, and Melrose just couldn't engage their backs.

A brilliant kick and catch by Anderson got Ayr out of their own half and with Melrose's other prop Jamie Bhatti shown a yellow card for a no-arms tackle, it was almost all over.

Macpherson, Longwell and McAlpine headed for the try-line but couldn't find a way through and Climo booted the ball off the pitch to bring the game to an end.
Final score: Ayr 11 Melrose 7.

Slaters Menswear man of the match: Cameron Taylor.

- Elena Hogarth.

Photos by George McMillan.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Ayr v Melrose preview

An exciting afternoon lies ahead at Millbrae on Saturday as Scotland's two best teams go head-to-head in round five of the BT Premiership.

A battle between visiting top dogs Melrose and hosts Ayr, who are just a point behind the Borderers in the table, fans can expect some excellent rugby, and it's not just the supporters who are keenly anticipating the tie.

"Ayr and Melrose have enjoyed a number of fierce encounters in recent years, and we look forward to the challenge," says Ayr RFC head coach Calum Forrester. "Rob (Chrystie, Melrose coach) has got his team playing well, scoring points for fun and posing threats right across the team. Likewise, our performances have been improving over the weeks, and with both teams looking to preserve their unbeaten start to the season, it is set to be a great match."

Ayr's squad remains settled five weeks into the season, and there are only a few changes to the team. Frazier Climo returns at stand-off and David Young moves to the bench, with James Malcolm taking over at hooker.

Malcolm's fellow Glasgow Warrior, Canadian international prop Djustice Sears-Duru is in line to make his Ayr debut from the bench.

15. Grant Anderson (c); 14. Danny McCluskey, 13. Archie Russell, 12. Ross Curle, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Frazier Climo, 9. David Armstrong; 1. George Hunter, 2. James Malcolm, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Robert McAlpine, 5. Scott Sutherland; 6. Will Bordill, 7. Gregor Henry, 8. Blair Macpherson.

16. David Young, 17. Djustice Sears-Duru, 18. Craig Stevenson, 19. Cameron Taylor, 20. Jamie Bova.

15. Fraser Thomson; 14. Ross McCann, 13. Richard Taylor, 12. Craig Jackson, 11. Austin Lockington; 10. Jason Baggott, 9. Murdo McAndrew; 1. Jamie Bhatti, 2. Russell Anderson, 3. Nick Beavon; 4. James Head, 5. Ruaridh Knott; 6. Neil Irvine Hess, 7. Grant Runicman (c), 8. Ian Moddy.

16. Cammy McKay, 17. Dan Elkington, 18. Ali Grieve, 19. Struan Hutchinson, 20. Nyle Godsmark.

Kick-off 3pm!

Ayr 2nd XV v Melrose Storm, 3pm.

Cumnock v Millbrae RFC, 3pm.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Ayr Ladies 33 Stewartry Sirens 46

Ayr Ladies and Stewartry Sirens entertained the crowd with a try-fest at Millbrae on Friday night, but it was the visitors who came away with the win in the third round of the BT Premier League.

Stewartry had the lion's share of possession in the first quarter, with Ayr's back row of Rachael Mulholland, Kelsey Swift and Rachel Morrison leading the defence, backed up by centres Catriona Cowan and Laura McTaggart.

The back row proved handy in attack too, as did second rows Phoebe McDowall and Joanne Jones and props Laura Turner and Lauren Gunn.

But the Sirens were always ready to turn over and if they couldn't break that pink and black wall at first, they chipped away. Their patience was rewarded with an unconverted try. 0-5.

Ayr half-backs Catherine Shennan and Emily Irving were keen to boss the game but never got the chance in the first half, the Sirens smothering them and mopping up any errors. An interception and some incredibly fast footwork brought them another try, the conversion bouncing off the upright. 0-10.

It was an enjoyable game from a Stewartry perspective as they scored yet again (and yet again the conversion hit the post). 0-15.

But Ayr Ladies never give less than their all, as exemplified with some tenacious work at the scrum. Morrrison and Gunn got their heads down and went for the line, but the ladies from Castle Douglas were on their A game with their cover tackles.

They overthrew at the line-out though, allowing Turner to spark the attack. It was newcomer Claire Law, playing at full-back, who scurried over in the blink of an eye for a try. Shennan converted. 7-15.

Ayr hooker Lisa Croniken made several terrific breaks over the course of the evening, but the ladies in dark pink always managed to close her down. Their backs were like lightning, and Law and winger Kirsty Wilson were busy hauling them to the ground before they could do too much damage.

It wasn't enough though, as the Sirens slipped through and under the crossbar for a converted try. 7-22.

Mulholland tore their defence apart with half-time approaching, Jones, Turner, Irving, Gunn, Law and winger Lisa Main in support.

A brief stoppage for a Sirens injury gave everyone a breather but Ayr quickly got back into it, Turner shooting over for a try, Shennan converting. 14-22.

A mistake at the start of the second half gave Ayr a scrum on the half-way line, Mulholland breaking away from the back and superbly handing off a defender. Swift, who was here, there and everywhere throughout the evening, Cowan and Shennan took on the ball but couldn't breach the defence.

A series of penalties took the oomph out of the game but Croniken soon put it back in with a scintillating try and Shennan got another great conversion. 21-22.

Sirens still had plenty gas left in the tank and after poaching Ayr's line-out, made for the try-line only to knock on.

They soon regained possession, but Ayr then turned over after solid tackles by Law and Wilson, and more blasting runs by Mulholland and Croniken.

The ball loose, Swift hacked on for Turner to chase. Stewartry retrieved it and cleared.

Ayr leaked a couple of penalties to put the pressure back on, and a beautiful dink over the top of the defence and deft catch by the Sirens gave them another try. It was unconverted. 21-27.

The home team were still undaunted, the centres and back row forcing their way out of their own half. After a penalty against the Sirens, Mulholland sprinted away for a try. The conversion eluded Shennan. 26-27.

The match just started to get away from Ayr though. The longer it went on, the more the Sirens' confidence grew. They got another converted try between the sticks and an unconverted one (a third kick to hit the post) in the corner. 26-39.

Great handling by Gunn and Swift let Mulholland loose and she claimed her second try of the evening. Shennan converted in front of the posts. 33-39.

Stewartry got a penalty and after swithering whether to go for the posts (those three that hit the upright on their minds?), they took the corner. It didn't bring them any points, but their power at the scrum did. They shoved Ayr off the ball right at the end to get their final converted try. 33-46.

- Elena Hogarth.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Hawick 28 Ayr 43

The sun was shining at Mansfield Park on Saturday afternoon as Hawick and Ayr squared up in the fourth round of the BT Premiership, with the visitors emerging as 43-28 winners.

All eyes were on Glasgow Warriors' and Scotland's Finn Russell as he made his competitive return from injury, and at times, there seemed to be more cameras and long lenses - not to mention present and future Scotland coaches - than fans in the stand.

There has never been any love lost between the tough Borderers in green and the men in pink and black, and there was tension from the off. The home side fed off it and made an excellent start, slippery winger Darcy Graham eluding the tackles, despite the best efforts of Ayr's Russell and Ross Curle.

Full-back Neil Renwick flew in for an exciting try that sent the home crowd into raptures. He converted his own score. 7-0.

The dynamic duo of Graham and Renwick were causing all kinds of problems with their slick passing and speedy footwork, but Ayr's front row of George Hunter, David Young and Steven Longwell brought them to a halt.

Ayr wanted to stretch their legs too, Archie Russell, playing alongside big brother Finn for the first time, and Craig Gossman dancing their way up the wing only to be forced into touch.

Gossman was quickly back in the thick of it, supporting Hunter, scrum-half David Armstrong and full-back Grant Anderson, but handling errors put an end to any scoring hopes.

Set pieces were exchanged and both sides gave away penalties. A small scuffle broke out but Ayr settled at their line-out and Russell the younger, second row Scott Sutherland, Curle, flanker Will Bordill, Russell the elder and winger Danny McCluskey combined seamlessly to send Armstrong scurrying away for a try. But it was disallowed after tempers boiled over and Sutherland was shown a yellow card for foul play.

Hawick couldn't take advantage though, Finn Russell swarming all over them in both attack and defence. Ayr number eight Blair Macpherson was on battering-ram form, and along with Russell and Curle, he bashed his way through the green defence and flanker Gregor Henry propelled himself over the line for a try. Finn Russell converted. 7-7.

You can't keep Hawick down for long, and soon bearded menace Bruce McNeil barrelled over for a try, which Renwick converted. 14-7.

Gossman, Anderson, Armstrong and Hunter were on the look-out for any gap, but Hawick closed them down. A line-out from a penalty allowed Longwell to bulldoze up the pitch, second row Craig Stevenson (on for Rob McAlpine) taking the ball on until Archie Russell zoomed away for a try, converted by his brother. 14-14.

Half-time brought some respite for the fans, who were just as invested in the game. Hawick were straight back into their frenzy of attack as soon as play resumed.

It didn't get them far as Young and Henry closed down any attempts to break free. Soon, Ayr had possession, Bordill blasted through the green shirts and Curle used his balletic feet and his strength to get over in the corner without being dragged into touch. Russell couldn't convert. 14-19.

Archie Russell and McCluskey next had a go, with Anderson chipping a few moments later and getting dangerously close to Hawick's line. The green wall was intact though, at that point anyway, but not when Finn Russell sailed away for a try he converted himself. 14-26.

Armstrong stuck like glue to Hawick's attackers and they failed to swat him aside. If he wasn't ripping the ball from their hands, he was leading the charge. He was in about everything, as was Longwell, who fired into the defence and perfectly popped the ball away to his backs.

Hawick fought hard for a turnover but Curle and Armstrong were upon them, Sutherland and Henry there to back them up in a fraught phase of play that saw possession change hands until Macpherson got the ball and barged over for a try. The conversion was out wide and Russell couldn't make it. 14-31.

Cameron Taylor replaced Curle, who was joined on the bench by Finn Russell, Frazier Climo replacing him.

Hawick composed themselves, flanker Stuart Graham looking fleet of foot and deft of hand. A couple of penalties given away by Ayr gave the home team the opportunity to fight back and it was McNeil who scored. Replacement Kirk Ford took over kicking duties and easily slotted the conversion. 21-31.

Armstrong and Climo tightened Ayr's grip on the game and let their forwards loose. Henry took the ball into the greens' twenty-two and after a few phases, it returned to the backs and Archie Russell got his second try of the match. Climo couldn't convert. 21-36.

Robbie Smith replaced Young at hooker and joined fellow young gun Stevenson in some energetic play. But Ayr were pinged for holding on, although Hawick's kick for the corner landed right in the bread basket for Taylor.

That set Ayr off again, Bordill chipping on into Hawick's half. But crossing stopped their efforts to get to the try-line. A scrum right in front of the posts gave them another opportunity and a lovely pass from Armstrong let Macpherson get his brace. Climo converted. 21-43.

There was still time for Hawick to make a comeback, or so the fans thought; the clock had other ideas. They didn't help themselves by overthrowing at the line-out but it mattered not when they had winger Wesley Hamilton ready to fly over for a consolation try, which Ford converted. 28-43.

Ayr fancied another trip to the Hawick try-line but ended up in touch, bringing a tiring and fractious encounter to an end.

Final score: Hawick 28 Ayr 43.

- Elena Hogarth.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Ayr Ladies v Stewartry Sirens preview

It's the battle of the south-west at Millbrae tonight as Ayr Ladies and Stewartry Sirens meet in the BT Premier League for the first time, kicking off at 7.45pm.

The two newcomers to the top tier of Scottish women's rugby have had a similar rise to prominence and know each other very well. This will be a hard-fought game.

Laura Turner again leads the team from the front row, with the dynamic duo of Catherine Shennan and Emily Irving bossing proceedings at half-back.

Ann-Marie Connelly takes her place on the bench, with youngsters Kelsey Brown and Connie Griffiths adding youth to experience amongst the replacements.

15. Claire Law; 14. Kirsty Wilson, 13. Laura McTaggart, 12. Catriona Cowan, 11. Linsey Bunten; 10. Catherine Shennan, 9. Emily Irving; 1. Laura Turner (c), 2. Lisa Croniken, 3. Lauren Gunn; 4. Phoebe McDowall, 5. Joanne Jones; 6. Rachel Morrison, 7. Kelsey Swift, 8. Rachael Mulholland.

16. Louise McLauchlan, 17. Michelle Nelson, 18. Sonja Liekens, 19. Kelsey Brown, 20. Lisa Main, 21. Ann-Marie Connelly, 22. Eilidh Stewart, 23. Connie Griffiths.

Kick-off 7.45pm!

Hawick v Ayr preview

Ayr travel to Mansfield Park on Saturday to face Hawick in the BT Premiership with Glasgow Warriors' and Scotland's Finn Russell starting at stand-off.

Russell was a league and cup winner with Ayr three years ago before becoming a professional player and everyone at Millbrae is delighted to see him back in a pink and black shirt. He'll line up alongside younger brother Archie, who joined Ayr last season, to make his long-awaited return from injury.

"It's great for the BT Premiership to have the link with the pro clubs," says Ayr head coach Calum Forrester, "and with international players getting released on a weekly basis, it will only raise the profile of our club game."

He continues: "Mansfield is always a challenging environment to play in and we will need to improve on last week's performance if we are to get the result we desire."

The vastly experienced second row Scott Sutherland makes his first appearance of the season, with Danny McCluskey moving to the wing, and hooker David Young, centre Ross Curle and scrum-half David Armstrong return to the starting line-up.

On the bench, young guns Robbie Smith, Adam Prentice and Craig Stevenson take their place with Cameron Taylor and Frazier Climo.

15. Grant Anderson (c); 14. Danny McCluskey, 13. Archie Russell, 12. Ross Curle, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Finn Russell, 9. David Armstrong; 1. George Hunter, 2. David Young, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Robert McAlpine, 5. Scott Sutherland; 6. Will Bordill, 7. Gregor Henry, 8. Blair Macpherson.

16. Robbie Smith, 17. Adam Prentice, 18. Craig Stevenson, 19. Cameron Taylor, 20. Frazier Climo.

15. Neil Renwick; 14. Darcy Graham, 13. John Coutts, 12. Gary Johnstone, 11. Wesley Hamilton; 10. Lee Armstrong, 9. Bruce Campbell; 1. Matt Landels, 2. Fraser Renwick, 3. Callum Mackintosh; 4. Dylan Harlen, 5. Michael Robertson; 6. Bruce McNeil (c), 7. Stuart Graham, 8. Keith Davies.

16. Terry Skeet, 17. Ryan Hogg, 18. Ross Gibson, 19. Kirk Ford, 20. Grant Huggan.

Kick-off 3pm. Follow the scores live on Twitter or watch live via the Scottish Rugby YouTube channel.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Ayr 27 Gala 24

Ayr stuck it out against a determined Gala on a sunny day at Millbrae on Saturday in the BT Premiership.

Gala got the first points on the board thanks to a penalty by stand-off Gregor Hunter. 0-3.

The visitors attacked through speedy second row Rob Louw but they gave away a penalty. Ayr took the line-out, and the ball was fired from lock Craig Stevenson to scrum-half Harry Warr to centre Danny McCluskey. A long pass found full-back and captain Grant Anderson and he barged over in the corner. Stand-off Frazier Climo couldn't convert from the touchline. 5-3.

Ayr battered their way into Gala's half via number eight Blair Macpherson and second row Rob McAlpine. A little kick was gathered by the maroons and taken on by prop Matt Carryer, who dummied beautifully. But Ayr turned over and Warr found touch with a great kick.

A couple of line-outs for Gala followed and possession changed hands before visiting winger Craig Robertson burst through the defence and sprinted away for a fine try. Hunter converted from out wide. 5-10.

Ayr had periods of attack, with Climo, Warr, centre Archie Russell and winger Craig Gossman making forays, but they were thwarted at times by their own unforced errors, as well as that tough Borders defence.

Neither side was able to string together sustained phases though; as soon as Ayr turned over, Gala turned over, and when they broke away, Warr, making an assured debut, ripped the ball from maroon hands only for the referee to bring things to halt after spotting a knock-on.
It was frustrating for the crowd (a large contingent catching some rays on the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum side of the park) and they held their breaths as Chris Dean made a terrific break for Gala. He was enveloped by Anderson and Gossman.

Ayr stole Gala's line-out and launched themselves at the whitewash through Russell and flankers Gregor Henry and Will Bordill. But Gala's Robertson turned over and shot off. He couldn't get anywhere and a couple of penalties for his side were fruitless, including a long-range kick at goal by Hunter.

There was hope for Ayr as Climo glided through a myriad of defenders and sauntered away. Russell headed for the line but was dragged down just short.

D'arcy Rae replaced Steven Longwell at prop and David Armstrong came on for Warr, who unfortunately left the field with an ankle injury.

After a solid Ayr scrum, Macpherson and hooker James Malcolm pressed for the line, but a pass for Gossman found his face rather than his hands. They had the advantage though and took another couple of scrums. The try-line remained unreachable.

The home team was helped by Gala's Dean landing himself in the sin bin for repeated professional fouls and Ayr drove from the line-out, Henry burrowing over for a try. Climo couldn't convert. 10-10.
The second half began with Ross Curle replacing Jamie Bova, and McCluskey moving out to the wing, and Lee Scott coming off the bench for Stevenson.

Handling mishaps afflicted both teams, but Ayr held the ball and their nerve long enough for Bordill to put his head down and drive over the line for a try. Again, it wasn't an easy conversion for Climo and his kick hit the post. 15-10.

Gala full-back Graham Speirs was off like a rocket and was headed for the line unopposed until Armstrong came flying up behind him and dragged him into touch.

He repeated the feat a few minutes later and Ayr regained possession but the ball went loose, Robertson made a grab for it and marched away to the try-line. Hunter summarily converted. 15-17.

Climo had the chance to nudge Ayr back in front with a penalty but his kick again hit the post.

Armstrong, McCluskey and prop George Hunter got Ayr into the Gala half, but those pesky knocks-on bothered both sides.

Ayr were patient though; they could scent a try but instead of desperately trying to force their way over, they calmly kept the ball moving through the hands until a gap appeared and Malcolm scored. It went unconverted. 20-17.

Longwell returned for Hunter, and instantly charged into the Gala defence, Russell backing him up, with Henry and McAlpine giving it a go too. Curle was almost on to an interception but only got his fingertips to the ball and it bobbled away from him.
Hooker David Young showed his adaptability by replacing Henry on the flank and getting stuck into the scrum.

It had sometimes been a laboured performance by both teams, but Ayr made their next try look easy. The ball simply sailed from hand to hand to hand until McCluskey cruised to the try-line and Climo converted. 27-17.

Russell looked like matching his erstwhile centre partner's feat, but neither he nor Macpherson - casually swatting Gala defenders aside like irksome midges - could make it.

The visitors from Netherdale typify that Borders never-say-die attitude and with the minutes ticking down, they marauded into Ayr's half and replacement back Craig Dods got the try, which Hunter converted. 27-24.

A heart-stopping minute followed as Gala endeavoured to get that winning score but thumping tackles from Scott, amongst others, stopped them in their tracks as full-time beckoned.
Final score: Ayr 27 Gala 24.

Slaters Menswear man of the match: David Armstrong.

- Elena Hogarth.

Photos courtesy of George McMillan.

RHC Cougars v Ayr Ladies preview

Ayr Ladies have their first away game of 2016/17 as they travel to Edinburgh on Sunday to take on the RHC Cougars.

The ladies have been working hard in training all week in the wake of their tough defeat to Cartha QP in their first match of the BT Premier League last Friday evening. Coaches Stuart Fenwick and Frazier Climo have them ready to take on the Cougars, who are yet to begin their campaign after their match with Melrose last week was postponed.

After impressive debuts last week, Catriona Cowan, Claire Law and Joanne Jones retain their places and are joined by another new face in Kirsty Wilson on the wing.

Emily Irving and Kelsey Swift return at scrum-half and openside flanker respectively.

15. Rachel Morrison; 14. Kirsty Wilson, 13. Laura McTaggart, 12. Catriona Cowan, 11. Claire Law; 10. Catherine Shennan, 9. Emily Irving; 1. Laura Turner (c), 2. Lisa Croniken, 3. Lauren Gunn; 4. Louise McLauchlan, 5. Joanne Jones; 6. Phoebe McDowall, 7. Kelsey Swift, 8. Rachael Mulholland.

16. Michelle Nelson, 17. Alex Mailey, 18. Lynda Morgan, 19. Lisa Main, 20. Eilidh Stewart.

Kick-off 2pm!

Friday, 9 September 2016

Ayr v Gala preview

It's round three of the BT Premiership and Ayr welcome Gala to Millbrae on Saturday, kicking off at 3pm.

After a close call against Heriot's at Goldenacre last week, another tough encounter awaits the Ayrshire men as the doughty Borderers look to get their second win of the season.

Matches between the men in pink and black and the men in maroon are always fiercely contested, and in recent years have been some of the most exciting and dramatic ties in the league.

Ayr head coach Calum Forrester knows what his troops will be up against and he has them well prepared.

"We will need to improve our accuracy and raise the physicality of our defence to try and combat a strong Gala side on a high following their victory over Currie."

There are some reshuffles in the squad to accommodate the injuries picked up last Saturday, but this allows scrum-half Harry Warr to make his debut. He starts, with David Armstrong sufficiently recovered from a leg injury to be on the bench.

Captain Pete McCallum is injured, so Blair Macpherson moves to number eight, with Gregor Henry slotting in at openside flanker, and Grant Anderson leads the team from full-back. Danny McCluskey starts at inside centre.

Glasgow Warriors have released Ayr alumni James Malcolm and D'arcy Rae. They start at hooker and are on the bench as prop respectively.

15. Grant Anderson (c); 14. Jamie Bova, 13. Archie Russell, 12. Danny McCluskey, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Frazier Climo, 9. Harry Warr; 1. George Hunter, 2. James Malcolm, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Craig Stevenson, 5. Robert McAlpine; 6. Will Bordill, 7. Gregor Henry, 8. Blair Macpherson.

16. David Young, 17. D'arcy Rae, 18. Lee Scott, 19. David Armstrong, 20. Ross Curle.

15. Graham Speirs (c); 14. Ross Combe, 13. Chris Dean, 12. Paul Hendry, 11. Craig Robertson; 10. Gregor Hunter, 9. George Lott; 1. Matt Carryer, 2. Dean Brooker, 3. Chris Keen; 4. Opeta Palepoi, 5. Rob Louw; 6. Alan Emond, 7. Josh Irvine, 8. Stevie Cairns.

16. Gary Robertson, 17. Curtis Reynolds, 18. Gary Adams, 19. Gregor Mein, 20. Craig Dods.

Kick-off 3pm! Follow the scores live on Twitter.

The 2nd XV play Gala A at Millbrae, 3pm, and their game can be followed via the Ultimate Rugby app.

Please note that the church car park next on the museum side of the club will be unavailable this Saturday.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

£1833 raised on Ladies' Day

A fantastic £1833 was raised for Tilly Sharkey on Ladies' Day at Ayr RFC on Saturday 27th August.

The five-year-old from Ayr has a serious brain condition and funds raised will go towards her specialist treatment.

The Ayr RFC Ladies' Lunch is organised by committee member Eilidh Goodwin, and we thank her for all her hard work and the incredible attention to detail she puts in to ensure the guests have a memorable day.

Eilidh would like to thank All Out Catering for the food, Baillies' Marquee Company for the venue, Derek McCabe for the photography, No 22 Cocktail Bar, Hourstons beauty and fragrance department, Ann Summers, the Naked Butlers, Amy McGillivray for the photo booth, Johnny for his vocals during lunch, Unity for their performance in the evening, DJ Davie Mitchell, and Robbie Duncan for hosting the event.

Thanks also to Alison Kerr at Corton Plants, Chester Party Shop, Greg Rankin, Alyson Holden, Pam at Wish, and to the following for donating raffle prizes:

Wallace Allan, FunTubz, D&G Hotubs, Sarah Sharkey, Wish, Cameron Tablet, Venture Photo Studios, Sheila Scott, Heads of Ayr Farm Park, Waterfront, Hourstons, No 22, Ann Summers, Mrs Rae, Liz McHarg, No 4 Hair, Nails and Beauty Salon, Minishant Inn, ULT Fitness, Helen Nicholson, Debbie Hogarth, Carol Goodwin, Jean Hanratty, Edna Rankin, Peppermint Pooch, No 27 Alloway, Lauren Fisher, Vivien McConnechy, Bakery Box, West Sound and many more!

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Heriot's 18 Ayr 23

It wasn't quite the grudge match it had been billed (by some) as Ayr faced Heriot's for the first time since the Goldenacre side beat them in the BT Premiership final in April.

It was very much an early round league fixture, with both teams failing to find a spark until an exciting last quarter.

The initial stages of the game were dominated by successive set pieces, and Ayr didn't have much possession at all. There was some barging about by props George Hunter and Steven Longwell and stand-off Frazier Climo, but Heriot's got the first points on the board thanks to a penalty by stand-off Alex Hagart that delighted the home crowd. 3-0.

Things took a turn for worse for the visitors as full-back Grant Anderson found himself in the sin bin for a professional foul and Hagart extended Heriot's lead. 6-0.

The home team started to give away penalties too though, Climo taking advantage with his ever-reliable boot. 6-3.

There was much toing and froing, and despite some good work in defence and attack from the likes of second rows Craig Stevenson and Rob McAlpine and flanker Will Bordill, Ayr just couldn't ignite.

Heriot's pushed for the line after two penalties allowed them to creep into Ayr's twenty-two, and the visitors did very well to hold them up. Some interminable scrummaging followed and Ayr found themselves pinged. Hagart's penalty attempt at goal was unsuccessful though.

A huge tackle by Bordill allowed centre Archie Russell to scoop up the dislodged ball and he let wing Jamie Bova loose. He scampered off but put a foot in touch.

Just when it looked like Heriot's were making their way into Ayr's twenty-two, wing Craig Gossman zoomed on to a wayward pass and was clear for a pulsating try between the posts. Climo converted. 6-10.

Heriot's were unconcerned and pressed on out of their own half and patiently made an assault for Ayr's try-line. Anderson, now back on, and scrum-half David Armstrong repelled the attack but Heriot's would not be denied and full-back Gavin Parker squeezed over in the corner. Hagart missed the tightly angled conversion, possibly distracted by Bova and captain Pete McCallum charging at him. 11-10.

Ayr tried to up the ante at the start of the second half with some galloping runs by flanker Blair Macpherson and Bova, and some delicate handling touches by Climo and Russell. But they couldn't get anywhere and lost Longwell to injury (replaced by Adam Prentice), with Ross Curle also leaving the field, Danny McCluskey taking his spot at centre.

Climo's boot nudged Ayr in front though. 11-13.

The visitors were beginning to string together some effective attacking moves through Hunter, Climo, Armstrong and Bova, but that try-line eluded them.

Another penalty by Climo stretched their lead. 11-16.

Too many kicks by both teams frustrated the fans but the Heriot's supporters soon had something to shout about as a bobbling ball was scooped up and Hagart raced away to score just at the base of the left post. He converted it with ease. 18-16.

It looked like the same thing would happen moments later but Ayr's defence quickly organised itself and shoved the Heriot's attacker into touch.

At last, there was some real tension in the game, with Heriot's flanker George Turner making a break for the line only to pass to Ayr's Hunter. The ball flew through Ayr hands but Heriot's Callum Marshall intercepted, and there was a sigh of relief from the pink and black travelling support that it was a second row who made a dash for it and not a back.

Ayr wrestled back possession, with Craig Gossman and replacement Cameron Taylor getting dangerously close to the whitewash.

Hooker David Young had shored up Ayr's line-out and he took a break to be replaced by Lewis Anderson, who continued with some assured throws. Stevenson and McAlpine were on poaching form in the last quarter, and helped turn the tide.

Hunter had put in a power of work throughout the game and it was his popped pass to Armstrong - after sprints from Gossman and Bordill - that allowed the scrum-half to charge past the flailing Heriot's defenders and under the crossbar for a fine try. Climo converted. 18-23.

There was still time on the clock, and McCallum and Macpherson linked up to get back into Heriot's twenty-two. Possession went back and forth as the home team desperately tried to salvage their afternoon but the ball ended up in the hands of Climo, who happily booted it off the pitch at full-time.

Final score: Heriot's 18 Ayr 23.

- Elena Hogarth.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Ayr Ladies 5 Cartha QP Ladies 19

Ayr Ladies had a difficult start to their first season in the BT Premier League as they were beaten 5-19 by Cartha QP Ladies under the floodlights at Millbrae.

With planes roaring overhead as part of the Scottish Airshow, it was a noisy first half, but that didn't put off either side as they set about testing each other's defence.

Ayr were under the cosh for several minutes at the start, and Cartha looked certain to score, but some huge tackles by hooker Lauren Gunn and winger Erin McSorley pushed them back.

The visitors were ready to attack again, but centre Catriona Cowan, making her first appearance for Ayr, homed in on a stray pass and raced away. She was supported by second row Phoebe McDowall and captain Laura Turner, who charged up the wing only to be pushed into touch.

Errors crept into both teams' play as they were each desperate to get the first points on the board. Ayr's solid scrum helped them, and centre Linsey Bunten, stand-off Catherine Shennan and scrum-half Rachel Morrison launched an attack that was brought to an end by a knock-on.

Another fumble let Cartha hack on towards the try-line, with Ayr full-back Lauren McBride giving chase. She didn't make it after being barged out of the way, but that challenge denied the visitors the try.

They got one minutes later, streaking away under the posts and converting. 0-7.

A huge downpour (the first of several) didn't help the handling errors but Gunn, Shennan and McDowall barged their way out of their own half. They couldn't get near that try-line though and Cartha soon turned over.

Ayr held them back for as long as they could, but even a penalty couldn't get them away from their own line, and before they knew it, Cartha were over for another try. It went unconverted. 0-12.

Despite the visitors knocking on and being pinged for a high tackle, Ayr couldn't take advantage. When they did get going through Cowan and Bunten, they were forced into touch.

They got their chance when the ball went loose from Cartha and winger Claire Law chipped on in Ayr's twenty-two. She tracked it and touched down for a try on her debut. Shennan's conversion was short. 5-12.

As Cartha upped the intensity in the second half, so did Ayr, the ball flying through the hands of the back row of Rachael Mulholland, Laura McTaggart and Lynda Morgan, as well as replacement Lisa Croniken.

Ayr and Cartha got locked in a battle at the scrum with neither gaining the upper hand. Ayr did manage to launch a promising-looking attack through McSorley, Gunn, Mulholland and prop Louise McLauchlan but the slippery conditions scuppered them.

It was certainly an exciting start to the season, with all thirty women on the pitch giving it their all, but it was the visitors who had the cutting edge when it mattered. They kicked on and touched down for another try, adding an excellent conversion. 5-19.

Ayr had their chances in the final quarter, second row Joanne Jones - another new player impressing - shooting off with ball in hand. A second try eluded them though.

Substitutes Lisa Main, Eilidh Stewart and Kelsey Brown (making her senior debut after moving up from the under-18s) brought some energy to the defence, and got stuck into the tackles with Cowan and Law.

They prevented any further scores and the referee blew the whistle for full-time.

- Elena Hogarth.

Ayr Ladies v Cartha Ladies preview

Ayr Ladies make their debut in the BT Premier League tonight as they welcome Cartha Ladies to Millbrae, kicking off at 7.45pm.

It's been a long pre-season for the ladies, and they are eager to get into competition and test themselves against the best teams in the country.

There are several players making their debuts under the Friday night lights, including centre Catriona Cowan and second row Joanne Jones.

Flanker Laura McTaggart makes her return from a spell away, and number eight Lisa Croniken pulls on a pink and black jersey instead of a dark blue one after her trip to Lichfield RFC with the senior Scotland side.

15. Lauren McBride; 14. Claire Law, 13. Linsey Bunten, 12. Catriona Cowan, 11. Erin McSorley; 10. Catherine Shennan, 9. Rachel Morrison; 1. Laura Turner (c), 2. Lauren Gunn, 3. Louise McLauchlan; 4. Joanne Jones, 5. Phoebe McDowall; 6. Rachael Mulholland, 7. Laura McTaggart, 8. Lisa Croniken.
16. Michelle Nelson, 17. Alex Mailey, 18. Eilidh Stewart, 19. Lisa Main, 20. Lynda Morgan. 21. Kelsey Brown.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Heriot's v Ayr preview

Ayr have their first away game of 2016/17 and it's a tough trip on the cards as they face Heriot's at Goldenacre on Saturday, kicking off at 3pm.

The two last met in the BT Premiership grand final in April but have had contrasting fortunes at the start of the new season. Ayr began on a high with an eight-try win against Currie but Heriot's were defeated by this year's new boys, Watsonians, and also lost the BT Charity Shield the previous week.

The Ayr coaching team of Calum Forrester, Scott Forrest and Glen Tippett has prepared the players to face a wounded animal.

"This Heriot's side will be hurting after a couple of recent losses," says head coach Forrester. "Last season, these matches were close encounters, with only a few points separating the sides and we expect the same again on Saturday."

Full-back Grant Anderson's return from injury moves Craig Gossman back to his usual position of wing and Cameron Taylor on to the bench.

Will Bordill is back at openside flanker and Lee Scott makes way for Blair Macpherson at blindside. Lewis Anderson is on the bench too.

15. Grant Anderson; 14. Jamie Bova, 13. Archie Russell, 12. Ross Curle, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Frazier Climo, 9. David Armstrong; 1. George Hunter, 2. David Young, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Craig Stevenson, 5. Robert McAlpine; 6. Blair Macpherson, 7. Will Bordill, 8. Pete McCallum (c).
16. Lewis Anderson, 17. Adam Prentice, 18. Lee Scott, 19. Cameron Taylor, 20. Danny McCluskey.

15. Gavin Parker; 14. Jordan Webster, 13. Josh Laird, 12. John Semple, 11. Andy McLean; 10. Alex Hagart, 9. Andrew Simmers; 1. Murray McCallum, 2. Michael Liness, 3. Struan Cessford; 4. Callum Marshall, 5. Clarke Smith; 6. George Turner, 7. Jack McLean, 8. Struan Dewar.
16. Ruaridh Mitchell, 17. Martin Bouab, 18. Cornell Du Preez, 19. Rory Carmichael, 20. Harry Boisseau.

Kick-off 3pm! Follow the 1st XV scores live on Twitter and the 2nd XV scores via the Ultimate Rugby app.