Sunday, 18 December 2016

Melrose 27 Ayr 10

The final game of 2016 brought disappointment for Ayr and their travelling fans as Melrose came out on top at the Greenyards to tighten their grip on the BT Premiership.

There were some early jitters for the home team, that confident, superior facade slipping slightly as they missed an early kick for touch after a penalty and later knocked on in the tackle.

Ayr were solid in the scrum, the front row of George Hunter, Pat MacArthur and Adam Prentice holding their own. From that first set-piece, Ayr flew off into attack, scrum-half David Armstrong dummying nicely before releasing Richard Dalgleish. The rangy winger couldn't escape the black and yellow defence.

Ayr flanker Will Bordill was shown a yellow card for a late tackle on Melrose's flashy stand-off Craig Jackson, but the home team couldn't capitalise on their man-advantage. Armstrong and captain Pete McCallum led Ayr's heroic defensive effort as Melrose pressed for the try-line, and they ended up knocking on.

Melrose's line-out was wobbling slightly but they managed to hunker down at the scrum and put Ayr under pressure with centre Danny McCluskey taking Bordill's place in the back row. But they couldn't shove Ayr right off the ball and Armstrong cleared.

Twice in succession Ayr second row Blair Macpherson turned over the home team, his second effort letting full-back Grant Anderson loose, with Hunter, stand-off Ross Curle, second row Robert McAlpine and Glasgow Warriors' flanker Adam Ashe - on his long-awaited return from injury - in support.

Curle put Ayr into the lead with a successful penalty. 0-3.

Jackson replied. 3-3.

Ayr had another attacking opportunity, but Melrose were just beginning to amp up the aggression and turned over. Full-back Fraser Thomson thought he was away but MacArthur had him pinned.

Ayr were working hard to get out of their own half and threaten Melrose, McCallum, McCluskey, McAlpine and Archie Russell trying to break through that tough Borders defence, but they just couldn't.

A quick tap-and-go launched Melrose's Austin Lockington up the wing and he was unstoppable. Jackson nailed the conversion. 10-3.

Ayr turned Melrose over, with Armstrong quickly firing the ball across the field for Hunter, MacArthur, Curle and Russell to try and breach the defence but there was a lengthy stoppage while Melrose's flanker Neil Irvine Hess was attended to by both medical teams. He was eventually stretchered off the field to warm applause from the fans, and we wish him a speedy recovery from his injury.

Curle lined up a penalty but it was unsuccessful.

Ayr showed their might at the scrum again, but Melrose still had plenty of attacking opportunities as the first half drew to a close. Lockington and prop Jamie Bhatti were marauding around but Ashe and Armstrong halted them.

Melrose gave away a penalty and Ayr took the line-out and drove. Armstrong, McCluskey, Hunter and Curle all went for the line, with MacArthur, Bordill and Russell going for it too, but Melrose turned over and cleared.

Jackson extended Melrose's lead just after the resumption. 13-3.

They were all over Ayr like a rash. McCluskey and winger Cameron Taylor hit some brilliant lines but Melrose smothered them.

The home team found themselves offside, and the resulting line-out allowed Armstrong and Taylor to make for the whitewash before Melrose blotted their copybook with another infringement.

Ayr's line-out worked well all afternoon and it gave them another attacking opportunity but Melrose's defence was immense. Ayr stayed calm, replacement James Malcolm grabbing a shaky pass to get the ball to Curle and Russell, who flew into the Melrose tacklers.

Hunter, Taylor, Macpherson and McCallum stayed strong in the face of the defensive barrage and it was the captain who eventually fought his way through for the try, Curle converting. 13-10.

Ayr showed real intent in their pursuit of a second try, McCluskey catapulting himself into attack, and Armstrong later flying on to a pass from Hunter at the line-out to try and get Curle and McCallum to the try-line.

But it wasn't enough against the tight, controlled Melrose. They were up and away into Ayr's half in no time. The men in pink and black regained possession, but they conceded a penalty for holding on.

Melrose took the line-out and were headed for another score when Bordill was yellow-carded for a second time for a professional foul. Two yellows make a red and Ayr's misery was compounded when Melrose hooker Russell Anderson got the try, which man-of-the-match Jackson converted. 20-10.

Down to fourteen men for the rest of the game, Ayr went on the attack, Armstrong, Malcolm and replacements Jamie Bova and Djustice Sears-Duru pushing on into Melrose's twenty-two. The ball was chipped for McCluskey to chase but it bobbled away from him.

Melrose, cheered on by their polite fans, could sniff the victory and bossed their way back into Ayr's half. The visitors went to thirteen men when Curle was sin-binned for a no-arms tackle, and only a meteorite landing on the Greenyards could have prevented Ruairi McLeod from scoring. Jackson completed his slick, showy performance by summarily converting. 27-10.

Time was up. Melrose celebrated their continued league supremacy and Ayr rued missed opportunities. The BT Premiership returns on Saturday 14th January, when Ayr welcome Boroughmuir to Millbrae.

Final score: Melrose 27 Ayr 10.

- Elena Hogarth.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Melrose v Ayr preview

It's the last match of 2016 and it couldn't be a better one as Ayr travel to the Greenyards to play BT Premiership leaders Melrose, kicking off at 2pm.

Scotland's two best teams will go head-to-head at the historic ground, and with Melrose just one point above Ayr in the table, there's all to play for as the calendar year comes to a close.

Ayr head coach Calum Forrester predicts a 'physical encounter'.

'The game at Millbrae earlier this season was a close affair and we expect the same again.'

Forrester was pleased with his troops' fighting spirit last week when they rallied from a 21-point deficit to beat Hawick.

'The players showed real character to come away with the victory. We know that we cannot afford to find ourselves in a similar situation this Saturday against a dangerous Melrose side.'

There are some changes in the squad due to injuries, with Ross Curle moving from centre to stand-off to link up with David Armstrong. Danny McCluskey takes Curle's usual berth, with Richard Dalgleish and Cameron Taylor starting on the wings.

In the forwards, Glasgow Warriors' Adam Ashe makes his Ayr debut and his much-awaited return from injury, with his fellow Scotstoun man Pat MacArthur making up a dynamic front row with props George Hunter and Adam Prentice.

Robert McAlpine and Will Bordill both make welcome comebacks from injury.

James Malcolm and Djustice Sears-Duru have been released again by the Warriors and add to a powerful bench with youngsters Lewis Anderson and Stafford McDowall and the fleet-of-foot Jamie Bova.

Ayr
15. Grant Anderson; 14. Richard Dalgleish, 13. Archie Russell, 12. Danny McCluskey, 11. Cameron Taylor; 10. Ross Curle, 9. David Armstrong; 1. George Hunter, 2. Pat MacArthur, 3. Adam Prentice; 4. Blair Macpherson, 5. Robert McAlpine; 6. Adam Ashe, 7. Will Bordill, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

Replacements
16. James Malcolm, 17. Djustice Sears-Duru, 18. Lewis Anderson, 19. Jamie Bova, 20. Stafford McDowall.

Kick-off 2pm for both the 1st and 2nd XV games. Follow the 1sts' live on Twitter and the 2nds' via the Ultimate Rugby app.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

MacArthur developing his own coaching style

Former Ayr player and current Glasgow Warriors hooker Pat MacArthur returned to Millbrae during pre-season to join the coaching team.

Pat, 29, played his first game for the Warriors in 2007 and after a two-year apprenticeship, became a full-time professional in 2009. He made his Scotland debut in 2013 and has gained six caps. From Prestwick, he played his rugby at Ayr from minis all the way up to the 1st XV, his most recent appearance in a pink and black shirt being this month when he started against Gala.

We talked to Pat about how he's been getting on coaching at Ayr RFC this season.


How did coaching at Ayr come about?
I always wanted to get into coaching, and after so many seasons of professional rugby, I felt like I had a lot of knowledge to impart. Ayr have given me so much in the past; growing up at the club and enjoying myself so much, I always wanted to go back to Millbrae to start my coaching journey.

What have you enjoyed about coaching so far?
I have enjoyed working with the players, who are all really willing to learn and improve. I've played with many of them in the past, and we manage to have a laugh whilst getting some really good work done at the set-piece and contact areas.

Did the fact that you knew those at Ayr make joining the coaching team easier?
Knowing Calum (Forrester, head coach) and Scott (Forrest, backs' coach) from the professional game means we have a lot of the same ideas and concepts on the rugby field.
Having old Glen Tippett (forwards' coach) around is great as his knowledge of the game and club is vast. Growing up playing alongside him, he taught me a lot about how to play rugby the old school way and we both like to pass that on to the younger boys at Ayr.

It is also good to see all the old, familiar faces at Millbrae on a regular basis, and that makes it all the more enjoyable.

Are you pleased with the way the season is going so far?
Ayr are doing well, and are aiming to win the league again. The BT Premiership is so competitive, and my aim is to help the forward pack and the team to become dominant, and the boys are buying into the way I like to play.

We play an attractive game of rugby, but I am a fan of the driving maul and set-piece battle, which is working well on the days that the weather is less than perfect!

Which coaches have inspired you?
I have worked under many coaches, so I have tried to use what I think are the good points from my experiences with them and base my coaching style on that.

I try and work with the Glasgow Warriors forwards' coach Dan McFarland, as he is a real stickler for detail and technique, which I like. I also try to get advice from former Ayr coach Kenny Murray. I am trying to develop my own style but getting advice and pointers from experienced coaches is a real help.

All photos courtesy of George McMillan.
Top: Pat MacArthur and Ayr prop George Hunter. Centre: Pat MacArthur, Ayr forwards' coach Glen Tippett and Ayr head coach Calum Forrester. Bottom: Pat MacArthur and Ayr strength and conditioning coach Jonathan Stevenson.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Charity at Christmas

While the men's senior players were collecting on behalf of the Beatson Cancer Charity on Saturday at Millbrae, Ayr Ladies have chosen the South Ayrshire Food Bank as their Christmas charity.

For the past month, the ladies have been gathering together an assortment of non-perishable items to donate to the food bank, as well as toiletries such as toothpaste, shower gel, shampoo and feminine products.

If you would like to contribute, you can hand in items to the ladies on their training night at Millbrae tonight (Monday) or Thurday from 7pm.

Ayr Ladies 38 Stirling County Ladies 0

Ayr Ladies powered past Stirling County at Millbrae on Sunday to climb to fourth in the BT Premier League.

The home team got off to a flying start, with strong running by prop Lauren Gunn and swift hands by winger Connie Griffiths to let centre Julie David fly away for the opening try. Stand-off Catherine Shennan just missed the wide-angled conversion. 5-0.

Ayr were dominant at the scrum throughout the match, and it provided the perfect attacking platform for number eight Rachael Mulholland, full-back Claire Law, centre Sammie Morrison and winger Erin McSorley.

County had a good share of possession early on and their backs hit some great lines, whilst their forwards muscled into the breakdown, and Ayr were kept busy in defence, David, hooker Lisa Croniken, captain Laura Turner and second rows Louise McLauchlan and Phoebe McDowall putting in crunching tackles.

The visitors made for Ayr's try-line, but flankers Emily Irving and Kelsey Swift and scrum-half Rachel Morrison pushed back the attack and Ayr gained a penalty.

From the line-out, Shennan and Turner marauded through the first wave of Stirling defence, but there was no way through the second and Ayr kicked on. Stirling gathered and set off but a textbook tackle by Griffiths stopped them in their tracks.

Successive turnovers followed, with McLauchlan and Mulholland showing good hands, but Ayr kicked away possession only for County's kick to be charged down by Croniken.

It was another torrid time at the scrum for the visitors, and McDowall and Gunn worked together to release Mulholland. She headed for the line but couldn't make it. Moments later, after another scrum, Shennan and Turner combined and this time Gunn barged over for the try, which Shennan converted. 12-0.

Ayr's confidence was growing, and even when they made errors, they were quick to react. When Stirling collected spilled passes, Swift and Griffiths were on them in a flash, dragging down attackers.

David was in imperious attacking form, slicing through the defence with ease. Wonderful handling by Griffiths and Shennan allowed her to pick a brilliant line and zip under the posts for a try just before half-time, which Shennan converted. 19-0.

Ayr put their foot on the gas at the start of the second half, Morrison, Gunn, David and Hannah Mutton - on her debut - motoring up the pitch. But County stayed strong in defence and managed a few turnovers too.

They still couldn't cope with the Ayr scrum and were being shoved around at will. They could have been mentally beaten but they remained positive and many an Ayr attacking opportunity was snuffed out by doughty work in the tackle by County.

Ayr replacements Michelle Nelson and Sonia Liekens brought fresh legs and got stuck into defence when County reclaimed possession.

But Ayr were back on attack, even after giving away a penalty for a squint put-in at the scrum. Mulholland chipped on into Stirling's twenty-two, with David chasing, and she kicked on too, gathering for her hat-trick. Shennan converted. 26-0.

McSorley made two excellent breaks up the wing but they couldn't be capitalised on. After another scrum, Mulholland charged from the back and powered over for a much deserved try in the corner. Shennan couldn't add the extras. 31-0.

There was just time for one last attacking move, and Croniken and McDowall got it going before David scooped up the ball from her bootlaces and glided away for her fourth try of the day, which she converted herself. 38-0.


- Elena Hogarth.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Ayr 44 Hawick 41

Visitors at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum must have wondered what on earth was going on next door at 4.35pm on Saturday. The Millbrae faithful were in full voice, roaring on their players to a last-minute victory against Hawick in the BT Premiership.

With half of Hawick's team apparently topping up their tans in the Caribbean, there were some in the crowd who thought this would be a straightforward game. But there's no such thing when you're facing a club as proud and fiercely competitive as Hawick.

They were in attack-mode from the off, winger Wesley Hamilton flying up the touchline only to be dragged out of play by Ayr full-back Grant Anderson.

Nobody could get a hand on Hamilton's fellow winger Darcy Graham as, moments later, he ghosted through the Ayr defence for an impressive try. Hawick full-back Kirk Ford was in imperious form with the boot and converted. 0-7.

Ayr got down to some hard graft and it was Canadian prop Djustice Sears-Duru who barrelled through the green shirts and over the line for a try in the corner. Stand-off Frazier Climo couldn't manage the conversion. 5-7.
The home team began to build up some momentum, George Hunter - the prop in the second row - and David Young - the hooker in the back row - steamrollering through the opposition and centre Ross Curle hitting a lovely angle. But it was Climo's boot that nudged Ayr in front with a penalty. 8-7.

Curle was on the attack again after a fine break by winger Craig Gossman, with centre Archie Russell and captain Pete McCallum in support, but they got pinged for holding on and Hawick ended up with line-out after line-out.

Nothing came of it, despite the visitors getting into Ayr's twenty-two, as a melee broke out and spilled on to the sidelines. Once tempers had cooled, referee Ross Maben was left with no choice but to yellow-card Anderson and Hawick's diminutive scrum-half Bruce Campbell.

Hawick made for the line, but terrific defence by Ayr flanker Blair Macpherson, prop Steven Longwell and hooker James Malcolm repelled the first wave of attack before they turned over and cleared. The kick didn't make touch and Hawick quickly fired the ball to Graham but he couldn't get the score.

Old reliable Bruce McNeil could, the veteran Hawick number eight and captain lolloping over. It was another terrific conversion by Ford. 8-14.

Ford added a penalty when Ayr strayed offside. 8-17.

Hawick chipped away possession and Hunter, Russell, Macpherson and Curle fired through the defense but little errors were creeping in and the ball was knocked on. Hawick again kicked away the ball after the ensuing scrum and again a fine attack by Gossman, Anderson, winger Danny McCluskey and McCallum proved fruitless.
The home side and their fans were getting frustrated but they kept their cool. A Hawick knock-on gave them a scrum, with McCallum picking up, scrum-half Harry Warr's mis-pass finding Anderson and the full-back making scoring tries look easy. There were no easy kicks for Climo though and the try went unconverted. 13-17.

Ford extended Hawick's lead just before half-time with a penalty. 13-20.

The greens caught Ayr napping at the start of the second half, prop Callum Mackintosh bursting forth for a try converted by Ford. 13-27.

Ford was back at the tee moments later when Graham scored his second try. 13-34.

The fightback was immediate from Ayr, Hunter tearing through Hawick and McCluskey powering up the wing for a try. It was another wide angle for Climo but he got the conversion. 20-34.

And another try was on its way. Ayr held firm at the set-piece and launched themselves with gusto at the whitewash, McCallum scoring. Climo couldn't convert. 25-34.

Climo's kicking from hand confused Hawick and gave the line-out to Ayr. From one side to another the ball was propelled and Gossman put his foot on the gas for a try. Climo couldn't convert. 30-34.

Hawick weren't panicking but their over-enthusiastic determination was leading to infringements. When they wheeled the scrum, Ayr got the put-in, McCallum fed Gossman and the winger got his second try, with Climo adding the extras. 37-34.
There was a break in play after an accidental clash of heads between Gossman and Hawick replacement Sam Bandeen, with the latter having to leave the field.

Hawick then camped out on Ayr's five-metre line and after initially being held-up, they scored through second row Keith McNeil. Ford converted. 37-41.

There was still time for Ayr to fight back again. A forward charge, not to mention a huge shove at Gala's scrum, got them into a great attacking position and Macpherson and McCallum led the way to the line. It was a good old muddy pile-up and the ball couldn't be retrieved to go for the line again.

But Ayr's sturdy scrum gave them another shot and after what seemed like a life-time, Russell glued his hands to the ball and didn't let go until he touched down for the try, greeted by one of the loudest roars heard at Millbrae in years. With Climo off, Curle converted practically from in the crowd. 44-41.
The whistle was blown to bring the final home game of 2016 to an end. Ayr have their last match of the calendar year next week against Melrose at the Greenyards, kicking off at 2pm.

Final score: Ayr 44 Hawick 41.

Slaters Menswear man of the match: Pete McCallum.


- Elena Hogarth

Photos by George McMillan. Please seek permission before reproducing. 

Friday, 9 December 2016

Ayr v Hawick preview


It's the final home game of 2016 on Saturday as Ayr welcome Hawick for round thirteen of the BT Premiership, kicking off at 3pm at Millbrae.

The first encounter of the season between the two sides at Mansfield Park was a terrific spectacle and both will be giving it their all once again, Hawick to try and lift themselves from the bottom of the table and Ayr to catch up Melrose at the top.

Ayr head coach Calum Forrester knows that, despite Hawick's lowly placing in the league, his players will have to be at their best to get past the marauding greens.

'Hawick have been in good form in their last few outings, so will be coming to Millbrae full of confidence,' he says. 'We started well at Gala last week but we will need to keep that performance up for eighty minutes on Saturday.'

Injuries have forced changes to the squad and a shuffling of the pack. George Hunter starts in the second row alongside Ruaridh Mackenzie, whilst David Young is at openside flanker after a few appearances from the bench in the back row this season.

Glasgow Warriors' Djustice Sears-Duru and James Malcolm make up the front row with Steven Longwell. 

Harry Warr will be calling the shots at scrum-half after an assured debut earlier in the season. Danny McCluskey starts on the right wing.

Lewis Anderson and Robbie Smith take their place amongst the replacements. 

Ayr
15. Grant Anderson; 14. Danny McCluskey, 13. Archie Russell, 12. Ross Curle, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Frazier Climo, 9. Harry Warr; 1. Djustice Sears-Duru, 2. James Malcolm, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Ruaridh Mackenzie, 5. George Hunter; 6. Blair Macpherson, 7. David Young, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

Replacements
16. Lewis Anderson, 17. Robbie Smith, 18. Craig Stevenson, 19. Richard Dalgleish, 20. Stafford McDowall.

Kick-off 3pm. If you can't be at Millbrae, follow the scores live on Twitter.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

First Ayr Rugby Academy yellow jerseys awarded

Ross Bulloch, Andrew Morrison and Michael Lafferty are the first recipients of the Ayr Rugby Academy yellow jerseys.

In recognition of dedication and determination at academy sessions, the jersey will be awarded every month.

Ross, Andy and Michael are pictured with Ayr RFC president Billy McHarg and Ayr Rugby Academy coaches Tony Hall, Harry Lynch and Frazier Climo.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Gala 28 Ayr 38

Trips to Netherdale are never short of incident, and a thick layer of mist blanketing the Borders ground only added to the drama as Ayr scored six tries to beat Gala in the BT Premiership.

It was a perfect start for the visitors as scrum-half David Armstrong retrieved the ball from the back of the scrum and scurried away up the wing, slipping through tackles to score in the corner. Stand-off Frazier Climo, unsurprisingly in the mist, couldn't convert. 0-5.

Ayr were leaking penalties though, and after a line-out from a kick to the corner for Gala came to nothing, their stand-off Gregor Hunter stepped up to the tee. The sticks were barely visible and he nudged it wide.

The ball was bizarrely punted around by both sides until Ayr had a line-out. With Glasgow Warriors and former Millbrae man (and current Ayr assistant coach) Pat MacArthur at hooker and assured work by second rows Ruaridh Mackenzie and Robert McAlpine, it was firing on all cylinders throughout the day.

Right winger Richard Dalgleish hit the ball at pace and weaved back in field to pass to number eight Pete McCallum, who sold a dummy before flicking the ball to centre Archie Russell, who found left winger Craig Gossman. He couldn't get to the line, and again Ayr gave away consecutive penalties.

Gala began to suffer from the same malady. Ayr took the line-out, drove for the line and were awarded the penalty try after Gala illegally prevented them from touching down, with Climo converting. 0-12.

With all these penalties, someone was bound to land in the sin bin, and it was Mackenzie for Ayr. Gala still couldn't capitalise on Ayr's repeated infringements, their kick to the corner going awry.

They had another chance after a high tackle by Ayr, but the visitors turned them over just after the line-out. Gala reclaimed possession only to kick it away and watch as the ball was gathered by Climo, who cantered through the tackles. He chipped on and centre Ross Curle scooped up the ball and scored. Climo's conversion hit the post. 0-17.

It got worse for the home team. Ayr poached their line-out ball before getting a penalty and taking a line-out of their own. They rumbled to the whitewash (the whole place was whitewashed at that point) and prop Steven Longwell got the ball down for the bonus-point try. Climo got the conversion. And all that after only twenty-five minutes. 0-24.

Ayr were on the hunt for more points, but Gala seemed to wake up with half-time looming, their scrum-half Connor Adams leading the charge. They fought their way into Ayr's half, and with the ball loose, hooker Matt Carryer pounced for a try. Hunter converted. 7-24.

The visitors started the final forty minutes the way they started the first, with a quick try. Mackenzie galloped through the maroon defence and replacement back Danny McCluskey gathered a Curle chip to race over the line. Climo added the extras. 7-31.

A twenty-four-point lead is nothing at Netherdale. Many a team, Ayr included, has seen a second-half resurgence from Gala and that was what happened. The mist lifted and so did the home side.

Winger Alex Northam made a beautiful break into Ayr's twenty-two. He kicked on, but it was Ayr's Dalgleish who grounded the ball.

Gala second row Rob Louw was yellow-carded, but that didn't dampen his team-mates' spirit. They were marauding about all over the place. In the end, they didn't need to cross the line as the referee adjudged Russell had illegally stopped Gala from scoring and awarded a penalty try, as well as sending the Ayr centre to the sidelines for ten minutes. Hunter converted for Gala. 14-31.

MacArthur was replaced by his fellow Warrior and one time Ayr hooker James Malcolm, who, along with his fellow substitutes, got stuck into action straightaway.

Ayr prop George Hunter and Mackenzie looked lively with ball in hand, but again those pesky penalties scuppered any opportunity for points. Gala's tails were up, and Hunter, flankers Will Bordill and Blair Macpherson and Djustice Sears-Duru (on for Longwell) had their hands full trying to contain them.

They couldn't contain replacement Craig Robertson as he powered up the wing for a try and Hunter converted superbly from out wide. 21-31.

With the dark descending and a cold wind blowing into the stand, that certainly perked up the loyal Gala fans. The cold seemed to be getting to the players too, as numb fingers fumbled passes.

Neither side was wavering in the tackle though, Ayr replacements Stafford McDowall and David Young felling Gala attackers with full-back Grant Anderson (at scrum-half for the most of the second half with Armstrong on the sidelines) following suit.

Ayr had to bide their time until they could secure possession with a turn-over just in their own half. Curle perfectly timed his offload to Gossman, who swerved through the defence and passed to McCallum, with the captain shooting off for a score behind the posts. Climo was off with a bloody face and Curle converted. 21-38.

There were just a few minutes left on the scoreboard clock - starting to look a bit fuzzy again with the mist reappearing - but Gala were undaunted. Swift passing allowed Northam to claim their bonus point try, which Hunter summarily converted. 28-38.

Could Gala come back? They were certainly going to give it a go, running the ball from their own twenty-two. But a forward pass didn't help. A knock-on by Ayr after the scrum gave them hope, but a thundering tackle by an Ayr player (lingering mist plus glaring floodlights plus winter darkness means your match reporter will not hazard a guess at whom) caused Gala to knock on too.

A few more seconds of toing and froing ensued before the referee brought the game to an end.

Final score: Gala 28 Ayr 38.

Over on the 2nd XV pitch (entirely obscured by mist, and without floodlights), Ayr beat Gala A 29-12, with tries by Craig Stevenson, Jamie Bova, Harry Warr and Paddy Dewhirst. The latter converted three and added a penalty. Lewis Anderson was the man of the match.

- Elena Hogarth.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Gala v Ayr preview

The BT Premiership resumes after its three-week autumn break, and Ayr travel to Netherdale on Saturday to play Gala, kicking off at 3pm.

The players have used the league hiatus to take some well-earned time out from competitive matches but have been training well at Millbrae and are now keen to get back to action, and for one of this week's starting XV, it's a return almost six years in the making.

Glasgow Warriors and Scotland cap Pat MacArthur is named in Ayr's front row at hooker for the first time since he left his home club to become a professional. But he has been a frequent visitor to Millbrae, supporting his former team-mates and becoming an assistant coach this season.

MacArthur's fellow Warriors James Malcolm and Djustice Sears-Duru are amongst the substitutes and both have made welcome appearances for Ayr already this year.

Elsewhere in the squad, Ruaridh Mackenzie has his first start in the second row, and Danny McCluskey will be hoping to make his return from injury from the bench.

'It's good to be back after the November break,' says Ayr head coach Calum Forrester. 'It was a close encounter at Millbrae earlier in the season (between Ayr and Gala) and that has been the story of the last few years between the two clubs. We expect the same again this weekend.'

Ayr
15. Grant Anderson; 14. Richard Dalgleish, 13. Archie Russell, 12. Ross Curle, 11. Craig Gossman; 10. Frazier Climo, 9. David Armstrong; 1. George Hunter, 2. Pat MacArthur, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Ruaridh Mackenzie, 5. Robert McAlpine; 6. Blair Macpherson, 7. Will Bordill, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

Replacements
16. James Malcolm, 17. Djustice Sears-Duru, 18. David Young, 19. Danny McCluskey, 20. Stafford McDowall.

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

Gala A v Ayr 2nd XV kicks off at 2pm, with live score updates available via the Ultimate Rugby app.

Pat MacArthur is pictured above with Stuart Fenwick and Gordon Reid. Photo courtesy of Rob Hardie of Touchline Images. Please seek permission before reproducing or sharing.