Ayr suffered their first defeat of 2018 yesterday at the hands of Heriots at Goldenacre. A cruel wind plagued the match preventing free flowing rugby but in the end it was the home side who managed to tough it out 13-10.
After a few more minutes of pressure on Ayr's line and another disallowed try Heriots settled for the easy three points.
The following ten minutes swung like a pendulum. Both sides looked dangerous in possession but lacked real conviction when it mattered. Ayr looked poised to get on the board when Heriots decided to run it out of their 22. They shipped the ball from side-to-side looking to push past the gain line but Ayr wouldn't budge. Meteoric hits from Ayr's back-row- in particular George Stokes- knocked all the wind out of Heriots sales and they quickly found themselves throwing away possession. They were pinned for holding the ball on the ground and Scott Lyle made them pay with a tricky penalty kick considering the conditions.
The penalty took the 21-year-olds BT Premiership points tally to over 150 this season, an incredible milestone for someone in their first year at the club.
The game wasn't tied up for long, and on the 24th minute it was Heriots who took full advantage of sloppy play. Ross Jones converted from the tee to make it 6-3.
In amongst the spills and errors there was some real moments of magic from both sides. A spark for Ayr came on the half hour mark when Matt Davidson broke clear out wide. He was eventually brought down but not before he played an audacious off-load to Lewis Anderson. From there the Hooker powered up the wing with intent. He was brought down 20 yards later in the heart of Heriots' 22. The flare never stayed for long however, and soon enough we lost the ball once again at the set-piece.
The final action of the half once again took place in Heriots' 22. We received a penalty in scoring distance and this time opted for the scrum. The scrum looked good, Pete McCallum ushered the ball along with his feet and all attention turned to a penalty. The penalty was called, but in favour of Heriots. As the half-time whistle blew the Ayr players (and crowd) were left scratching their heads.
The second 40 began in a manner completely alien to the first. Cagey forward carries had been replaced with free flowing rugby and gritty defence had been swapped for clean breaks from both sides.
The first score of the afternoon looked like it was going to come from Heriots. Flanker Ian Wilson picked a line any back would have been proud of and cut through Ayr's defence. With no one in front of him he looked like he was going to sail under the posts- but he didn't account for Craig Gossman. The winger, hot off his try for Scotland Club XV on Tuesday, tracked back and felled him. Wilson managed to offload to his number 8 who dotted down for the score but the ref waived for a forward pass. Somehow, Ayr had escaped unscathed.
To rub salt in the wounds of Heriots, the first try of the day came ten minutes later- for Ayr. On the 65th minute Scott Lyle, who was playing at ten, switched play and went left. He launched a lofty pass over the rushing Heriots defender and found Gossman in the corner. Lyle nailed the daunting touchline kick, with no regard for the menacing wind.
One of the most memorable moments of the afternoon came minutes later. Prop Steven Longwell was lingering in the outside channel when the ball fell to him. He had winger Matt Davidson outside him but instead backed himself. He carved through the Heriots defence like a hot knife through butter only before trampling over their fullback. He was eventually brought down by a number of blue and white jerseys.
The decisive blow of the afternoon came with just five to play. After a kick to touch from Heriots they expertly used the rolling maul. A metre or so out from the line Ayr were penalised for bringing it down, Jonny Agnew received a yellow card and a penalty try was awarded.
Ayr now trailed by three and frantically marched up the field for one last shot at victory. They began to build phases ten metres out from the try line but it was too little too late. Ayr lost the ball in contact and Heriots cleared for touch.
Full-Time: Heriots 13-10 Ayr.
It was a disappointing outing for the 2nd XV too who fell 29-5 to Heriots 2s.
At Millbrae there was more cause for celebration with Ayr's U-18s beating Highland in the Scottish Cup semi-final. The boys will go on to represent the club in the final at BT Murrayfield later on in the year.