STEPHEN BRUNSDON @ Millbrae
AFTER grinding out an unconvincing victory against 14-man Marr last weekend, Ayr recorded their fifth win of the season in comfortable bonus-point fashion against Heriot’s at Millbrae.
It was an utterly dominant performance from the home side, whose place in the top four of the Premiership was assured as much by their own display as it was the complete absence of credible opposition. Phil Smith’s side, who arrived on the west coast off the back of four straight victories, lacked any sort of cutting edge in attack and were overpowered and out-gunned in almost every contact area.
Five tries were plenty for Ayr, who began the scoring in the second minute through fly-half Frazier Climo, who touched down under the posts after a superb break from winger Robbie Nairn.
Two further scores from Craig Gossman and Grant Anderson made sure of the match, despite Heriot’s bagging a consolation either side of a 27-10 half-time break.
It was a return to form that left Ayr coach Callum Forrester particularly satisfied.
“We got off to a bit of a shaky start this season, but now we’re really kicking into gear,” he said. “Our backs today were exceptional and I thought they made the most of the counter-attacking opportunities that arose.”
Having misfired the week before, Ayr wasted no time in hitting their stride in front of the home crowd. At the centre of most things was man-of-the-match Stafford McDowall who, despite not getting on the score-sheet himself, created three of the five tries for his side.
“Stafford was outstanding today. He’s one of the guys who has been taken into the full-time environment over the summer and he’s really come on in that time. He just thrives in these kinds of games and although he missed last week through illness, he was really impressive,” said Forrester.
“I sometimes forget about how young some of the players are. Stafford’s 19, Robbie Nairn is 21 and these guys have big futures,” he added.
The youth to whom Forrester paid tribute played their part with exquisite precision. Centre Scott Lyle missed just one of his place-kicks all afternoon and slotted two penalties from near the half-way line to keep the score ticking over, while former Scotland Under-20 star Nairn was robust in attack.
For their part, Heriot’s tried, in vain, to get back into the game. Starved of any meaningful possession or territory, the few opportunities which presented themselves to the Goldenacre side were wasted through careless errors.
Indiscipline also got the better of the visitors and they lost prop Struan Cessford for hands in the ruck on the brink of half-time.
A penalty try and a last-gasp effort from Jack Turley plus kicks from Ross Jones were all Heriot’s could muster from another frustrating loss on the road, which sees them drop from second to fifth in the table.
“Ayr played really well today, but we just didn’t turn up. I thought we were missing in key areas of the game and maybe weren’t quite up to the task,” said Smith.
“It’s disappointing because the guys have had a really good week in training and prepared well. But they just lacked the intensity against a strong Ayr side. The two tries aren’t really a consolation because we didn’t perform to the best of our ability today.”
“We’ve got Melrose next week, which, is good in a way because the boys will get another chance to test themselves.”
Ayr: G Anderson; R Nairn, S Lyle, S McDowall, C Gossman, F Climo, H Warr; G Hunter, P MacArthur, S Longwell; M Badenhorst, J Agnew, T Spinks, G Stokes, P McCallum. Subs used: L Anderson, A Prentice, G Henry, P Dewhirst, J Bova.
Heriot’s: R Jones; C Simpson, D Crawford, R Kay, J Rae; R Carmichael, A Ball; M Bouab, M Liness, S Cessford; C Marshall, A Sinclair, M Maltman, J McClean, J Turley. Subs used: A Johnstone, S Mustard, M Hughes, A Hagart, C Robertson.
Ayr: Tries: Climo 2, Gossman 2, Anderson; Cons: Lyle 4, Dewhirst; Pens: Lyle 2.
Heriot’s: Tries: Penalty, Turley; Con: Jones; Pen: Jones.
Scoring sequence (Ayr first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-3; 10-3; 15-3; 17-3; 17-8; 17-10; 20-10; 25-10; 27-10 (h-t); 32-10; 34-10; 39-10; 41-10; 41-15; 41-17.
Yellow cards –
Ayr: J Agnew
Referee: B Bain
Man-of-the-Match: While Scott Lyle and Robbie Nairn stole the starring roles on the field, Stafford McDowall subtly went about his business in the centre. He made three out of the five tries scored and his role in the final one, instigated by running a beautiful line off stand-off Climo to send Heriot’s into complete disarray, was excellent. A magical performance from the teenager.
Talking point: Let’s not take anything away from Ayr, this was an exceptional performance. Their backs were dominant and had almost free reign to run from deep. Their heavy pack were technically better than Heriot’s and were able to pressurise the visitors into indiscipline to claim penalties galore.
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