MATT VALLANCE @ Millbrae
NEITHER coach was entirely happy with their side’s performance at Millbrae, but, both saw positives from the game.
Ayr’s Calum Forrester said: “We still have a couple of gears to find, and will have to improve before we go to Hawick next week, but, at least we held on to the ball today.”
Opposite number Chris Dalgleish said: “I can take a few positives from this, but, our lack of second-half possession and the fact we were having to attack from distance told against us.
Dalgleish, at least, had to be happy with the performance of winger Craig Robertson, who scored two sparkling individual, long-range tries.
The Braw Lads struck first, Gregor Hunter goaling a 38 metre penalty in five minutes. However, Ayr took the lead in nine minutes, Climo’s long miss pass sending captain Grant Anderson over wide out for an unconverted try.
Ayr’s lead was short-lived, thanks to the first of Craig Robertson’s two tries. He stripped direct opponent Jamie Bova on halfway and took off for the try-line, faster than Tam o’ Shanter and Meg, pursued by those witches. Hunter converting.
Hunter then missed two difficult penalties, before Ayr levelled just before the break, flanker Gregor Henry burrowing over off a line-out drive, as Ayr took advantage of Chris Dean being on the naughty step, somewhat unfairly it has to be said.
The home team had introduced Ross Curle at the interval and his break sent flanker Will Bordill over for the third Ayr try. The arrival of the experienced Scotland Club XV captain, and of regular scrum-half David Armstrong certainly had a positive impact for the home side.
But, they could not kill-off the determined Gala, who went back in front in 54 minutes. Again Robertson was the man who mattered, swooping onto a dropped Ayr pass in the Gala 22 and going the length of the park to score, with Hunter again converting.
The home support were definitely worried at this point, however, Ayr began to keep hold of the ball better than they had been doing; Climo kept Gala penned back with some astute kicking and Ayr’s best spell of continuity rugby was rewarded when Glasgow Warrior James Malcolm barrelled over for the bonus-point try, after a great break by prop George Hunter.
This score seemed to deflate Gala and, with 12 minutes, left Ayr scored a fifth try. Once more, a long miss pass from Climo was crucial in creating space for Anderson to send Danny McCluskey clear, and this time, after four misses, Climo nailed the conversion.
But, Gala’s refusal to lie down was rewarded, two minutes from time, when, after yet another great break-out, they found themselves camped on the home line, for replacement Craig Dods to go over and Hunter to add the extras.
It was, however, too-little, too-late.
The game also suffered from a below-par display from referee Kevin White. Appropriately, for this website, it has to be said, he hadn’t a clue where the offside line was, while his refereeing of the scrum was guess-work in the extreme.
Ayr: G Anderson (c); J Bova, A Russell, D McCluskey, C Gossman; F Climo, H Warr; George Hunter, J Malcolm, S Longwell; C Stevenson, R McAlpine; W Bordill, G Henry, B Macpherson. Replacements: D Young, D Rae, L Scott, D Armstrong, R Curle.
Gala: G Speirs (c); R Combe, C Dean, P Hendry, C Robertson; Gregor Hunter, G Lott; M Carryer, D Brooker, C Keen; O Palepoi, R Louw; A Emond, J Irvine, S Cairns. Replacements: G Robertson, R Tod, G Adams, G Mein, C Dods.
Ayr: Tries: Anderson, Henry, Bordill, Malcolm, McCluskey ; Cons: Climo (1).
Gala: Tries: Robertson 2, C Dods; Cons: Hunter 3; Pens: Hunter 1.
Scoring sequence (Ayr first): 0-3, 5-3, 5-10, 10-10 (h-t) 15-10, 15-17, 20-17, 27-17, 27-24.
Referee: Kevin White
Man-of-the-Match: Edinburgh professional Chris Dean caught the eye, but, with his two long-range tries, it has to go to Gala’s Craig Robertson.
Talking point: When last did Frazier Climo have such a poor day from the kicking tee? He missed four conversions and two penalties, all of which he would normally be expected to get, and twice he hit the post.
Image courtesy: George McMillan