DOUGIE ROSS @ Millbrae
AN eleven try thriller at Millbrae ends with a heartbroken Hawick side. With eight men missing on a stag do in Barbados, if you had offered visiting head coach Nikki Walker a 21-point lead after 45 minutes at the start of the match then it is pretty certain that he would have bitten your hand off. Despite this commanding lead, it was not meant to be for The Greens, with the young squad unable to stay composed in the last half an hour, conceding five tries and their second yellow card of the game.
The match started surprisingly brightly for the bottom placed side in the league, with Darcy Graham weaving his way through a sleeping Ayr backline to touchdown in the first ten minutes.
Ayr responded sharply, showing their physicality in the pack with loosehead prop Djustice Sears-Duru bundling over for a try.
With the game still in its relative infancy, tempers sparked into life with punches flying from both sets of players in what can only be described as a classic case of handbags at dawn.
The referee decided to yellow card a player from each team, a tough decision to make as several players could have been sanctioned for the incident.
Hawick were the quickest to adapt to being down to 14 men, sending captain Bruce McNeil over in the corner and edging their away side back in front.
Despite a second try coming from Ayr full-back Grant Anderson, who finished off a well crafted move off the back of a dominant scrum, it was Hawick who went into the break 20-13 up, having kept the scoreboard ticking over with two penalty kicks.
The second half started with a bang for Hawick. They increased their lead by a further 14 points with two tries in five minutes. The first coming from tighthead prop Callum Mackintosh and the second for Darcy Graham again, who beat off five Ayr tackles in the process.
With half an hour left, the contest looked to be all over with the pre-match underdogs a comfortable three tries in the lead. But then Ayr winger Danny Mcluskey gave the home side a glimmer of hope, scoring in the corner after a lovely through-the-hands move from the backs.
From here the floodgates opened and Ayr took full advantage, scoring another three tries through Pete McCallum and Craig Gossman, twice, in ten minutes against an increasingly shaky looking Hawick. The visitors’ defensive discipline began to crumble and the outcome was winger Darcy Graham getting yellow carded for illegal disruption in a ruck.
Ayr took full advantage of the extra numbers by scoring off a now familiar through-the-hands move off of another impressive scrum, the score-line had swung in the home sides favour as had the momentum of the game.
Hawick responded well to losing three quick tries and pinned Ayr back into their own half with just over ten minutes to go, and their persistence paid off when Keith McNeil bulldozed over for a try to take the lead after what seemed like a never ending pick and go sequence metres from the Ayr line.
With two minutes left in this fascinating fixture, Hawick lost their other winger, Wesley Hamilton, to ill-discipline as he was given a yellow card.
The home team went on to capitalise on their numbers once again, Archie Russell touching down in the corner in the last play of the game.
A heart breaking end for a young Hawick side who played admirably and deserved to take more from the fixture.
Ayr: G Anderson; D McLuskey, A Russell, R Curle, C Gossman; F Climo, H Warr; D Sears-Duru, J Malcolm, S Longwell; C Stevenson, G Hunter, B Macpherson, D Young, P McCallum. Subs used: L Anderson, R Dalgleish, S McDowell.
Hawick: K Ford; D Graham, G Huggan, K Brunton, W Hamilton; M Douglas, B Campbell; G Douglas, F Renwick, C Mackintosh, D Lowrie, K McNeil, R Gibson, S Graham, B McNeil. Subs used: D Johnstone, D Redpath, T Corless, S Bandeon.
Referee: Ross Mabon
Ayr: Tries: Sears-Duru; Anderson, McLuskey , McCallum, Gossman 2, Russell; Cons: Climo 3; Pens: Climo 1.
Hawick: Tries: D Graham 2, B McNeil, K McNeil, Mackintosh; Cons: Ford 5; Pens: Ford 2.
Scoring sequence (Ayr first): 0-7, 5-7, 8-7, 8-14,8-17, 13-17, 13-20 (h-t) 13-27, 13-34, 20-34, 25-34, 30-34, 37-34, 37-41, 44-41
Man-of-the-Match: Ayr captain Pete McCallum kept a cool head helping his side see off a game they could have, and perhaps should have, lost.
Talking Point: Would Hawick have done any better if their jet-setting contingent had been available?