DOUGIE ROSS @ Millbrae
ANOTHER stellar performance from Ayr saw them dispatch a Watsonians side who seemed to be more than ready for the end of the season. It was not a match for the purist, neither was it a strong advertisement for winter rugby in Scotland. There were times when it felt like both teams were dropping the ball forward more often than they were actually managing to pass it back, but as the game wore on it was only Ayr who took advantage of their opponents’ mistakes.
Watsonians started with a bang when Keith Young darted over inside the opening five minutes.
In defence the visitors started strongly, too, managing to collapse two line-out drives from Ayr early on, but they were not as successful at the third time of asking, with the home side rumbling their maul to within range for hooker Lewis Anderson to flop over and even up the scores.
Not long later Ayr took the lead with Danny McCluskey going over in the corner; and with two tries now under their belt and only 20 minutes gone, Ayr began to really push Watsonians onto the back foot. A third try came when scrum-half David Armstrong gave a wee ‘show-and-go’ off the back of a scrum and sold the entire Watsonians back line.
Despite some handling errors, Ayr were now in complete control. The visitors were once again caught back-tracking with five minutes to go until half-time when Blair MacPherson showed that he can do graceful as well as ‘up the guts’ rugby by ghosting past the Watsonians defence and touching down.
That made it 26-7 at the break. Ayr’s bonus was already secured, and the match all but done.
The second half started like the first half ended, with Ayr receiving the ball from the kick- off and immediately running it up to the visitors’ 22-yard line, and a few phases later McCluskey jinked through a gap in Watsonians’ increasingly ragged defensive line for try number five.
Credit has to be given to Watsonians: nothing in the league to play for, down by almost 30 points, playing in a wet and cold Ayr, getting battered by a big physical squad, no one would be surprised if they had thrown in the towel – but they managed to rouse temslevws for fifteen strong minutes, during which they showed a lot of grit and determination to eventually claw a try back through prop Martin Christie.
Despite these heroic efforts, Watsonians were not able to stop Ayr replying immediately with a silkily worked backs move coming from another strong scrum. This time substitute winger Jamie Bova crossed the whitewash for the Millbrae men.
With only ten minutes to go it was only fitting that Frazer Climo chimed in on the try scoring action, intercepting a loose pass inside the visitors’ 22 and finishing without much fuss.
The home side had one last try left in them, when Armstrong gifted Bova a second try in the corner.
Some excellent rugby by Ayr at the end of the day but the weather was against both teams from the beginning.
This sees the end of Watsonians league season for another year, with a new coaching staff coming in for next season.
Ayr seem to be hitting form at just the right time and will now be looking onwards to the play-offs with every chance of taking home their first Premiership title since 2013.
Ayr: G Anderson; D McCluskey, A Russell, R Curle, C Gossman; F Climo, D Armstrong; G Hunter, L Anderson, S Longwell; R McAlpine, S Sutherland, B MacPherson, G Henry, P McCallum. Subs used: D Young, B Paterson, W Bordill, P Dewhirt, J Bova.
Watsonians: A Chalmers; K Young, S McLeod, D Innes, R Cullum; E Scott, E McKirdy; M Christie, S Crombie, N Borel; F Morrison, C Borthwick, E Dods, A Duckett, R Drummond (c). Subs used: D Miller, S Rowers, S McKean, M Bertram, C MacLean.
Referee: Neil Muir
Ayr: Tries: Anderson, McCluskey 2, Armstrong, MacPherson, J Bova 2, Climo; Cons: Climo 4
Watsonians: Tries: Young, Christie; Con: Scott.
Scoring sequence (Ayr first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 7-7; 12-7; 17-7; 19-7, 24-7; 26-7 (h-t) 31-7; 31-12; 36-12; 41-12; 43-12; 48-12.
Man-of-the-Match: Ayr’s blindside flanker Blair MacPherson was on top for the whole game, carrying well, tackling hard, and hoovering up loose and dropped balls for fun.
Talking point: Although the pitch did them no favours, Watsonians really went missing for large parts of the game. They may not have had enough firepower to see their hosts off, but if they had played like they did during that period midway through the second half then they would have at least made a game of it.
Image courtesy: George McMillan