STIRLING COUNTY 33
DOUGLAS ROSS @ Millbrae
AYR will be hoping that this game is a metaphor for the rest of their season; poor to start with but champagne rugby to finish. They ran out comfortable winners in the end against a Stirling County team who have shown us in previous games this season that they are a strong and organised outfit.
“The big thing for me was how adaptable our players showed they could be, playing out of position, and covering for the boys who had to come off early,” said Ayr head coach Calum Forrester afterwards.
“Today we started finishing off our chances for the first time this season, it was great to get that many scores on the board, and great to see us produce a much more clinical display.”
A far less buoyant Peter Jericevich, Stirling County fly-half and coach, had a very different perspective.
“Frustration is the how I’d describe that. We scored 33 points, so when we had possession we showed what we could do. Our defence let us down today and it’s something we know we’ll have to work on before we face Melrose next week,” he said.
With three ex-Ayr players in the Stirling County back-line it was almost inevitable that the match would start with a bang, with County strongest and most dynamic in possession from the kick-off, as they marched into Ayr’s 22, with winger Logan Trotter dinking over a deft chip which he promptly caught at full pace, and he was unlucky to get bundled into tuck before he got to the try-line.
From the subsequent line-out, Trotter managed to get his hand on the ball again, and after bounding away from a Stafford McDowell tackle he was home and dry for the score, quickly converted by captain Jonny Hope.
Unfortunately, the same line-out which produced the try also resulted in a serious looking injury. Ayr second row Robert McAlpine had to be taken off by stretcher after injuring his back.
From there the game kicked into gear and it appeared Ayr had perhaps woken up. After making their way into County’s half, they had to show patience for their first try of the match, scored by Scott Lyle – who then added the cherry on top by slotting a difficult conversion from the right hand touchline to draw the teams level.
Ayr seemed to take confidence from the try and it was not long before they grabbed their second. Following a ten minute spell of game controlling kicks from Frazier Climo, he found himself on the end of short pass and saw daylight, and this time Lyle nailed the conversion from the other touchline.
The frustration was beginning to show from Stirling, whose flat pass-and-smash lines were getting held up and suffocated by an organised and confident Ayr defence.
Ayr managed to get themselves a penalty and another try before the break, this time it came through the forwards, with a period of patient pick-and-goes culminating in flanker Blair Macpherson bundling over the line to make it 24-7 to Ayr at half time.
The second half started with two yellow cards being shown to each team’s loosehead prop after a silly bout of handbags, and it felt like whole incident was blown-up out of proportion by a card happy referee.
And the cards were out again not long later, this time Ayr’s Gregor Henry was sent to the cooler for picking the ball up from an offside position. Needless to say, the Millbrae crowd let their feelings be known to the man in the middle.
County were first to get on the scoreboard in the second half with a well worked try from Jonny Hope, and the skipper kicked a penalty five minutes later to narrow the deficit to just three points.
Ayr responded immediately with Robbie Nairn – the former Scotland Under-20 star who came off the bench to make his club debut at half-time – blocking a box kick, grabbing the loose ball, and sprinting 30 metres to score in the corner with his first touch of the game.
Stirling’s usually resolute defence started to disintegrate. Lyle went over for bis second, scrum-half Harry Warr sneaked over with an audacity which would make Matt Dawson blush, and McDowell got in on the act to sink County at the end of the second half.
Tries from coach Jericevich and scrum-half Ruaridh Swan were not enough to save Stirling.
Ayr: G Anderson; S Lyle, D McCluskey, S McDowell, C Gossman; F Climo, H Warr; G Hunter, R Smith, S Longwell; R McAlpine, M Badenhuish, B Macpherson, G Stokes, P McCallum (c). Subs used: L Anderson, D Young, G Henry, P Dewhirst, R Nairn.
Striling County: J Hope (c); K Gossman, R Curle, G Gilliand, L Trotter; P Jericevich, R Swan; R Chies, R Kennedy, G Holburn; C Hunter-Hill, J Beech, H Burr, L Wynne, R Leishman. Subs used: M Emmison, M Macdonald, J Pow, S Macdonald, L Bonar.
Ayr: Tries: Lyle 2, Climo, Macpherson, Nairn, Warr, McDowell; Cons: Lyle 4; Pens: Lyle .
Stirling County: Tries: Trotter, Hope 2, Jericevich, Swan; Cons: Hope 4.
Scoring sequence: 7-0; 7-7; 14-7; 17-7; 24-7; 24-14; 24-21; 29-21; 36-21; 36-28; 41-28; 46-28; 46-33.
Yellow cards –
Ayr: Hunter, Henry, Climo
Stirling County: Chies
Referee: G Sherwood
Man-of-the-Match: Scott Lyle was a physical presence on the wing picking up two tries and scoring four conversions and one penalty. A total of 21 points for the speedster today.
Talking point: Away from the try scoring it was an interesting return for Ross Curle. The ever controversial centre had a ding-dong battle with former centre partner Stafford McDowell, and the latter came out on top on this occasion.