STUART RUTHERFORD @ Malleny Park
THE visitors withstood a second half onslaught to successfully bounce back from their last gasp defeat at Myreside a week ago. It looked as though Ayr had wrapped things up after a dominant first half display, however, Ben Cairns’ side emerged after the break with a new lease of life and very nearly pulled off a memorable comeback.
Its safe to say that Ayr’s last two trips to west Edinburgh have not gone to plan. With defeats at the hands of Boroughmuir and Watsonians in recent weeks, the men from Millbrae were undoubtedly and understandably ecstatic to escape with this narrow of victory.
After cruising to a 53-10 victory over the capital side on the opening day of the season, it would have appeared that Currie were the perfect remedy for Ayr’s capital blues. However, as the rest of the Premiership has found out in recent weeks, the Malleny men are no pushovers and it showed in their spirited second half performance. Despite the defeat, head coach Ben Cairns was left satisfied with his team’s effort.
“We’re up against one the best teams in the Premiership” he said. “We can’t afford to give them the ascendancy that they had in the first half. A lot of that was our own doing with a lack of accuracy and errors. However, we steadied the ship in the second half and I thought our defence really improved. There is a lot of positives to take from that showing.”
It was the visitors who started the strongest and there was only four minutes on the clock when they broke the deadlock. Ayr’s backline, who were bolstered with the return of influential stand-off Frazier Climo, were purring with confidence from the get-go and immediately set about making their mark on the game. The initial try came after good work from Ayr’s pack, who did excellently to win a penalty deep inside the Currie twenty-two. After Climo kicked to the corner, the visitors simply out-powered their opponents with a swift line-out drive and it was Will Bordill who eventually crashed over the whitewash to give his side the early advantage.
The home side did not seem to be affected by the initial setback, however, as they hit back with a score of their own only minutes later. Currie’s youthful backline has been in fantastic form in recent weeks and again they showed why there are becoming one of the most feared units in the Premiership. After collecting the ball in his own half, dynamic full-back Harvey Elms made a fantastic break down the touchline deep into the Ayr half. The ball was eventually recycled and fed to Hamish Bain, who hit a fantastic inside line. The second-row made crucial yards before being chopped down just short of the try line. From the resulting ruck Currie’s captain, Ross Weston, did brilliantly to wriggle over the line from short yardage. James Bywater missed the conversion and the score was left at 5-7.
Climo and Bywater both hit penalties, however, neither side were able to exert their control on the match. This was until Ayr went further ahead, courtesy of Bordill’s second try of the game. Again it came after superb work from their pack, who at times seemed to brush aside Currie’s attempts at tackles. The try came after Ayr slowly worked the ball into the home side’s twenty two. After several pick-and-goes it was again Bordill who was in the right place at the right time. The open-side flanker muscled over from five yards to extend the visitors’ lead.
Currie hit back with another penalty to cut Ayr’s lead to six points, however, it was the visitors who were now well in the ascendance and they added to their advantage moments later. Ayr’s game-plan was clearly to kick to the corner with every penalty and it paid off once again after a clever line-out move. It appeared that the ball was going to be thrown to the back, but was fed to Scott Sutherland at first receiver. The second-row turned quickly, catching the Currie defence off-guard, before spinning over the try-line.
Grant Anderson added a bonus point securing fourth try on the stroke of half-time after a slick back-line move unleashed the full-back from 20 yards out. Climo added the extras to make it 11-31 and the capital outfit had it all to do after the break.
Climo added another penalty to extend the Millbrae’s side’s lead at the start of the second half, however, this was to be the visitors’ only points in a frantic twenty minute spell in which Currie scored two tries in quick succession to put themselves right back in this fiery encounter.
Whatever Cairns said to his during his half-time team talk seemed to work as his side started the second half with a new found lease of life. Robbie Nelson kick-started his side’s hopes of a comeback with a well taken try after great work from his own pack. After a handful of pick-and-goes the ball was fed to the centre, who did superbly to fend off his opposite number before touching down over the line. Bywater added the conversion and you could sense there was now a glimmer of hope starting to emerge amongst the home support.
Currie continued to dominate proceedings in the second half and they added another try to close the gap. After a poor kick, Currie’s flying full-back Elms collected the ball on the halfway line before taking off on an incredible mazy run, managing to beat four Ayr defenders before he was eventually taken down in the visitors’ twenty-two. The ball was quickly fed out wide where it fell into the hands of Cameron Gray. The winger ghosted inside his opposite man before diving over the whitewash. The hosts were now in full flow and, unbelievably, within touching distance of the Millbrae outfit.
It looked as though Currie were going to score a third try on the trot to complete an incredible comeback when winger Gray collected the ball out wide, however, French exchange referee Ludovic Cayre deemed there to be a forward pass in the build up.
This decision seemed to take the wind out of home side’s sails and they were punished for not taking their chances when Climo administered the coup-de-grace.
After a swift counter attack took the ball into the home side’s twenty-two, the charismatic stand-off was on the spot to take an offload and breeze over the line. The home side knew that their hopes of witnessing a famous victory were over.
Robbins added a consolation score at the death, which meant they at least emerged with a bonus point from their toils, but Ayr had done enough to hang on for what could be a vital victory come the end of the season.
Currie: H Elms; B Robbins, R Nelson, C Hutchison, C Gray; James Bywater, R Snedden; J Cox, F Scott, G Carson, H Bain, S Ainslie, L Crosbie, T Gordon, R Weston (c). Subs: A McWilliam, J Firth, S McGinley, M Nemel, C Shiel.
Ayr: G Anderson; R Dalgliesh, A Russell, R Curle, C Gossman; F Climo, D Armstrong; G Hunter, D Young, S Longwell, R McAlipine, S Sutherland, R Mackenzie, W Bordill, P McCallum. Subs: D Young, C Stevenson, P McCallum, P Dewhirst, J Bova.
Currie: Tries: Weston, Nelson, Gray, Robbins; Cons: Bywater 3; Pens: Bywater 2.
Ayr: Tries: Bordill 2, Sutherland, Anderson, Climo; Cons: Climo 5; Pens: Climo 2.
Scoring sequence (Currie first): 0-7; 5-7; 5-10; 8-10; 8-17; 11-17; 11-24; 11-31 (h-t) 11-34; 18-34; 25-34; 25-41; 32-41.
Yellow cards –
Referee: Ludovic Cayre (FFR)
Man-of-the-Match: Ayr welcomed back Frazier Climo back into the side and the Kiwi put in a masterful performance. The influential stand-off controlled proceedings from the first whistle and stopped the rot when he touched down in the second half.
Talking point: This match was night and day. Currie looked like a completely different side in the second half and very nearly pulled off an unlikely victory. Ayr cannot afford to take their foot of the gas again if they are to mount a serious title challenge.
Image courtesy: Ian Gidney