Scottish Cup: Ayr topple Selkirk to set up derby clash versus Marr in last four

Millbrae men pick up their second Premiership scalp in as many weeks

National One side Ayr were much stronger than depleted Premiership outfit Selkirk. Image: George McMillan
National One side Ayr were much stronger than depleted Premiership outfit Selkirk. Image: George McMillan

Ayr 49

Selkirk 13

LEWIS STUART @ Millbrae

YOU can already feel the excitement growing in Ayr. No sooner had they eased their way through to the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup than news broke that it would be a derby against Marr, the tastiest option anyone could think of.

“There are a lot of close friendships and the boys in both teams know each other really well, so it will be a good game,” observed Stuart Fenwick, the Ayr coach. “We are really looking forward to it, as I’m sure Marr are as well. We played then a couple of years ago and it was a great game then too. It should be a great occasion.”

The only blot on a perfect afternoon from the Ayr standpoint came when news filtered through that Kelso had claimed the bonus point win in their league martch at GHK that all-but clinched promotion from National One to the Premiership at their expense.


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That will have longer-term implications for Ayr but for now their focus is on replicating the all-action style that unsettled Selkirk when Marr come calling.

For Fenwick, it was good to see the team being able to relax and strut their stuff in the second half as they eased their way to seven tries and a winning margin that accurately reflected the gulf between the teams.

It was an unfortunate way for Scott Wight to bow out of his time as head coach at Selkirk – he moves immediately to his new job with the Southern Knights – but with injuries and call-offs ravaging his team selection, he was far from surprised.

“It’s been a hard week,” Wight reflected. “Injuries and, with us, farming life takes priority this time of year, so there were nine changes from the Borders League final against Melrose [two weeks ago] when we were able to be physically dominant.

“We were going to be in the game for about 20 minutes and we tried to make it hard for them but we just didn’t have the squad able to come up to Millbrae and win.

“We started well and took a 6-0 lead but then went penalty, penalty, penalty, lost a bit of momentum and Ayr took control and then we physically ran out of steam at the end.”

 

With all those changes, their only chance was to get ahead and hang on, and Wight’s men did their best to do just that. They hung onto the ball for almost all the opening 10 minutes and came away with two penalties from Matt Reid, the full-black, to settle them down.

Even then, there were some suggestion of the problems to come as midfield breaks petered out and when the momentum switched, it did so decisively with a string of penalties against them adding to the visitors problems.

The second gave Ayr their first points, kicked by Jamie Bova, the centre, but the west coast men then switched tactics and started playing to the corner, confident they had what it took to push the scoreboard on in fives and sevens, rather than threes.

At first, it looked like a mistake as Selkirk held on but a perfect ruck steal from flanker Ronan Pottie, set the hosts up for another go and five penalties later they eventually made it pay as scrum half Ross McCorkindale spotted space to the side of a maul and nipped over for the opening try.

One soon became two as fly-half John Anderson spotted space on the wing and his cross-kick bounced perfectly for Zachary Howard to beat Selkirk’s Blake Cullen to the touchdown.

 

The Borderers could have cut the deficit when centres Ross Nixon and Josh Welsh cut their way through to the line but the support was slow to arrive and a dropped pass in midfield cost another opening.

They paid the price early in the second half when a high-tackle on Daniel McCluskey gave Ayr another chance to go to the corner. A quick maul and flanker Michael Kirk broke off to nearly make the line before popping the ball up to his partner Pottie to complete the job.

That pretty much wrapped up the result, emphasised when Ayr produced the move of the game, starting in their own half with Pottie and Kirk joining forces with backs McCluskey and Bova to put full-back Ciaran Wood in for the fourth try, with Bova supplying the touchline conversion to take his side three scores clear.

Selkirk did pull one of them back after the forwards pummelled the home line to create the space for fly-half Cameron Easson to nip over but it was soon back to normal service. First Bova knocked over a penalty before Selkirk dropped the ball in midfield for a kick and chase which almost brought a try for John Fulton, the replacement wing. Instead he did enough to force a scrum five for Bova to come in at first receiver and go over instead.

By now, the only doubt was the margin of Ayr’s win and both sides knew it, with an interception try from Howard and then Fulton finishing some clever handling in midfield adding to the Borders misery and west coast jubilation.

Fenwick could start preparing for the semi-final and Wight for his Super6 challenge. This game was over as a contest long before the final whistle.

 

Teams –

Ayr: C Wood; R Anderson, D McCluskey, J Bova, Z Howard; J Anderson, R McCorkindale; S Rae, S Collier, R Sayce, M Leatherbarrow, C Reece, M Kirk, R Pottie, P McCallum. Subs: D Young, C Rae, C Lynch, C Brown, J Chalmers, J Fulton, C Muir.

Selkirk: M Reid; B Cullen, J Welsh, R Nixon, A Penman; C Easson, J Hamilton; L Pettie (C), B Riddell, Z Szwagrzak, J Head, C Turnbull, C Mackintosh, D Broatch, A Cochrane. Subs: F Easson, C Ward, M Francis, L Martin, D Main.

Referee: Calum Lazenby.

 

Scorers –

Ayr: Tries: McCorkindale, Howard 2, Pottie, Wood, Bova, Fulton; Cons: Bova 4;  Pens: Bova 2.

Selkirk: Try: C Easson; Con: Reid; Pens: Reid 2.

Scoring sequence (Ayr first): 0-3; 0-6; 3-6; 8-6; 10-6; 15-6 (h-t) 20-6; 25-6; 27-6; 27-11; 27-13; 30-13; 35-13; 37-13; 42-13; 47-13; 49-13.

 

Man-of-the-Match: There were plenty of strong performances from Ayr with Jamie Bova collecting 19 points, some good handling from both half-backs and a dominant line-out. Ronan Pottie, the flanker, gets the award, though, for his turnover skills, tough tackling, classy handling and clever support lines.

Talking point: Ayr will be delighted that after a couple of weeks where the league season has been frustrating, they have given them selves a chance to finish the season on a high. The semi-final against Marr already has the hallmarks of a humdinger written all over it.


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About Lewis Stuart 77 Articles
Lewis has been writing about rugby for almost 40 years, the last 18 as a freelance based in Scotland bringing his wealth fo experience to just about every publication in the country. These days you can hear him as well by tuning in to his Wednesday night show on Rocksport Radio.

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