Scottish Cup: conversions win the day for Currie Chieftains against Ayr

Malleny men head across the capital to play Musselburgh in last eight next Saturday

Graeme Carson of Currie Chieftains carries the ball against Ayr. Image: Bob Douglas
Graeme Carson of Currie Chieftains carries the ball against Ayr. Image: Bob Douglas

Currie Chieftains 35

Ayr 25

GARY HEATLY @ Malleny Park

CURRIE CHIEFTAINS progressed to the Scottish Cup last eight, but the Premiership finalists were pushed all the way by a spirited Ayr side who were left to rue missed conversions.

In a pulsating clash the teams scored five tries apiece, but it was the 100 percent kicking record of Currie skipper Jamie Forbes which was the difference between the sides in the end. He converted all of the home side’s efforts, while full-back Scott Watson (two) and centre Jamie Bova (three) missed all of Ayr’s extras, albeit they were relatively tricky kicks.

Despite losing, National One champions Ayr showed that, when they get on the front foot, they were a match for a team of Currie’s calibre, so that bodes well for next season. For Currie, this was not their finest day at the office, but they got through and their double hopes are still alive.


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Home loose-head Graeme Carson said:  “It was a tough game. Currie-Ayr games have always been quite physical over the years and they obviously came through here thinking this was a game they could win and we had to be ready for that challenge.

“In both halves we started well, but then lost momentum and they were good at fighting back. We really had to fight towards the end to get over the line and the game showed just how important having a strong goal-kicker is.

“Jamie [Forbes] is so calm in those situations and we needed that here. We are glad to get through to the next round, but it was not our best performance if we are being honest with ourselves. ”

Currie got off to the perfect start when they scored a try after just a minute. Winger James McCaig fielded a clearance kick by Ayr and then, when it was recycled some 45 metres out, a long pass by centre Forbes found winger Ryan Daley. He showed good pace to glide through and score, a last-gasp tap tackle nearly stopping him, but he had the momentum to get over the try line. Forbes converted and it was 7-0.

In the eighth minute Currie looked like they had scored their second try when, after patient build-up play, No 8 Sam Cardosi’s flicked-on pass to McCaig put him in on the right and over the line. The referee adjudged the ball had gone forward and, as Ayr tried to get some sort of foothold in the game, they won a scrum penalty near their own line and cleared.

Their first chance in an attacking sense came soon after when scrum-half Ben Frame’s neat grubber through nearly sat up nicely for Bova, but he could not gather and it was knocked on. Currie then went down the other end and added their second try in the 16th minute when, after an excellent break from back-row Roy Vucago and one from hooker Ryan Stewart started the move, Carson went over from short range. Forbes converted and it was 14-0.

Ayr did get themselves just at the end of the first quarter when a strong run by the physical Bova saw him barge a couple of defenders out of the way to go over. Watson pushed the conversion wide and it was 14-5.

That score gave them some confidence and their forwards were starting to come into things more. They were held up over the Currie try line at one stage and the home side’s penalty count was going up.

The hard yards put in by the pack then created the space for Tom Lanni to come into the midfield and then float a lovely wide for fellow winger Adam McGowan to score an unconverted effort that made it 14-10 after 34 minutes.

The visitors had real momentum now and, two minutes later, their third try came in the same right corner from McGowan again. Bova had taken over the kicking duties now, but the conversion missed and it was 15-14.

Amazingly, Ayr then scored their fourth try before the interval. A neat break by stand-off Danny McCluskey from his own 22 set Lanni away up the left and, with the defence struggling to get back, he drew the last man and fed Bova, who grabbed his second try. He missed the conversion and it was 20-14.

With the clock in the red at the end of the first period, Daley was nearly through for Currie, but a cracking cover tackle saw him spill the ball forward and the Millbrae men had a six-point lead to take into the second half.

Currie needed to get off to a good start to the half and they did just that with their third try after 43 minutes. Cardosi’s offload in midfield put centre DJ Innes bursting through a gap and he did the rest. Forbes converted to put them 21-20 to the good.

And four minutes later it was 28-20 when second-row Kyle Steel scored their fourth try and Forbes added the extras.

Just before the hour mark Currie loose-head Thomas Jeffrey was yellow-carded for what looked like a dangerous tackle and that gave Ayr a chance to get back into things. And, in the 65th minute, they took advantage of the extra man when a neat lineout move saw captain Cameron Reece power over. For the fifth time Ayr missed the conversion, Bova’s effort just not curling in enough and it was 28-25 to Currie with an exciting finale in prospect.

 

 

With Currie back to 15 men and the game into the last 10 minutes, Ayr nearly got McGowan away down the stand side wing, but he was bundled into touch.

With both sets of supporters in the small – but vocal – crowd biting their nails, Currie made sure of the win in the final minute when second-row Ali Bain crashed over and Forbes converted.

It capped a good day for the Currie club in general with their under-16s and Colts winning Cup ties of their own earlier in the day.

Ayr will now refocus ahead of life back in the top flight next year and their head coach Grant Anderson said:  “I feel like this is one that got away.

“We had a real go at Currie and if we had managed to kick our conversions who knows what might have happened. The two guys who took the kicks in this game have been excellent for us this season, so there is no blame on them at all. In general, we played well and I think the younger, fresher guys in the team started to believe midway through the first half that we could compete against a Premiership side.

“With a wee bit more belief and a bit more accuracy at times we might have come through this game, but we can take plenty from it.”

The loss also means that Ayr stalwart Pete McCallum, who played No 8 here, is hanging up his boots.

Anderson paid tribute to the former captain and Scotland Club XV cap, adding:  “Pete has been a great servant to Ayr and he can be proud of a brilliant career.

“I have known him as a team-mate and friend over the years and now I am coaching him and he is always the kind of guy you want on your side.”

 

Teams –

Currie Chieftains: C Brett; J McCaig, J Forbes©, DJ Innes, R Daley; C Beckett, P Boyer; T Jeffrey, R Stewart, G Carson, K Steel, A Bain, R Vucago, A Fletcher, S Cardosi. Subs: E Blair, K Borthwick, R Morrison, C Lessels, C Gray.

Ayr: S Watson; T Lanni, H Lynch, J Bova, A McGowan; D McCluskey, B Frame; B Cree, T Martin, R Sayce, J Stafford, A Troop, R Airlie, C Reece©, P McCallum. Subs: S Collier, M Leatherbarrow, R Pottie, R McCorkindale, G Anderson.

Referee: Finlay Brown

Scorers –

Currie Chieftains: Tries: Daley, Carson, Innes, Steel, Bain; Cons: Forbes 5.

Ayr: Tries: Bova 2, McGowan 2, Reece.

Scoring sequence (Currie Chieftains first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 14-5; 14-10; 14-15; 14-20 (h-t) 19-20; 21-20; 26-20; 28-20; 28-25; 33-25; 35-25.

Yellow card: Currie Chieftains: Jeffrey (58mins)

Man-of-the-Match: For the visitors, centre Jamie Bova was a thorn in Currie’s side, particularly in the first half, while winger Tom Lanni was sharp. For the hosts, second-row Kyle Steel and the very consistent No 8 Sam Cardosi impressed, but in a game of fine margins a calm head – and good kicking – is needed, so Currie captain Jamie Forbes takes the award.

Talking point: This was an excellent Scottish Cup tie between two of the 12 clubs who are taking this competition seriously in 2023-24 and it deserved more people being able to watch it. The tie clashed with Italy-Scotland and many stayed in the warmth to watch that instead, although given the result in Rome they may have wished they had braved the Malleny Park cold! Seriously though, scheduling needs to be looked at urgently if we are to attract new people to the sport at all levels.

 

 

 

 


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About Gary Heatly 457 Articles
Gary has loved rugby ever since he can remember and since 2004 he has covered the sport and others in a professional capacity for many publications and websites and runs his own company, GH Media.

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