Stirling County 0
Ayrshire Bulls 8
IAIN MORRISON @ Bridgehaugh
THE rain waited almost exactly until the 2pm kick-off before coming down in biblical proportions but, to look on the bright side, at least the River Forth that flanks Bridgehaugh didn’t break its banks.
This game was a terrible advert for anything other than washing powder and even that presumes that the players’ shirts come out of this mudfest the right colour.
Gale force winds blew directly down the field and, with the option of Christmas shopping available, the crowd stayed away in their droves. Who can blame them? The most interesting thing on the field was a few flare ups between the players with Gordon Reid, to no one’s surprise, usually to be found in the middle of the fracas.
At the end of the 80, Ayr remain second with just one loss to their name. County actually moved up one place, from fifth to fourth in the table thanks to points difference, and the same two teams go at it again next weekend.
When Ayr turned around at half-time nursing a 3-0 lead it never looked remotely enough given that they were playing into the elements in the second forty but their big men somehow managed to score the only try of the match against the odds and the prevailing conditions, to seal the victory ten minutes from time. Even then, the sole try of the afternoon was somewhat fortuitous.
County turned the ball over as the Bulls’ big men ground their way to within inches of the home try line. However, Stirling placed the ball over their own try line, but still inside the ruck, and the Bulls’ Argentine prop Nico Griffiths simply came around the breakdown, as he is allowed to do, and touched the ball down. It was another farcical moment in a match that wasn’t short of them.
“We learned that we have got some guts,” said the Bulls’ coach Peter Murchie after the match. “We can dig it out. It’s that type of year, these types of game can happen. We learned that guys are willing to work hard for each other for 80 minutes and we got a really important win away from home.
“I don’t think the wind was quite as bad as we thought it would be because it was forecast to be horrific. Obviously, we wanted more than a three point lead (at half-time) but we could still kick the ball and that was the key thing. The wind wasn’t so strong that you couldn’t kick the ball.”
His opposite number on the day rued his side’s mistakes because trailing 0-3 at the break with the wind at their backs in the second half Ben Cairns must have been optimistic that the match was there for the taking?
“I thought we were in a good position at half time at 3-0 down,” Cairns agreed. “We could have been in the lead with a couple of good opportunities close to their line that we didn’t take.
“It was a strong wind in that second half but trying to get the ball into that back right corner where we would be in a good position, we just really struggled to get the ball where we wanted it and to kick on the front foot at all. I thought our management of our exit was poor.
“We didn’t get a chance to get into the right areas of the pitch to really sting them so that is the learning, how to manage the game better.”
Both teams were probably guilty of playing a little more rugby than was strictly necessary or even possible in the conditions. Almost every attempt to put width on the ball came to grief as someone was certain to make an unforced error and it was almost impossible to step a defender in the wet conditions.
Ayr copped a yellow-card for skipper Pete McCallum after a high tackle around the ten minute mark but when his fellow loosie Blair MacPherson did the exact same later in the half the referee decided a ticking off was sufficient sanction. The third time it happened, in the second half, the referee awarded a penalty and didn’t even speak to the player. Perhaps if it happened again he would have patted the bloke on the back?
Ross Thompson earned the man of the match award and both he and full-back Ollie Smith were the pick of the backs on show, faint praise on a day for the ducks, ensuring that the Bulls used the conditions a little better than the home team.
Connor Gordon in the first 40 and Cameron Henderson in the second both made superb line breaks for County but it was a day for collective effort and Ayr’s forwards probably did just enough to justify this win.
Stirling County: Ewan MacGarvie; Andrew McLean, Robbie Kent, Landon Hayes, Logan Trotter; Andrew Goudie, Caleb Korteweg; Billy Dineen (Brown 39)(Wood 66), Reyner Kennedy (Capt), Murphy Walker, Andrew Davidosn, Cameron Henderson, Ollie Bartlett (Smith 50), Connor Gordon, Dean Taylor-Menzies (Pow 56).
Ayrshire Bulls: Ollie Smith; Tom Lewis, Tyler Beary, Tom Jordan, Matt Davidson; Ross Thompson, David Armstrong; Gordon Reid, Sam Kitchen, Nico Griffiths (Sayce 76), Fraser Hastie (Sykes 40), Lars Morrice, George Bordill (Geldenhuys 64), Peter McCallum, Blair MacPherson.
Referee: Sam Grove-White.
Stirling County: None
Ayrshire Bulls: Try: Griffiths; Pen: Thompson.
Scoring sequence (Stirling County first): 0-0, 0-3 (h-t) 0-8.
Man of the match: Bulls’ fly-half Ross Thompson did a better job of managing the conditions than most on the field.
Talking point: The absence of anything remotely memorable in this slugfest was probably the most noteworthy aspect of play yesterday so we will go instead with the crowd. Super has been well supported to date but 302 at Bridgehaugh was even higher than the 281 at Myreside and neither of those numbers will have Murrayfield jumping for joy.