Tennent’s Premiership: Ayr stretch away after tense first half against County

Kyle Rowe brace straddling half-time shifts momentum in hosts' favour

PETER MURCHIE'S Ayr made it three wins out of three at the start of this Tennent's Premiership campaign with a hard-fought victory over Stirling County at Millbrae.

Ayr 43

Stirling County 15


PETER MURCHIE’S Ayr made it three wins out of three at the start of this Tennent’s Premiership campaign with a hard-fought victory over Stirling County at Millbrae. The home side battled back from a 12-3 deficit early on to romp to a comfortable 43-15 win, to keep pace with Heriot’s and Melrose at the top of the table.

In the process, they secured their fourth successful defence of the Bill McLaren trophy, which means they are the first team ever to have their name engraved twice on the shield.

The hosts didn’t have things their own way in the opening 40 minutes though, far from it. County made the most of a defensively lax Ayr to bag two tries inside the first quarter, via Ewan Macgarvie and Ross Bundy. But from then on, it was all Ayr. They hit back before the break with tries from Blair Macpherson and Kyle Rowe – who replaced Robbie Nairn on the right wing – to take a 17-15 half-time lead.

Murchie’s men rampaged on throughout the second period and scored a further 26 unanswered points to remain unbeaten this season.

Lynch Homes are proud supporters of Ayr RFC

“We were under a lot of pressure in the first half, very similar to last week, to be honest,  against Currie,” said Murchie. “Yet again, we went in ahead at half-time, which looking at the run of play … it’s questionable that we deserved to … but we regrouped at half-time and we were just much better in the second half.”

County were typically fast out of the starting blocks and made the most of their territorial advantage and agile back-line by grabbing the first try inside the opening nine minutes. From a penalty line-out, fly-half Andrew Goudie sent  Niko Matawalu charging down the near side touchline with a floated miss pass, and the Fijian and Glasgow Warrior winger then produced a magical reverse pass to the on-rushing Macgarvie, who crossed for the score.

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Goudie’s extras gave County an early 7-0 lead to which they added barely 10 minutes later, through second-rower Ross Bundy. Still reeling from their early concession, Ayr failed to stop the charging Bundy close to their own line after waves of County pressure. While Frazier Climo’s 10th minute penalty brought the hosts back to within four points, County were, at this stage, reaping the rewards of sustained possession.

Blair Macpherson’s touched down after County lost Craig Robertson to the sin-bin for a high tackle on Kyle Rowe, after a punishing rolling maul from the resulting penalty line-out.

Approaching the break, Rowe then finished off the move of the half, after a brilliant counter attack from Grant Anderson. Climo’s two conversions gave Ayr a 17-15 half-time, and Murchie then had ten minutes to organise a dizzying second half spell.

“We were much more clinical, our attack had much more bite to it and we had dominance,’ explained the coach. “We just kept on taking our chances and we were much more patient on the ball.”

Ayr began their surge to victory courtesy of several battering charges from Marshall Sykes and David Corbenici, which created the space out wide for Rowe to complete his brace in the corner. Further pressure in key areas of the field allowed Corbenici to grab a try of his own entering the final quarter of an hour, while County struggled physically to keep up.

The visitors suffered a myriad injuries throughout the second period and lost prop Remy Chies and Macgarvie. Ayr didn’t let up and Macpherson barged over for his second and Ayr’s fifth try to bury the match as a contest.

Dutchman Amir Rademaker put the final nail in the coffin of a severely tiring County in the final minute and Climo orchestrated a sensational coast-to-coast try to conclude the 43-15 rout.

“Hopefully this result gives the boys the bit between their teeth in terms of seeing what we may be able to achieve this season. For me, there is still a lot to improve on, it wasn’t a complete performance from us by any stretch, so we’ll need to work on ourselves this week,” concluded Murchie.


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Teams –

Ayr: G Anderson; K Rowe, P Kelly, D McCluskey, K Rowe; F Climo, A Rademaker; S Longwell, R Smith, E McLaren, A Davidson, M Sykes, D Corbenici, T Spinks, B Macpherson. Subs: A McGuire, R Sayce, A Law, D Armstrong, S McDowall.

Stirling County: C Robertson; R Tagive, E Macgarvie, G Hughes, N Matawalu; A Goudie, P Jericevich; R Chies, R Kennedy, M Walker, J Pow, R Bundy, G Arnott, S MacDonald, H Burr. Subs: L Brymer, B Dineen, D McLaren, B Thomson, J Hope.

Referee: F Brown


Scorers –

Ayr: Tries: Macpherson 2, Rowe 2, Cobenici, Rademaker; Cons: Climo 5; Pens Climo.

Stirling County: Tries: Magarvie, Bundy; Cons: Goudie; Pens Goudie.

Scoring Sequence (Ayr first): 0-5, 0-7, 3-7, 3-12, 8-12, 10-12, 10-15, 15-15, 17-15 (h-t) 22-15, 27-15, 29-15, 34-15, 36-15, 41-15, 43-15


Man-of-the-Match: He wasn’t even meant to start the match, but winger Kyle Rowe was electric whenever he touched the ball. Two tries either side of half-time were crucial in ensuring Ayr got the momentum they needed to secure a win that was harder than the score-line suggests. Always keen to get in on the action, he had the measure of opposite number Matawalu in the second half, despite being beaten by the Fijian’s fabulous reverse pass to set up Macgarvie’s try in the first.

Talking point: Ultimately, it was a familiar story for County. A strong start out of the blocks was undone by running out of steam in the end. What had been promising in the first half was their scrum dominance, but they were made to look like also-rans by a stronger, more endurant Ayr pack in the second period, which made all the difference. The plethora of County bodies on the deck in the closing stages was telling as Ayr asserted their strength to streak clear at the end.

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