BT Premiership


AYR 44

By Elena Hogarth

DOMINANT Ayr beat west coast rivals Glasgow Hawks comfortably in round 11 of the BT Premiership to climb to second place in the table.

Ayr blew Hawks away in the first half at Lochinch in Pollok Park, the Glasgow side’s temporary home with their pitch at Old Anniesland currently out of action after a sinkhole opened up at one end of it during the summer.

Helped by the artificial pitch, Ayr ran riot. Barring the early unconverted interception try by Hawks centre Brendan McGroarty, it was one-way traffic.

Ayr centre Danny McCluskey cruised over, as did full-back Grant Anderson, while it was a bit more of a battle for second row Blair Macpherson and captain Pete McCallum, as they fought their way through tough defence for their scores.

Scott Lyle – playing on the wing to make way for Glasgow Warriors’ Brandon Thomson at fly-half – kicked two penalties before half-time, as well as converting three of the four tries, and another in the second half.

The visitors carried on in a similar fashion at the resumption, prop Steven Longwell bounding over for a try. But then the Hawks fightback started, led by McGroarty, who went on to claim a hat-trick. Winger James Couper was nimble on his feet and scored twice, but Ayr had gone into an unassailable lead thanks to a second try by McCallum.

Despite taking their foot off the gas in the last quarter, Ayr were on impressive form, Macpherson in particular demonstrating an inexhaustible work-rate. Hawks must have thought they were seeing double, as everywhere they turned, there he was.

Prop Robin Hislop, in just a handful of appearances for Ayr, has brought a hard edge to the forwards, and hooker Robbie Smith showed just what an exciting prospect for the future he is. Along with his fellow 19-year-old Stafford McDowall, he was calm, determined and skilled.

After being thrown in at the deep end when regular scrum-halves David Armstrong and Harry Warr were unavailable through injury for the BT Cup game with Currie Chieftains in November, teenager Lewis Young didn’t just keep his head above water, but swam, and he was rewarded with his first start against Hawks. He was just as assured in the fast-paced game on the 3G pitch at Lochinch as he had been in the grind of muddy Millbrae. The youngsters are doing Ayr – and themselves – proud this season.

Ayr head coach Calum Forrester was pleased with the performance but already had an eye on the next game with Melrose this Saturday at the Greenyards.

“That first 60 minutes was the best attacking play we’ve shown this season. We need to take that first 60 minutes and turn it into 80 against Melrose, " he said.

Ayr may be in second place in the table, but Melrose are 13 points ahead of them in first, and have been in imperious form all season. It will be a battle in the Borders.

Ayr Ladies had plenty to smile about after beating Cartha Queens Park 22-10 in BT Premier League B, their first win of the season.

Things finally gelled for the women in pink and black after several encouraging performances in previous rounds.

They scored four tries at Millbrae, with Lee Steward, Connie Griffiths and Danni Hands’ touchdowns coming in a first forty minutes that Ayr entirely dominated.

Scrum-half Rachel Morrison and fly-half Catherine Shennan controlled the game well, and captain Laura Turner kept her troops level-headed and focussd when Cartha staged a comeback.

The visitors’ two unconverted scores meant they were just a converted try away from a draw, but second row Joanne Jones hit a Neve Finlay pass like a freight train and flew over the line for the bonus-point-securing fourth try.

In BT West Two, Millbrae RFC drew 19-19 with Cumnock in a hard-fought Ayrshire derby.