Tennent's Premiership


AYR 27

By Callum Kerr

AT 16.35 on Saturday Ayr were out for the count. Just four minutes remained on the clock and they found themselves on the wrong side of a ten-point deficit. They were to be knocked off the league top-spot and left to rue missed opportunities.

At 16.40, jubilation. In heroic, gut-churning fashion, Ayr had somehow wrangled their way out of the noose and snatched two late tries to steal victory. After 79 minutes of roaring celebration, the Bridgehaugh crowd were silent- stunned by an emphatic climax to an otherwise forgettable game.

The victory was harsh on a well-drilled Stirling outfit, who weren't behind in the contest once until 80 minutes. Straight from the off the home side were on top. A try from Ally Mackie early doors set the tone. Jonny Hope duly converted to make it seven points in as many minutes.

The lead, although deserved, was shortlived. Two minutes later Kyle Rowe broke clear out wide, palming off his Scotland U20s teammate Logan Trotter in the process. He then found the supporting Climo on his inside who cantered in unchallenged. His conversion levelled the scoring.

County regained the lead 10 minutes later.

Unfortunately for Ayr, County were dealing double-doses and added to their lead straight from the restart. A careless penalty allowed them to push up the field before a destructive rolling maul marched them 20 feet towards the line. Andrew Orr was deemed the man to rise with the ball. The conversion was wide.

Stirling were in cruise control but on the half hour, Ayr conjured up as many points from nothing. A loose ball ignited confusion in the home side's ranks and Paddy Dewhirst scraped the ball off the deck and pulling off a looping run around the defenders. Climo slotted the conversion before adding three more 10 seconds later.

Ayr didn't seem to benefit from the intermission and in similar style to the first half County dotted down within minutes of play resuming. A faulty line-out metres from our try line fell to the hands of former Ayr star Peter Jericevich, who darted over.

On the hour, Jonny Hope extended his side's lead with three more points.

In the cover of nightfall, the floodlights lit up the pitch like a stage. Fitting then, that Peter Murchie's men needed a final act fit for Broadway. With 10 minutes to play it looked like Ayr had grabbed a score, but the ref called for held-up.

Ayr looked to try again from the resulting scrum and Blair Macpherson launched himself towards the line with the defence at his mercy. Incredibly, County held him up again, and at the third attempt ushered him out of touch.

However an overflown Stirling line-out fell into the hands of a stampeding Steven Longwell. The tight-head powered towards the line and dived over with the defenders strapped to his back. Climo's conversion made it a three point game and set up a final shootout fit for a western.

From staring down the ball of a gun Ayr had now put themselves in a position to win, and they did just that with seconds to spare. Scott Lyle got a step on his opposite number and rushed through the line unscathed. As the covering full-back headed to close him down he timed a beautifully weighted pass to flat-mate Paddy Dewhirst, who ran clear to pick up his brace and seal victory.

A feeling of relief rather than celebration flooded the Ayr camp.