THERE is always plenty at stake when west coast rivals Glasgow Hawks and Ayr meet-up, and that will certainly be the case at Balgray this weekend with the visitors looking to solidify their domination of the Tennent’s Premiership league table with an eighth consecutive bonus point win, while the hosts will want to back-up their victory over fellow strugglers Edinburgh Accies last week with another positive result which would edge them further away from the prospect of relegation (depending on how the ongoing debate on league structure next season pans out).
However, there is an added shake of spice to tomorrow’s clash, with Ayr bidding to make their ninth consecutive defence of the Bill McLaren Shield.
The trophy was launched in September 2011 in memory of the late, great rugby commentator, and is competed for using a challenge system [similar to the Ranfurly Shield in New Zealand] whereby the team in possession of the trophy must defend it every time they play at home.
If they manage four successful defences then they earn the right to get their name engraved on the Shield, but if they lose a defence then they must pass it on to their opponents – who will then go through the same process.
After those four consecutive defences, the rules are tweaked so that the Shield is up for grabs every time the team in possession plays, regardless of whether they are at home or away.
It has proven surprisingly difficult over the years to make four successful defences, and has only been achieved three time.
Ayr were the first to manage it with victories over Aberdeen Grammar and Boroughmuir in the league plus Hillhead Jordanhill and GHA in the Cup way back in October and November 2012. They went on to make 14 successful defences in total before eventually losing 37-17 away to Aberdeen in their final game of that league championship winning season.
Heriot’s followed suit in January 2017 after home victories over Stirling County, Watsonians, Boroughmuir and Currie.
Ayr’s current winning run stretches back to January of this year when they defeated Melrose at the Greenyards in the league to get their hands on the trophy, and since then have defeated Marr and Hawick at home at the tail-end of last season, followed by Currie Chieftains and Stirling County at home at the start of the current campaign to get their name on the trophy.
Can Hawks bring Ayr’s monopoly of the trophy to an end this weekend?