LEWIS STUART @ Millbrae
PLAYERS and coaches often talk about rugby as a ‘game of inches’ but rarely do they mean it just as literally as both Peter Murchie, the victorious Ayr coach, and Peter Wright, his Boroughmuir counterpart, did after their tense, tight encounter at Millbrae.
It all turned on a 70th minute decision by referee Michael Todd, who ruled that with Boroughmuir in full flight the final pass from scrum-half Tom Wilson to wing Kerr Gossman had gone forward. With that ruling, the visitors lost their best and, it turned out, final, chance to rescue a game where they had struggled for the first 50 minutes but turned things round dramatically in the final stages.
“All my players were adamant it was not forward,” Wright fumed afterwards, though he admitted that from 60 or 70 yards away under the dim floodlights at the Ayr ground, he could not see himself. “They are big decisions, and it you get it right everybody loves it. Get it wrong and you have to accept that if the game is as tight as that, it changes things.
“It was not just that,” he added. “We were playing advantage for the fourth penalty on their try-line, we got over the line and it was disallowed – there should have been a yellow card. That was a big decision as well.”
If the try had been awarded, it would have given Gavin Parker a touchline chance to level the game with the conversion, but with all the momentum in Boroughmuir’s favour and 10 minutes still to play, they would have been confident of still getting a shot at goal to steal the points.
It did not work out that way and Murchie was delighted his side were able to ride their luck whilst using the power of their forwards to stay top of the Tennent’s Premiership with this hard-fought win.
On balance, they just about deserved it for the control they exercised for the majority of the game, though he was obviously frustrated by their struggles in converting all that pressure into points.
Premiership Match Reports:
In the first half, they drove four line-out mauls from outside the 22 right up to the try-line and did eventually manage to go all the way with Pat MarArthur, the hooker, touching down. On top of that, they had several more visits to within five metres of the Boroughmuir line, but continually came away with nothing.
Fortunately for them, they had a perfect start to the second half when Paddy Dewhirst raced onto the kick-off to set up the attack, Frazier Climo made a half break to keep it going, and Grant Anderson on his shoulder to take the offload and score.
Boroughmuir brought themselves within range when, amid a series of dangerous attacks, Parker touched down and converted himself from the touchline, but it only fuelled their frustration as half chances continued to come and go – the forward pass the best of them.
“We had a lot of opportunities, but did not convert as many as we would have liked,” Murchie admitted. “We started the second half really well. We talked a lot at half time about taking our chances better. We did that at the start but then we lost momentum.
“There were some interesting decisions from the officials but territory-wise we lost a few of those battle and with this weather, if you kick out on the full you will put yourself under pressure. We were not great in the second half but I am pleased we dug it out. It was a really important four points.”
Though it was scrappy at times and Boroughmuir came close, the fact was that when it really mattered the Ayr forwards had the power to control things. Their driving maul was always a potent weapon, they had the pressure in the scrums and stole three crucial line-outs.
With potential like that to build on, Murchie believes he has a side capable of going all the way. Though Wright reckons his team could make a late surge up the table, it would almost certainly be too little too late – a bit like their effort in this match.
Ayr: G Anderson; P Dewhurst, P Kelly, D McCluskey, R Hughes; F Climo, H Warr; R Sayce, P MacArthur, S Longwell, A North, L Morrice, T Spinks, P McCallum, B Macpherson. Replacements used: A McGuire, A Rademaker, C Mille, O Smith, D Corbenici.
Boroughmuir: C Gossman; G Parker, W Wardlaw, G Cannie, J Edmunds; C Laidlaw, T Wilson; D Robertson, J Matthews, R Montgomery , W Inglis, C Atkinson, C Keddie, M Walker, R Drummond. Replacements used: T Gracie, S Smith, A McCube, M Johnson, K Gossman.
Referee: M Todd
Ayr: Tries: MacArthur, Anderson. Cons: Climo 2.
Boroughmuir: Try: Parker. Con: Parker.
Scoring sequence (Ayr first): 5-0; 7-0 (h-t) 12-0; 14-0, 14-5; 14-7.
Man-of-the-Match: In the end it was the tight five who won the game for Ayr with Pat MacArthur getting them going.
Talking point: Forwards win matches and in wet, windy conditions Ayr had the firepower where it mattered, particularly in the set-piece.