MATT VALLANCE @ Millbrae
IT WAS a case of job done for Ayr, as they made amends for their Scottish Cup loss at Mansfield Park last Saturday and put themselves right in the the mix for the play-offs with this bonus-point win.
But head coach Calum Forrester, in probably his final Millbrae match, was not entirely happy with a performance which mixed periods of great rugby with some indiscipline, allowing Hawick a sniff of a game which they seemed right out of at half-time.
“Some of our combination play was as good as we have shown this season, but we were our own worst enemies at times with our indiscipline and errors,” Forrester said. “However, we needed a win, we got it, so I cannot be too harsh on the boys.”
The defeat leaves Hawick eighth, just a point above the play-off spot, and captain Bruce McNeil acknowledged that his team had again failed to play well for the whole game.
“We had a crazy spell in the first half, in which we gave away three tries, and you cannot do that against Ayr. We played some terrific stuff in our second-half fightback but silly, small errors undid us. Against Ayr you need a full 80 minutes performance, and we fell short,” he said.
Lewis Anderson opened the Ayr account in six minutes with a well-worked try which Scott Lyle converted, as he did again in 27 minutes, after Grant Anderson went over. Dom Buckley was yellow-carded for his challenge on the try scorer and he was quickly followed to the naughty step by McNeil, as David Armstrong strolled in for Ayr’s third try.
James Armstrong then scored an unconverted fourth try for Ayr, as they made their two-man advantage count; but right on the break, Hawick’s refusal to buckle totally was rewarded when Daltron Redpath went over and Lee Armstrng converting.
Rob McAlpine was yellow-carded as Armstrong converted and it was soon Ayr’s turn to be two men down, when Scott Lyle was sent to the sin-bin for a tip tackle.
Redpath grabbed his second try, Armstrong again converting, then skipper McNeil forced his way over.
Suddenly, Ayr’s 26-point lead was down to just seven. However, the home side regathered themselves and in a fierce finish Tommy Spinks surged over following good charges by Robin Hislop and Blair Macpherson. Lyle converted and the home crowd could breathe easily again.
A cracking game, in difficult conditions, with both sides prepared to give the ball air.
Ayr: G Anderson; J Armstrong, M Davidson, F Climo, C Gossman; S Lyle, D Armstrong; R Hislop, L Anderson, S Longwell; S Sutherland R McAlpine; G Hunter, T Spinks, P McCallum. Subs: R Sayce, B Macpherson, G Stokes, H Warr, J Bova.
Hawick: A Weir, G Munro, K Davies, D Buckley, R Combe; L Armstrong, G Cottrell; S Muir, F Renwick, N Little; D Repath, C Hamilton, R Gibson, S Graham, B McNeil. Subs: M Carryer, M Landles, D Suddon, A Baillie, L Ferguson.
Referee: David Sutherland
Ayr: Tries: L Anderson, G Anderson, D Armstrong, J Armstrong, Spinks; Cons: Lyle 4.
Hawick: Tries: Redpath 2, McNeil. Cons: Armstrong 2.
Scoring sequence (Ayr first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 19-0; 21-0; 26-0; 26-5; 26-7 (h-t) 26-12; 26-14; 26-19; 31-19; 33-19
Yellow cards –
Ayr: McAlpine, Lyle
Hawick: Buckley, McNeil
Men-of-the-Match: Departing due George Hunter and Scott Sutherland got the nod from the Ayr selectors, it would be churlish to defer as both players made stirring farewell appearances at Millbrae.
Talking Point: The ridiculous Murrayfield idea that the BT Premiership is not fit for purpose was kicked deep into touch by this storming match, which offered great entertainment and some excellent rugby. This was a terrific afternoon’s sport, played by two fully-motivated teams. What’s not to like?