Aug 31 2012 Ayrshire Post (main ed)
AYR overcame a potential Meggetland banana skin for an expensive but hugely significant win in their RBS Premier opener.
Ayr’s challenge for a top four spot had faltered in the capital last season, writes Ron Evans.
The expensive part was the number of injuries making this week’s selection a headache for the coaches coupled with the fact that Ross Curle was at the wrong end of a red card and will be out until his case is heard.
The significant part was that Ayr could celebrate the opening of the campaign with a convincing win which, had they not let in a couple of soft tries at the death, would have seen them top of the table instead of second behind Gala on differential.
It didn’t start too well with Graeme Blackhall landing a penalty after only two minutes but that was the only time that ‘Muir held the lead.
Finn Russell miscued a penalty then Ayr got on the board as Russell redeemed himself, latching onto the ball after Craig Gossman had charged down Keith Buchan’s kick then scampering through a gap to put Scott Sutherland over for the try.
Grant Anderson came close from a Craig Gossman pass then Gossman himself scored a beauty, his side step and scorching run ending with the touchdown, hopefully the first of many this season.
Russell was askew with both conversions, Blackhall missed a penalty then the ‘Muir pack upped gear for Sean Crombie to cross with Blackwell’s conversion levelling the scores.
Ayr were having some difficulty holding a ‘Muir pack who will test anyone in the league but in injury time they rumbled, got close to the line and it fell to Nick Cox to celebrate his return to the side with what proved to be a crucial try as Peter Jericevich took over kicking duties to add the conversion for Ayr to turn 17-10 ahead.
The bonus point try came early in the second half and it was joy to watch Robbie Fergusson combine with the Gossman brothers in a move which ended with Craig putting in the final pass for Kerr to score.
Sutherland hoisted himself to the top of the Premier try scoring list with his second try, Jericevich added his third conversion and then slotted number four with only 16 minutes of the second half gone after skipper Calum Forrester had crashed over for try number six.
During this spell, Russell limped off and, with Dean Kelbrick hobbling out of the fray with an ankle injury, Ayr lost momentum and even more so after Curle was red carded for a spear tackle.
This is a controversial area about which probably several million words have been written encompassing incidents involving Brian O’Driscoll through to Sam Warburton.
But there are times, as with high tackles, where the laws leave the referee with little option and in this case there was no choice for Johann Van Der Merwe but to show redalthough to most watchers it appeared that there was no malice intended but there was also the feeling that it was avoidable.
Reduced to 14 men, Ayr were vulnerable to a final ‘Muir surge and they rattled in two tries in the final minutes from Greig Scott and Andy Rose with Buchan landing the conversion of the first.
But Ayr left the field in their league opener with a win on the road and a bonus point, something which our financial friends might refer to as an excellent capital return.
Coach Kenny Murray admitted: “It is always good to get a win in your first game because there are so many imponderables leading up to the opener but to do it on the road at a ground like Meggetland where we have come a cropper in the past makes it very sweet indeed.
“We played some really good rugby and the pack did well with the exception of the scrum where we need to put in some work although it has to be said that the Boroughmuir pack are a pretty useful outfit.
“The backs looked good, we made some great line breaks and the all round play led to some cracking tries. I was pleased with the way Finn Russell controlled the game from No10 and with probably three big players to come back into contention in the pack, we will only get stronger there.
“The injuries are a worry and we will have to wait and see what the physios say later in the week about Finn Russell and Dean Kelbrick but the most disappointing thing was the late red card for Ross Curle.
“It was a completely unnecessary tackle and it adds a huge amount of pressure on our selection of midfield backs with the possibility of injuries already there and that in turn becomes a factor early on in how it could impact on our challenge for the title.
“There is no doubt that the win has helped team morale even more and the integration of the new players into the squad is exactly what we had hoped would happen with a real buzz around the squad going into what will be a very tough match against Dundee on Saturday.”
Director of rugby Jock Craig was delighted with what turned out to be an excellent opening weekend for the club.
He said: “It was very important that we got a good start and they don’t come much better than a bonus point win away at Meggetland.
“It was also great to see the 2nd XV get a bonus point win with a 32-19 score at Currie because that is where they came so badly unstuck last season and with outstanding performances from Colin White coming back from illness and Denford Mutamangira, it just shows the strength in depth we are building in the squad.”
Dundee HSFP visit Millbrae on Saturday (3pm) and after their comfortable win over Aberdeen at Mayfield. Ian Rankin’s troops will yet again be looking to upset the Ayr applecart, something they have taken great delight in doing in the past.