Apr 6 2012 Ayrshire Post (main ed)
Ayr Rugby Club beat Boroughmuir to reach cup final for third year in a row
DIG out the pink caps, the black and pink tee shirts and wigs and get ready for the trip to the cup final for the third year in succession.
Ayr clinched their place against Gala after a pulsating semi-final at Millbrae which had both sets of fans on the edge of their seats until the final whistle.
This was a belter of a cup tie and no mistake, writes Ron Evans.
There was a sense of trepidation pervading Millbrae after the disaster against Gala the previous week and, sensing that and allied to their win at Meggetland a few weeks ago, Boroughmuir had to feel quietly confident of success in the RBS Cup semi-final.
That confidence was seriously dented in the opening spell as Ayr cut loose from the whistle, Ross Curle and Steve Manning combining and although the wing was held just short, Robbie Fergusson slotted the ensuing penalty.
A swift return to the red zone had 'Muir defending frantically but with a discipline and control which finally claimed the turnover to clear.
Ayr were not to be denied, kept the momentum and only a minute after Fergusson had landed his second penalty, Curle and Mark Stewart combined for Curle to cross for gem of a score. Fergusson converted.
Ayr offended a minute later and Ally Warnock got 'Muir on the board from the penalty then they reduced the margin further as the defence was caught napping down the right touchline as Malcolm Clapperton made the space for Stevie Wilson to finish off.
After 25 minutes, Ayr reclaimed the initiative as Manning was hauled down just short but Rob Colhoun fed hooker Stuart Fenwick for the second try and at 18-8 looked to be stretching away.
They may have done had their kicking from hand been more accurate but giving a back three the likes of Sep Visser, Redha Guedroudj and Keith Buchan the chance to run the ball back is a perilous strategy and that is exactly what happed in the lead up to Alex Henderson's try when he crossed with not an Ayr jersey in sight.
Warnock converted then on the half time mark slotted a penalty to tie the scores at 18-18, a scoreline few would have predicted after the first 15 minutes.
The first try in the second half would be crucial and both sides had near misses, Curle at one end from a chip through by Ferguson and Sam Johnson, hauled down five metres short, at the other.
The score came Ayr's way after a series of dips at the line ended with prop Denford Mutamangira crashing over for Fergusson to convert.
Just as it was looking like Ayr would stretch the lead, another wayward kick (described more fruitily than that by the home faithful!) allowed Visser to turn on the afterburners somewhere between his own 22 and 10 metre line and leave a trail of tacklers in his wake as he romped in for a try which, with Warnock's conversion levelled the score again.
'Muir had their tails up and it looked as though Jordan Webster was away until Colin White's try saver of a tackle clipped him into touch then Ayr rallied, Andy Dunlop charged, Scott Sutherland was stopped short and Jono Willis plunged over.
Sounds simple but that was the try which took Ayr to Murrayfield as they gave a masterclass in the final 12 minutes on how to close out a game, denying the 'Muir pack a sniff of the ball as they picked and drove remorselessly down the field until the penalty came, the ball was booted out and the spoils went to Ayr.
A superb advert for the club game, a match which, in its ebb and flow, could have graced the final and in the end was won by the side who perhaps were not prepared to face another disappointment in what had been a frustrating season.
The tries, Curle's after a delightful break and exchange of passes with Stewart was a highlight as was Visser's score and the White tackle on Webster to save the tie but the abiding memory will be how Ayr closed the game out, picking and driving, showing composure and discipline as though they had been studying a video of Munster in their pomp.
The forwards were immense in that final spell and Sutherland, Fenwick, Gordon Sykes and Andy Kelly, off the bench as a replacement for the outstanding Mutamangira, denied 'Muir the ball and with Dunlop, on for Graham Fiskin who had run himself into the ground flanked by Colhoun and Willis, it was a performance to be proud of but here I have to make a confession.
I was outvoted in the press box two to one for man of the match which went to Curle. I gave it to White as did an awful lot of spectators who saw him put an immense performance and, as mentioned above was responsible for the tackle which took Ayr to the final.
Coach Kenny Murray admitted: “We expected it to be a tight match but in the end we are just happy and in a way relieved to get to the final to make our defence of the cup.
“The first 15 minutes was as good as we have played all season and Curle's score was one of our best but the way we controlled the last 10 minutes was something special.
“There are some sore bodies after that one and I suspect that we will be resting one or two of the side against Aberdeen on Saturday.
“Both sides in the other semi-final would be hard to face at Murrayfield but we will take it with us that we outscored Gala on tries last week and if we could win for the third time in a row, it would not only be a record but it would be a great end to what has at times been a frustrating season.”
Director of Rugby Jock Craig was a touch more effusive than last week.
He said: “It is a reward for the team who have had real highs and lows this season and to have the chance to make cup history is a great achievement.”
Ayr play their final RBS Premier A match at Millbrae on Saturday against Aberdeen Grammar Rugby. Then it is a week off to rest the bumps and lumps before taking on Gala at Murrayfield on April 21. Be sure to be there!