Ayr have snatched a unique honour from under the nose of ‘Scottish rugby’s heartland’.
The Bill McLaren Shield came into being at the start of this season and in order to have your club’s name engraved on it, you first had to win it then defend it in four successive home matches.
The first club to do that and therefore become the first ever name on the shield will be Ayr RFC after Kenny Murray’s troops took the spoils in the RBS West Regional Shield tie against GHA at Millbrae on Saturday.
Ayr had taken possession of the shield when they beat Edinburgh Accies at Raeburn Place before winning two successive Premiership matches at Millbrae against Aberdeen and Boroughmuir then last week’s opening defence of the RBS West Regional Cup against Hillhead Jordanhill.
The win against GHA completed the quartet of wins needed to get their name on the shield but it was again a scrappy performance, not helped by a greasy and treacherous surface which suited neither side.
Finn Russell got Ayr on the board with an eighth minute penalty but stuffy defence kept them at bay until Craig Gossman scorched away from 60 yards out to put Robbie Fergusson over.
The kick was missed and I would ask the indulgence of readers if you allow me to write that only once since none of Ayr’s six tries produced the extra two points.
GHA put together some substantial drives and gave little away at the breakdown but never really got close to the red zone and when Ayr upped the tempo five minutes before the break, Colin White crashed over for try number two.
On the half time mark, a powerful Ayr shunt at a five metre scrum saw Graham Fisken held short but a spectacular dive over the ruck produced the try for scrum half Sylvain Diez for Ayr to go in 18-0 ahead.
If Ayr expected the second half to be a procession of tries, they were disappointed, Craig Gossman’s try two minutes into the half clinching the bonus, man of the match Peter McCallum claiming number five after a long spell which saw the GHA defence hold out manfully and a sixth on full time from Peter Jericevich who had replaced Diez at scrum half. Probably the most memorable moment of the second spell came in 72 minutes when Stewart Kerr came off the bench to replace Byron Schmidt at prop, 28 years since he made his first XV debut.
What a warrior!
Ayr now go into the third match of their cup group against Ardrossan Accies at Memorial Field on Saturday then the following week comes the crucial match of the season in the RBS Premiership.
Gala come to Millbrae with the Netherdale men currently two points behind but they play their game in hand on Saturday at the Greenyards against Melrose.
If they win there, they will top the table and even if they go down, it will be the mother and father of all battles at Millbrae on December 1.