Mar 23 2012 Ayrshire Post (main ed)
WEARING my hat as head honcho of Rerite Sport, the collators of all Scotland's rugby results, was a salutary experience last weekend.
With Scotland's apology for a performance in Rome shown beforedomestic club rugby kicked off, we expected a reaction but got exactly the opposite, writes Ron Evans.
Our club contacts from north east to south west were animated as ever in talking up their club’s chances of avoiding relegation or achieving promotion but nary a mention of the debacle in the Stadio Olimpica???
Nowhere was this enthusiasm more animated than in Premier A where four cracking matches produced some wonderful rugby, shock results and a smattering of controversy.
One of the results falling into the shock category was from Malleny Park because, if there is one place you don't want to go to twice in one league campaign without the chance of taking Currie on at home, it is there.
Particularly if on your last visit there you have been at the wrong end of a 31-8 defeat.
Ayr put all thoughts of that behind them and came away with a rollicking 36-18 win over Ally Donaldson's troops to keep their hopes of a top three finish in RBS Premier A alive.
After a couple of minutes, no one would have predicted that final scoreline as No10 Jamie Forbes scampered through and converted to take Currie into a 7-0 lead.
Undeterred, Ayr hit back with two tries in the space of a few minutes, prop Gordon Reid, back in harness from Glasgow Warriors, crashed over for the first score then after a crafty chip ahead by Robbie Fergusson, Ross Curle outpaced the defence to touch down for Andy Wilson to convert.
A Forbes penalty narrowed the gap but Ayr were flying and a great move saw Grant Anderson come into the line to go over under the posts for Wilson to slot his second conversion.
The pack were giving the Currie defence all sorts of problems and their intense pressure close to the line bore fruit when Rob Colhoun crashed over for the bonus clinching try.
Forbes again reduced the deficit with his second penalty but Ayr took the game virtually out of sight by the time the break arrived after Steven Manning scorched over for try number five with Wilson's conversion taking the half time score to 31-13.
Ayr had to pull out all the stops to keep their line intact in the third quarter but paid the price for collecting two yellow cards as Barry Mansfield crossed for Currie's second try.
Ayr had the final word though,Anderson going in for his second and sixth try of the afternoon and with the scoreboard showing 36-18 it was no more than deserved for one of their best performances of the season.
Currie suffered the loss of key players, an affliction endured by Ayr more than once this season and the visitors had the not insubstantial additionof props Reid and Mike Cusack from the Warriors.
Still forced to watch from the sidelines as his knee injury heals, Ayr skipper Mark Stewart hailed the win.
Stewart said: “There was a massive incentive for us to win and the way we did it was a huge boost to the confidence of the squad.
“It has been a real up and down season but if we can get that top three finish and retain the cup, all the grim times will be forgotten and that is what we have to focus on.
“I have to mention Robbie Fergusson, 40 minutes for the Scotland U20s in Italy on Friday night in a great win, flying back to Edinburgh, a quick nap then out to play for Ayr in a huge game. That’s real commitment.”
Now comes a feast of engrossing rugby at Millbrae over the next three weeks. Gala will be buzzing after their demolition of Melrose at Netherdale on Saturday and will be intent on keeping up their title challenge.
Ayr need to win that one to stay in the race for a top three spot and will look for a repeat of their Netherdale success in the second match of the season. The fact that it is ladies day at Millbrae could but shouldn't prove to be a distraction!
The following week sees Millbrae host the semi-final of the RBS Cup when Boroughmuir will look to repeat their win of a few weeks ago in the league at Meggetland.
Ayr will be equally determined to take the spoils in defence of the trophy and get to the cup final at Murrayfield for their third season in succession. On April 7, depending on how the results on Saturday pan out, Ayr could be facing Aberdeen in their final league match with the chance to clinch that all-important top three spot.
Now all along, it has been that top three spot in the league which ensures qualification for the British and Irish Cup which has been, along with the defence of the RBS Cup, the season’s target for Ayr but the rumour on the street is that there could be four Scottish sides in the B & I next season.
To be in that competition and playing at the higher level it demands is the challenge many players want.
Three massive home games on the bounce then who knows, a week’s respite then off to Murrayfield again for the pink and black army to pursue what would be an unprecedented three wins in a row in the cup.
What a climax to the season.