Sep 7 2012 Ayrshire Post (main ed)
THERE are times when it is good to be wrong and boy, was I wrong about the outcome on Saturday when Ayr took on Dundee HSFP at a sun kissed and packed Millbrae.
Apart from your correspondent, whose tipping skills led an observer to suggest they were surprised that I didn’t sign up for last year’s Rapture fiasco, nobody was making any big predictions before this one to the extent that non-committal became the norm, writes Ron Evans.
“A narrow win for Dundee,” suggested my colleague Alan Christie in Saturday’s Herald.
“A narrow win for Ayr,” was the hopeful call from president Billy McHarg.
Both were proved wrong but not as wrong as your correspondent who had gone on record as forecasting that Dundee’s powerful pack, a points machine at No10, a Canadian international on the wing and an eye wateringly strong bench coupled with the fact that Ayr were three short behind the scrum from last weeks line-up could surely only mean a comfortable win for Ian Rankin’s men.
Never have I been so pleased to be proved wrong as Ayr turned on an irresistible and effervescent performance that had the crowd on its feet as they rattled in four superb tries and saw at least another three go a-begging.
So what were the tactics behind this demolition of a side tipped in some quarters as favourites for the RBS Premiership title?
Firstly credit has to go to the pack which moved the heavier Dundee forwards around at such a pace that they ran out of steam. The front row never buckled with Nick Cox, Stuart Fenwick and George Hunter putting in some useful carries as well, Colin White, replacement Nick Campbell and Scott Sutherland gave nothing away to Andy Linton and Chris Cumming as they dominated the line-out while in the back row, skipper Calum Forrester directed operations superbly, Andy Dunlop was sheer quality in the loose and Graham Fisken, on after six minutes for the unlucky Ross Doneghan, had as good a game as he has had in an Ayr jersey.
The speed of game was an absolute boon for the fleet of foot behind the scrum with the pace of the back three of Grant Anderson and the Gossman brothers, Craig and Kerr, simply breathtaking, Robbie Fergusson looking more comfortable than at any time in the last 12 months at outside centre, two-try Richard Dalgleish solid in defence and link mansupreme for the jet setters while the untried half back pairing of Sylvain Diez and Peter Jerecivich proved a match winner.
Man of the match Diez took to the No10 shirt as though it had been his all along, worked his line beautifully with a calm efficiency while Jerecivich proved the perfect foil both for Diez and to exploit the forward momentum the pack were creating.
The opening score came with the ever alert Jecerivich taking a quick tap penalty, chipping into space and Craig Gossman beating Jamie Urquhart to the bounce to go over for the try.
Twelve minutes later Andy Dunlop’s scoring pass to Gossman was knocked down and from the scum the ball swung right, Fergusson cut back silkily to put Dalgleish over for Jecerivich to land his second conversion.
Four minutes later, Anderson held on too long after a scorching break with Gossman outside him, Dundee countered and when Andy McLean made the most of a couple of weak tackles to score under the posts for Jack Steele to convert, alarm bells could be faintly heard but they reached a crescendo when Steele ended the first half with a penalty to make it 14-10 when Ayr could have been out of sight.
Ayr still looked confident into the second half though and Kerr Gossman appeared to have scored only to be pulled back for a crossing offence spotted by referee Ian Heard and no one else but that only delayed the try of the day.
Jecerivich started it off, Diez found Anderson with a beautifully weighted pass and from 45 metres, there was no stopping the full back. Jecerivich converted and with 18 minutes remaining the scrum half again was the instigator of Dalgeish’s second try which he duly converted to take Ayr 28-10 ahead with the bonus, and without doubt the game, in the bag.
Against a side of Dundee’s undoubted quality, Ayr had to cut it in defence as well but the fact that the only threat to their line produced McLean’s try is testament to the defensive organisation well away from the red zone.
Never one to over egg the pudding, Kenny Murray acknowledged the squad’s achievement commenting: “A good solid performance. When we were 14-0 up, we should have gone 21-0 ahead but instead we gave away a silly penalty which resulted in a disappointing try.
“However, some of our go-forward play was excellent which let the backs show just what they can do and that was impressive as was scoring a try straight off the training paddock.
“There were phases of the game which showed that the pack can bring variety to their play and that is going to be very important because it means that we can confront sides or move them around to get our backs running.”
This was reckoned by some to be as exciting a running game as Ayr have played for a long time and it sees the evolution of the side which was based successfully round a big and fearsome pack to one which can play a quick offload game or keep it tight, all supported by the fastest set of backs Ayr have put out, one is tempted to say in total terms, ever.
That performance leaves Ayr clear top of the RBS Premiership by a point and with another massive match against second in the table Gala at Netherdale on Saturday. Ayr know now they have the side which can take anyone in the league but consistency will be the key.
Team: Grant Anderson; Craig Gossman, Robbie Fergusson, Richard Dalgleish, Kerr Gossman; Sylvain Diez, Peter Jerecivich; Nick Cox, Stuart Fenwick, George Hunter, Scott Sutherland, Colin White, Ross Doneghan, Andy Dunlop, Calum Forrester. Subs: Hayden Wisnewski, Denford Mutamangira, Nick Campbell, Graham Fisken, Cammy Taylor.