AYR returned to the top of the RBS Premiership, following this tight, no-holds-barred battle.
Gala held the upper hand territorially and in terms of possession, but Ayr’s emergence as winners demonstrates yet again that defences win titles.
As Gala coach George Graham admitted: “Ayr were more effective when it mattered; they only had three spells when they were really on top and they scored a try each time. We had far more chances, but didn’t take them, which is a tribute to a massive defensive effort from Ayr”.
Opposite number Kenny Murray echoed that view. “That was bloody tough,” he said. “But our guys put their bodies on the line, the defensive effort was fantastic and while we maybe weren’t clinical enough, and I have my doubts about both Gala tries, a win is a win.”
Graham felt his side were too keen to give the ball width and ought to have gone through more phases before going for the line, where their wide men were repeatedly cut down by Ayr’s excellent first-up and cover tackling. “We always looked dangerous, but should maybe have tied in their back row more than we did,” he said.
Although flanker Colin White got the Man of the Match call, either of his comrades-in-arms, Andy Dunlop or skipper Callum Forrester might have got it.
Flanker Gary Graham was unlucky to cop a second-half yellow card for joining a ruck from the side. He was by no means the worst offender in an aspect of the game where Gala repeatedly lived on the edge of referee Neil Paterson’s tolerance.
While Graham was in the sin bin, Ayr lock Scott Sutherland, himself newly-refreshed by ten minutes sitting out the action, crashed over for the winning try.
Ayr’s early indiscipline and their woeful kicking – they repeatedly failed to find touch or open space when kicking for position – as much as the visitors’ efforts, kept Gala in their territory and it was no surprise when Euan Dods finished off great work by the Graham brothers for the opening try in 17 minutes. It was no less than Gala deserved.
However, Ayr responded with a sparkling Craig Gossman try, before making their spell in the driving seat count when Pete Jerecevich, embarrassed by George Graham in the build-up to Gala’s try, got his revenge, jinking through a fractured visiting defence to finish off sterling work by the Ayr pack.
Finn Russell missed this conversion, the only unsuccessful attempt at goal on the day, but Ayr had the lead going into the second half.
Gossman was denied a second try late in the first half, while Alan Emond was inches from the Ayr line when hauled down during Gala’s high-tempo start to the second half.
Then came the Sutherland and Graham yellow cards, and Sutherland’s crucial try, and although Gala’s storming finale saw Dods score his second try, it was just too late for Gala to salvage more than the losing bonus point from a terrific game.