Ayr took a giant stride towards the Premiership title by turning over an awkward and organised Edinburgh Accies team to emerge with a critical bonus point and stay very much in control at the top of the league with two matches remaining.
Scorers: Ayr: Tries: Campbell, Cox, Fergusson, Wisnewski. Con: Curle. Accies: Try: Pecqueur. Pens: R Bonner 2.
Accies fought hard and had their chances but were always chasing the game as they followed their own agenda of a place in the British and Irish Cup.
The home side lined up with Finn Russell at stand off after his first taste of pro rugby with Glasgow Warriors against Zebre, two props Nick Cox and Denford Mutamangira back from injury to shore up the front row, and Robbie Fergusson on the wing after an impressive outing for Scotland under-20s. For Accies, prop Alex Allan returned late from Wales, where he was squad cover in Glasgow’s eight-try demolition of the Dragons, to catch his breath on the bench before coming on after the first quarter, but regular full-back Ruaridh Young had to be rested ahead of this week’s under-20 game against Ireland.
The first try came for Ayr in six minutes following a maul and a couple of pick and gos, when lock Nick Campbell reached over a pile-up on the Accies line to touch down. Scrum half Peter Jerecevich couldn’t add the extras.
The second came after 15 minutes when Cox battered his way into the 22 and was on hand a couple of phases later to finish the job and claim the points. Jerecevich missed the simple conversion.
Accies were struggling to make an impression in close quarter exchanges so they tried to go wide instead, winning a penalty 30 metres out on the left that Ruaridh Bonner sent through the posts. Within minutes winger Sam Pecqueur almost broke away only to be hauled down by his ankles. Ayr were dominating territory, containing Accies within their own half, and it was no surprise when Robbie Fergusson crossed for the third try wide on the right. Jerecevich missed his third conversion in a row.
Accies replied immediately with a second penalty by Bonner and as Ayr tried to up the already fast tempo after halftime they began to make handling errors and invite the visitors more into the game. Pecqueur took advantage with an unconverted try to bring Accies within a single score.
Now it was Accies who were dictating the tempo and what had briefly looked like a hopeless cause now seemed a distinct possibility as play went into the final quarter.
Then Ayr got on the front foot and forced a lineout in the Accies 22. The maul began to rumble and Ayr kept possession through several phases, held out only by superb defence until the pressure proved too much and replacement hooker Hayden Wisnewski scored between the posts for the bonus point try that had been so long in coming. Ross Curle took over the kicking and converted.
It got even faster and even more frantic after that but Accies were beaten and the game was effectively over.
Edinburgh Accies: G Anderson; R Fergusson, R Curle, D Kelbrick, C Gossman; Finn Russell, P Jericevich; D Mutamangira, S Fenwick, N Cox, N Campbell, S Sutherland, C White, A Dunlop, Calum Forrester. Subs: H Wisnewski, D’arcy Rae, R Doneghan, G Fisken, R Dalgleish.
Ayr: N Godsmark; M Coupar, I Berthinussen, R Bonner, S Pecqueur; E Bonner, A Black; D Morrison, M Liness, C Murray, G Campbell, A Findlater, D Teague, R Godsmark, C Reid. Subs: F Rawlinson, A Allan, T Drennan, J Adams, R Watt.
Referee: Ian Herd.