IF ANY of Ayr’s rivals for the championship were looking for signs of weakness on the opening weekend, they would have been sorely disappointed by this performance at Bridgehaugh against the team that finished third in the table.
They took their time about it – midway through the second half, County were trailing by just five points – but well before the final whistle blew the visitors had almost complete control of this match and a four-try bonus point to boot. Not that you’d think so listening to Ayr’s new head coach Peter Laverie list his side’s woes after the match.
“We were trying to cut out the errors because we had given away quite a lot of points with ill-discipline. We gave away penalties and Brian Archibald is a good kicker who will punish you. We had one or two players too busy talking and the breakdown was an issue for us because we were not fast enough to get there. Our line speed in defence was not quick enough so we gave them some room to play. Overall, I’m quite pleased, to be honest, but there are plenty of things to work on.”
The two teams were both determined to play rugby and an entertaining game deserved more spectators than the few hundred that walked through the turnstiles but not even the most one-eyed County fan could have complained about the final result. Ayr were sharper in attack and more ambitious. Scrum-half Peter Jericevich snipped around the base to good effect and then kicked four conversions, the last one from the left touchline.
The home side were only kept in the hunt thanks to three penalties by Archibald and then a second-half try by lock Ruaridh Leishman. In contrast, Ayr looked dangerous every time they moved the ball wide and, if all the final passes ever stick, some poor side will find themselves on the wrong end of a hiding. Grant Anderson grabbed two tries but not before the full-back had created the first for winger Cammy Taylor with an injection of pace into the line.
Anderson then owed fly-half Ross Curle a beer for setting up his first score with some fancy footwork. Lock Scott Sutherland barged over for Ayr’s third before Anderson again struck wide out in the final quarter.
If Laverie has any concerns, it will be the time it took his hefty forward pack to subdue a spirited County eight in which No 8 Jamie Swanson was the stand-out player.
“I though we scrummed well,” said the Ayr coach. “We certainly had the more powerful scrum, but Stirling came at us.
“They got some good go forward from Swanson at the back of their scrum and we weren’t sharp enough to get him to ground.
“We were a bit passive after the tackle when the next man comes in, we weren’t claiming that space. I wasn’t surprised, I was just a bit disappointed that we were not better.” It’s too early to say that Ayr will retain the title but they will surely be there or thereabouts come the business end of the season.