AYR front rows are measured against the Jock Craig, Ernie Finnie, John Burston trio of some 40-years ago, and generally found wanting. In laying the foundations for this crucial Millbrae win, Stuart Fenwick, Fergus Scott and Fraser Watts produced a dominant display that had Craig, now Ayr’s Director of Rugby, positively purring, while Finnie, in the stand, was equally happy.
With 20 of Ayr’s 25 points, Ross Curle was a shoo-in for man of the match, but he, too, was quick to laud the front row’s contribution to a “gritty display in a match which could have gone either way.
“Their display tipped it and, we found a way to win, for which they deserve massive credit,” Curle continued.
Home coach Calum Forrester was equally effusive in his praise of the often overlooked “donkeys”.
“They set the template from the very first scrum and thereafter were utterly dominant. Behind them, we played some very good rugby, but we let them back in by conceding too many penalties. This display has been coming and I am delighted with the win,” Forrester continued.
Heriot’s coach Phil Smith was naturally disappointed, but he had to rush away to a family event and didn’t have time to speak about a disappointing result for the table-toppers.
Ayr led 17-13 at the interval. Curle and Graham Wilson exchanged penalties in the second and fourth minutes before, playing advantage from an Ayr knock-on, Heriot’s produced a spell of glorious handling for Charlie Simpson to put fellow wing Colin Goudie in for the opening unconverted try.
Two further Curle penalties got Ayr’s noses in front before, in 32 minutes, solid mauling from the visiting pack, from Jason Hill’s line-out take, drove hooker Dave McGregor over for a second unconverted try.
But their lead lasted a mere four minutes before Curle followed-up Grant Anderson’s grubber to touch down and again edge Ayr in front, before goaling a fourth penalty to end the first-half scoring.
The back and forth continued. Wilson goaled a penalty to make it 17-16, Curle responded in kind, 20-16, then, from another Hill take at the back of a line-out, Heriot’s called a pre-planned move for Russell Nimmo to rumble over at the posts, with Wilson converting to make it 23-20 to the visitors.
By now, the pressure the Ayr pack had applied was telling on the visitors and when, inside four minutes, first Daniel Levison, then replacement JP Ward were yellow-carded, the danger signs were flying for the league leaders.
Four times an advancing Ayr scrum was recalled and Heriot’s penalised. After the fourth penalty they had to go to unopposed scrums, the visitors didn’t have two fit props left. This seemed bad for Ayr, but they kicked to the corner, mauled the line-out and, for the second successive week, Stuart Fenwick rumbled over for a try, which Curle converted to put Ayr two points in front.
Fair play to Heriot’s, for as the match entered stoppage time, they mounted a series of raids, going through some 12 phases before Curle, who else, forced them to concede a penalty for not releasing before belting the kick into the car park to signal victory for Ayr.
Scorers: Ayr – Tries: R Curle, S Fenwick. Pens: R Curle (5). Heriot’s – Tries: C Goudie, D McGregor, R Nimmo; Con: G Wilson. Pens: Wilson (2).
Ayr: G Andreson; R Dalgleish, R Fergusson, D Kelbrick, C Gossman; R Curle, D Armstrong; S Fenwick, F Scott, F Watt, R McAlpine, S Sutherland, P McCallum, A Dunlop, G Fisken. Subs: D Young, G Sykes, B MacPherson, J Preston, C Brown.
Heriot’s: K Buchan; C Simpson, L Steele, J Laird, C Goudie; S Edwards, G Wilson; N Borel, D McGregor, S Cessford, R Nimmo, D Levison, J Armstrong, J McLean, J Hill. Subs: S Mustard, JP Ward, J Syme, G McNeish, M Learmonth.
Referee: C Rudkin.