Ayr’s spirit of adventure takes flat Hawks down

Ayr's Kerr Gossman is brought to ground on an engrossing afternoon of intensely competitive rugby at Millbrae. Picture: Toby Williams

Ayr's Kerr Gossman is brought to ground on an engrossing afternoon of intensely competitive rugby at Millbrae. Picture: Toby Williams

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SEVERAL Scottish rugby commentators have, in recent years, wondered why Ross Curle, enticed away to play professionally in Italy as a teenager, fresh out of Glasgow Academy, has never been able to seal a full professional deal at either Scotstoun or BT Murrayfield.

Ayr 18-6 Glasgow Hawks

Scorers: Ayr: Tries: R Curle, R McAlpine. Conversion: Curle. Penalty Goals: Curle (2). Glasgow Hawks: Pens: G Horne, J Steele.

In writing his name, in capital letters, all over this wonderfully-entertaining BT Premiership clash at Millbrae, club internationalist Curle again demonstrated that, at his best, he is the finest centre in the club game. The try he scored just one minute into the second half was as good as you will see anywhere. He took the ball just inside the Hawks half, then danced his way over for a brilliant score which broke the stalemate.

Of course, like Marmite, Rossco is an acquired taste, and the fact the question: “Was his grounding legal?” had to be asked was sufficient evidence to persuade one member of the press corps that, notwithstanding his contribution of 13 points to Ayr’s win, the man in the 13 shirt did not deserve the Man of the Match award. Saner voters over-ruled the dissenter, however.

The Curle try, which he converted, was the opening score in a game which featured that true rarity, given the opportunities referees have to award penalties these days, of a 0-0 half-time score-line.

Not that the opening period was devoid of incident, as former Scotland back row forward Gordon Strachan – now one of the “silverbacks” in the main stand at Millbrae – said at the interval: “That’s as good a first half as I have seen, it was engrossing.”

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There should have been points. George Horne of Hawks missed a couple of penalties he would normally knock over blindfolded, while big Rob McAlpine, in diving over at the posts following some intense Ayr pressure, managed to knock on, with referee Lloyd Linton, as he was throughout the match, right on the spot to decide no try had been scored.

Ayr, who played the more exciting and inventive rugby throughout, might also have had a couple of tries from sparkling three-quarter moves, but Craig Gossman, blotting an otherwise pristine copy-book, twice decided not to feed elder brother Kerr, a fourth-minute replacement for Richard Dalgleish, when a clear over-lap had been created. I bet Sunday lunch chez Gossman will have been a bit tense yesterday.

They like a spot of blood and snotters at Millbrae and got it midway through the first half, when Hawks’ Tom Steven – a Kilmarnock man – reminded us of Ayrshire’s liking for inter-community clan warfare with an assault – to call it a tackle would be wrong – on Dean Kelbrick, which sparked off a major bout of “handbags”.

Steven was rightly yellow-carded, and lucky not to see red. He went to the touchline, where he let himself down still further by appearing to want to single-handedly take on a bunch of spectators who, perhaps having over-indulged in the pre-match lunch, opened mouths without engaging brains.

The match was always about Ayr’s expansionism v Hawks’ damage limitation. The visitors’ back row were immense in chopping down Ayr runners, then slowing up or turning over ball at the breakdown. If the scrums were untidy, Hawks were on top, but, with their trio of skyscrapers, Scott Sutherland, Rob McAlpine and Calum Templeton, Ayr did better at the line-out.

McAlpine also made amends for his non-try in the first half by barrelling over off an advancing maul in the final minute for the second try of the game. All the other points came from penalties, Curle kicking two for Ayr, Horne and Jack Steele on-target for Hawks.

Two good tries, massive effort and commitment, yellow cards for Steven, Stephen Leckie and Templeton, a full and frank exchange of views at the set-piece. After the excitement of the Viagogo Autumn Tests, getting back to purritch and auld claes wasn’t such a bad thing at all.

Ayr: C Gossman; R Dalgleish, R Curle, D Kelbrick, R Fergusson; D McCluskey, D Armstrong; G Hunter, F Scott, D Rae, R McAlpine, S Sutherland, C Templeton, A Dunlop, B MacPherson. Replacements used: J Malcolm, S Fenwick, B Johnstone, G Fisken, K Gossman..

Glasgow Hawks: A Fleming; T Steven, B McGroarty, D Milne, P Ramsay; G Horne, P Boyer; S Findlay, J McFarlane, G Strain, J Agnew, A Kirkland, S Leckie, F Gillies, T Spinks. Replacements used: B Cullinane, S Cummings, M Bartoszek, J Steele.

Referee: L Linton.

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