It’s been a memorable eight days for Heriot’s, who backed up last Saturday’s BT Cup win with the league double. It was just a shame that such an entertaining match, with a total of nine tries all told, should have ended in controversy: the last score, a penalty try five minutes from time, proved decisive to the fury of the local crowd. The officials didn’t collect their post match medals as is customary.
Heriot’s had already scored two tries from rolling mauls so when they won a penalty late in the game when trailing by four points there was little doubt as to what they would do. Sure enough the ball went into the corner, the Heriot’s lineout executed as per the manual and Ayr’s No.8 Pete McCallum was penalised and yellow-carded for side entry as the referee awarded the try under the posts.
The victorious coach Phil Smith heaped praise on his team before isolating the decisive factor in the club’s back-to-back wins… Nando’s.
“The boys were all in Nando’s on Friday night before the cup final and all 25 of them were there again last night!
“I thought it was a brilliant game of rugby with both teams going for it,” Smith continued. “Forget about us winning, I thought it was a great advert for the Premiership. Both teams were trying to deliver in every aspect of the game.”
Ayr’s strength has traditionally been their big forward pack but the home team looked at their most dangerous with the ball in hand. They claimed the best try of the afternoon from skipper Ross Curle, who proved a constant threat as well as claiming two of his team’s four tries.
For their part, Heriot’s bossed the set scrum and their runners continually punched holes in the Ayr defence, thanks to stand-off Gregor McNeish who took the ball to the line before sending the big locks, Russell Nimmo and Jack Turley, through the holes he had created. No.8 Jason Hill got through a huge amount of the heavy lifting and if centre Cammy Ferguson had a bit more beef on his bones he’d be a star of the professional game.
But this victory was down to the Heriot’s mauling game which delivered three of their five tries on the afternoon, the first coming with the match no more than three minutes old, the last five minutes from full time. The same tactic worked last weekend at Murrayfield so if it ain’t broken…
Eschewing a shot at goal, Heriot’s kicked an early penalty into the corner and, with a little help from a few hardy backs, the big men rumbled over the Ayr line in short order. They performed an action replay, in the very same place, just before half-time with hooker Neil Cochrane claiming the score.
After that early opener, Ayr struck back, twice in ten minutes. Their maul never got out of first gear but when the ball was moved wide to the right Glasgow pro Junior Bulumakau popped up on the “wrong” wing to flick the ball out the back of his hand for full-back Grant Anderson to dive over in the corner. Ten minutes later, neat interplay between Danny McCluskey and Craig Gossman ended in the latter breaking the line before finding his skipper Curle on his inside for Ayr’s second try.
The pendulum then swung towards the visitors, with Heriot’s claiming a quick brace before half-time. They came close to a pushover try and then, when umpteen pick and goes from the forwards were repulsed, the ball was sent wide right where winger Charlie Simpson stepped inside his opposite number Bulumakau far too easily for the visitors’ second score and Cochrane claimed their third just before the break which earned them a 17-14 lead at half-time.
This match then appeared to shift in Ayr’s favour when the home team scored twice in the space of four minutes either side of the hour mark to take a handy nine-point lead. They took a leaf out of the Heriot’s book to spark the revival, driving a maul over the line with flanker Blair McPherson earning the praise, before Curle intercepted to score his second and Ayr’s fourth.
The Heriot’s reply was almost immediate, Liam Steele putting Simpson in for his second score of the afternoon, which left the visitors trailing by four points with ten minutes left on the clock. It proved time enough on the day.