NEW skipper Dean Kelbrick has led Ayr to two wins from two so far in the BT Premiership and he is looking for them to continue their good start this afternoon when Hawick visit Millbrae.
In week one the 2008/09 top flight champions defeated Gala 28-24 and then, seven days ago at Balgray, they edged out Glasgow Hawks 20-18 to give the new coaching team of Calum Forrester, Scott Forrest and Glen Tippett plenty to build on.
Given that only Ayr and Stirling County have won their first two matches – with no bonus points – it shows just how close the battle for top-four spots and the coveted play-offs is going to be this season.
And Kelbrick, the experienced centre, knows that every game is going to be tough, including today’s home clash with Nikki Walker’s side.
He said: “I am really pleased with the way things have come together. Calum, Scott and Glen are all guys who have played a good level of rugby themselves in fairly recent years so they have brought a freshness to our approach and some new ideas.
“Gala and Hawks are always two tough sides, so to start with wins against both of them has been great, but the focus now is solely on Hawick. They have had a couple of close loses so far and are in a similar boat to ourselves with a new, young coaching unit. You know what you get from them, they are very physical while they never stop playing until the last whistle so we must be at our best.”
Ayr recruited shrewdly over the summer and by bringing in guys such as Fraser Watt, Robert McAlpine and Will Bordill, they have made their pack look pretty formidable.
In the backs, younger players such as David Armstrong and Danny McCluskey have stepped up well to top team duties, while the dislocated elbow suffered by winger Craig Gossman has been tempered somewhat by the form of the experienced Cammy Taylor.
Today they also have the use of Canadian international Connor Braid, who is on a three-month contract with Glasgow Warriors.
He will line up alongside Kelbrick in the centres and the captain was impressed by what he saw from Braid at training on Thursday night.
Hawick travel, as mentioned, on the back of defeats to Currie and Heriot’s, but they are not far away from getting a positive result.
For this one, skipper Rory Hutton has moved back to stand-off from centre.
Elsewhere today, leaders Stirling County head to Goldenacre in high spirits following wins over Boroughmuir and Melrose.
The Melrose match last week was a tough physical encounter, but everyone came through it unscathed and the only change to the starting XV makes their side even stronger.
Glasgow Warriors’ Adam Ashe, a product of County, is released and starts at No 8 with Aubrey MnCube on the bench.
County head coach Graeme Young said: “Heriot’s have been a form team in the last year securing a top four league finish and winning the Scottish Cup in 2013/14 and will provide a formidable challenge. We continue to keep focusing on improving each week, which is key in such a competitive league.”
Gala were impressive against Currie last week and host Glasgow Hawks, who have Glasgow Warriors’ captain Al Kellock in their pack, at Netherdale.
Edinburgh Accies travel to Malleny Park to take on Currie, with the former still looking for their first win and the latter looking to bounce back from the big loss at Gala.
Melrose welcome Boroughmuir to The Greenyards with both sides having won one and lost one so far.