A very decent crowd assembled at Mayfield to enjoy the spring sunshine and a spirited performance from the home team who could not quite summon the wherewithal to give their retiring coach Iain Rankin one last trip to Murrayfield. Instead Dundee have a relegation battle to negotiate against Stirling County next weekend.
Scorers: Dundee: Try: Wilson. Ayr: Tries: Hunter, Ferguson. Con: Jericevich. Pen:: Jericevich.
For the fourth year in succession Ayr have muscled their way into the final of the RBS Cup. The club lost to Gala last season after beating Melrose in the first two years so there is no surprise to hear that coach Kenny Murray was happy to go up against his old adversary after Melrose edged Gala in the other semifinal.
“That was just as we expected,” said Murray. “It was a hard, hard game. We have never come here and won by much. I felt that we played most of the rugby and might have scored a few more if we had been a bit more accurate.
“After beating Melrose in our first two finals I am just happy for Chic [Craig Chalmers] because he is leaving the club at the end of this season and it will be good for him to go out with a Murrayfield final. Not that we will be doing him any favours on the day.”
The best team won, the only surprise is that Ayr did not make things a whole lot easier for themselves. The visiting team had enough possession and territory to win this game twice over but were relieved enough to come away with the win. The match was a strange one as Ayr enjoyed almost all the pressure but they struggled to score points in the face of heroic Dundee defence and, it’s fair to say, some appalling handling errors from the visitors. Time and again it looked like Ayr would score but on almost every occasion something or someone intervened to spoil the chance.
Everyone played their part for Dundee but the back row trio of Danny Levison, Iain Wilson and Richie McIvor got through a mountain of the dirty work.
Dundee scrum-half Andy Dymock intercepted a scoring pass from Ayr flanker Ross Doneghan just five metres from his own try line. The substantial figure of Zimbabwe’s international prop Denford Mutamangira was rumbling towards the Dundee line only to be bundled straight back whence he came.
Full-back Grant Anderson beat one, two, maybe three tacklers only for the final pass to go to ground in the shadow of Dundee’s posts. Visiting centre Robbie Ferguson made a sublime break only for Ross Curle to drop the ball when the pass came.
If all that was frustrating for Kenny Murray, the Ayr coach must have been spitting teeth when Dundee grabbed the lead entirely against the run of play in what might well have been their only visit to the Ayr 22 in the whole of the first half. Moreover, the try from Iain Wilson following a break from Andy Dymock was mired in controversy. The flanker supported his scrumhalf up the right flank but there was at least the suggestion of a foot in touch when he dived over in the corner but, in the absence of a video referee, the touch judge left his flag down and the score stood.
That only galvanised Ayr to even greater efforts and they were helped by some slack play from the home side whose option taking was questionable. One bullet of a pass was spilled in midfield to give Ayr an attacking opportunity and several plays later the Glasgow prop George Hunter barrelled his way over the line near the posts. Scrum-half Peter Jericevich was good with the extras which gave Ayr a narrow advantage they kept after Jack Steele missed a penalty attempt late in the half for Dundee.
Ayr needed to shuffle the deck in the second 40 after injuries to both centre Dean Kelbrick and winger Craig Gossman. Murray McConnell came on at scrum-half while the starting nine Jericevich filled in for Kelbrick in the Ayr midfield.
The personnel may have changed but the pattern of the game remained resolutely unchanged with Ayr on the attack. There was no lack of ambition or skill from both sides but, as the match went on with the third quarter point-less, there was a realisation that the next score would probably be decisive and it went to the visitors.
Fergusson made a half break and Andy Dymock tackled the centre and failed to roll away. Jericevich lined up the penalty, straight in front of the posts and 35 metres out and made no mistake. Ayr’s advantage was stretched to five points but with ten minutes still to play they weren’t finished.
Fergusson looked dangerous all afternoon and the centre waltzed through some tiring tackles to grab a second try in what was almost the last move of the match to ensure that Ayr’s superiority on the pitch was finally reflected on the scoreboard. The league and cup double dream is still alive.
Dundee: Urquhart, McLean, Duthie, Lavery, Bowie; Steele, A Dymock, N Dymock, Russell, Robertson, Cumming, Hawkins, Levison, Wilson, McIver. Subs: Longwell, Islam, Linton, Redmayne, Lemon.
Ayr: Anderson, Gossman, Fergusson, Kelbrick, Dalgleish; Curle, Jericevich; Mutamangira, Wisnewski, Hunter, Sutherland, White, Doneghan, Dunlop, Forrester. Subs: Young, Rae, Fenwick, McCallum, Mpofu, McConnell, Taylor.
Referee: D Changleng.