MANSFIELD Park is not the happiest of hunting grounds for visiting sides, and, after a win at Millbrae at the start of the season, Hawick were keen to complete the double yesterday.
Twenty-two points separated the clubs in the Premiership but Hawick produced the most defiant performance of the season to dent Ayr’s title aspirations.
Hawick led 24-0 after 14 minutes, and then had to defend strenuously in a gruelling second half into the wind and rain.
The result disappointed Ayr coach Calum Forrester. “We had a mind-set of how we wanted to play, but when you start the way we started, you are never going to win a game,” he said.
Kevin Reid, team manager at Hawick, added: “In the first 20 minutes we played some outstanding rugby. It was a gutsy performance. We hung out for a wee bit in the second half, but our defence played really well.”
An early burst by Scott McLeod down the wing highlighted the early Hawick pressure, which was rewarded when Rory Hutton, pictured, outstripped the Ayr defence with two sidesteps to score under the posts. Jack Cuthbert converted.
Hawick were in full cry and Bruce McNeil kept Ayr on the back foot with a surging break before McLeod completed a superb move with a try, which again Cuthbert converted, and it was 17-0 after just 11 minutes.
The home side was in rampant form and three minutes later John Coutts swept the defence aside and stormed over the line, and again Cuthbert added the conversion.
Ayr had never been in the Hawick 22 as the home side continued to dominate. Ayr did make inroads after 21 minutes, but they knocked the ball on in a crucial phase.
In 24 minutes Bruce McNeil and Will Bordill were each yellow-carded, and more drama followed four minutes later as Hawick were reduced to 13 men with Matt Landels sent to the sin-bin.
Ayr had their best spell with the man advantage, but Kerr Gossman was stopped in his tracks by a resolute home defence.
Ross Curle broke the Ayr deadlock with a try from Dean Kelbrick’s pass and Curle added the conversion five minutes from the interval, and on the stroke of half time, Robbie Ferguson intercepted a loose pass and ran from his own half for a try, despite the valiant attentions of the Hawick cover. Curle converted.
With the last kick of the half, Ayr were penalised for not rolling away and Cuthbert kicked the penalty for a 27-14 half-time lead.
Ayr began the second half strongly and Curle cut the deficit with a penalty. They were making the most of the rain and wind advantage as Hawick struggled to exercise their early control, but continued to survive incessant pressure as they kept the ball tight in short, sharp phases.
But the forceful play paid off as Ferguson touched down in the corner and it was Hawick’s turn never to get out of their own half.
With three minutes left, they did, but Ayr kept their cool and didn’t give away a penalty.