LAST season’s champions were beaten by last season’s runners-up as Heriot’s lost for the second Saturday in a row and Ayr made it two out of two, writes William Dick.
A late try by scrum half David Armstrong nudged the visitors ahead just as a tight match wound down to its last few frantic seconds and Heriot’s, as they have done so often in the past, just couldn’t find a way back.
Ayr coach Calum Forrester said: “The biggest positive out of that was how poorly we played today and still came away with a win. We had to dig deep but we put ourselves in that situation with our discipline in the first half and always being on the back foot. We are better than that.”
Ayr, with only a few new faces in their ranks, have found early momentum but Heriot’s are misfiring at the start of this year’s campaign having lost a clutch of experienced players who were the core of the Premiership-winning team. They were soundly beaten by Watsonians on the league’s opening weekend, and now by Ayr, but coach Phil Smith isn’t panicking yet.
“Compared to last week this was a step up in performance,” he said. “There were a lot of mistakes but there was also a lot of good play.”
Heriot’s started well with two penalties in the first 20 minutes by Alex Hagart, the second earning Ayr full-back Grant Anderson a yellow card when he blatantly killed the ball at a ruck in front of the posts.
Ayr profited from a penalty by Frazier Climo and Anderson was restored to the pitch before the first try of the game as Heriot’s centre John Semple tried to spread the ball wide only to see Ayr winger Craig Gossman intercept it and run in from 40 metres. Climo converted.
Heriot’s responded with a try of their own, full back Gavin Parker dotting down in the corner with Semple making the scoring pass. Hagart’s conversion attempt slid wide to make the half-time score 11-10. Edinburgh’s South African pro Cornell Du Preez, returning from a bad ankle injury, joined Heriot’s back row after the break but it was Ayr who took back the lead with two Climo penalties.
The best move of the match was then set in motion by du Preez popping up a loose ball in midfield which then passed slickly through several pairs of hands to create the space for Hagart to swerve round the defence and score. He converted his own try to regain the lead.
The mistakes multiplied in the final quarter as legs tired but minds stayed alert enough to seize the chance when it came. Two minutes from the end Ayr openside flanker Will Bordill barrelled through a couple of tackles to carry deep into the Heriot’s 22, the ball was recycled for loosehead prop George Hunter to make important yards, before Armstrong scooped it up and skipped over retreating defenders for the try that made the difference. Climo’s conversion was on target but unnecessary as time was up.