Heriot’s 18 - 23 Ayr: Visitors tip the balance

Heriots full-back Gavin Parker goes over for a try on the stroke of half-time.  Photograph: John Devlin
Heriots full-back Gavin Parker goes over for a try on the stroke of half-time. Photograph: John Devlin
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For the reigning champions to lose one match may have been unfortunate but when Heriot’s lost two in succession it looks a little careless. Not that it will satisfy them, but Ayr got some small measure of revenge after losing the Premiership final last season to these very same opponents on their own Millbrae ground.

It was a see-saw of a contest between two well-matched sides with neither team able to put clear blue water between them and the opposition. The lead changed hands several times and Ayr left it perilously late to come up with the winner.

The home team were leading this contest by one slender point when Ayr’s stand-off Frazier Climo sent George Hunter through a huge gap and while it looked as if the prop might make it all the way, scrum-half David Armstrong was on hand to finish the move under the posts. Two minutes later the final whistle blew.

Heriot’s were strengthened by the appearance of George Turner, a hooker by trade, in the third row of the scrum and he was joined by Scotland project player Cornell Du Preez at half time although the Edinburgh’s breakaway looks short of a gallop. In contrast Turner may have chosen the wrong position since the little man showed up well throughout, winning turnovers like he was born to the number six shirt.

The home team tightened up some nuts and bolts from last week but all too often their running game was spoilt by inaccurate passing. Twice in one flowing movement the ball was sent bobbling along the ground and each time the home side lost 20 or 30 hard-earned yards.

Ayr took time to grow into this match, surprised perhaps by Heriot’s aggression at the breakdown where the home team won any number of turnovers and penalties, but in Climo they boasted the best kicker on the field, whether from hand or off the tee, which may just have swung things their way. Ayr’s stand-off was perfect off the tee, his opposite number missed one conversion and one penalty which was the difference between the two teams at the final whistle.

Heriot’s opened the scoring with two penalties around the 20 minute mark the second of which, for not rolling, arrived after scrum-half Andrew Simmers was sent into acres of space following a canny backrow move. Grant Anderson did the needful but the Ayr full-back lay all over the wrong side of the ruck and was sent to the sidelines for his sins.

Oddly enough it was Ayr who capitalised, getting three short-handed points back almost immediately and this match burst into life just before the break.

Ayr’s livewire winger Craig Gossman snatched a John Semple pass out of the air to score under the posts, but the Heriot’s centre made amends at the opposite end of the field by sending full-back Gavin Parker over in the corner on the stroke of half time.

Heriot’s took a one point lead into the break but were soon chasing this game after Ayr’s second and third penalties put the visitors in front. Heriot’s responded with the best try of the match when Hagart scampered in from 40 yards out before converting his own score to nose the home team back into the lead, only for Armstrong to spoil the party with that late try.

heriot’s: Parker; A McLean, Laird, Semple, Webster; Hagart, Simmers; McCallum, Liness, Cessford, Marshall, Smith, Turner, J McLean, Dewar. Subs: Mitchell, Bouab, Du Preez, Carmichael, Boisseau.

ayr: G Anderson; Bova, Russell, Curle, Gossman; Climo, Armstrong; Hunter, Young, Longwell, Stevenson, McAlpine, MacPherson, Bordill, McCallum.

Subs: L Anderson, Presntice, Scott, Taylor, McClusky.

referee: Keith Allen.