Ayr 20 Edinburgh Accies 8: Ayr on cloud nine after taking title

THE Scottish winter had postponed Ayr's moment of triumph for several weeks but that only made the club's first Premier 1 championship title all the sweeter when it finally arrived.

Ayr made light work of Edinburgh Accies on a soggy Millbrae pitch, scoring all of their points in the first half. The newly crowned champions grabbed two tries and two penalties and in response the Edinburgh club managed a penalty and a try, both coming too late to affect the result. The score board failed to reflect Ayr's total superiority on the day.

The club have won the Scottish Hydro Electric Premiership Division 1 league by the same comprehensive margin with a lead of 17 points at the top of the table, a huge points difference of +333 and three matches still to play.

There was a carnival atmosphere about the old ground with pink hoodies, pink hats and, right beside one touchline, four ladies were sporting bright pink wigs... at least I hope they were wigs. Fly-half Frazier Climo even wore a pair of pink boots and they did the business well enough. There were around 1,500 fans packed into Millbrae who refused to let the rain dampen their spirits; more power to their persistence. The crowd numbers and the long list of local sponsors in the match programme suggest that Ayr RFC integrate themselves with the local community in a way that some city clubs can only dream of.

Ayr have won nothing worth boasting about in 104 years of existence, with their best league showing the second place they claimed two years ago behind Currie. It can only be good for the health of the game in Scotland that club success has moved outside the traditional heartland of Edinburgh and the Borders.

The home side won this match exactly as they have done most others this season. The big forward pack ran hard, straight lines and, when it comes their way, the Ayr backs can move the ball with the best of them. It isn't rocket science, but it's brutally effective.

Accies barely registered as road kill in front of the Ayr juggernaut in the first half although, in fairness, they improved after the break when the match was already beyond them. They have only themselves to blame because no side can prosper without a set piece game. Their lineout lost three of the first four throws and several more thereafter while the set scrum was wheeled at will by the bigger Ayr pack. What little ball the Edinburgh club did get was of the type of scrambled, hurried possession that their put-upon backs would probably rather do without.

Pressed into more of less constant defence, some of the Accies players frankly gave up the ghost. On a day when Accies needed the sort of spine-stiffening grit that Dan Teague brings to the backrow, the skipper was prowling the sidelines like a caged cat with an ankle injury.

Far from stuffing the ball up their jumper, as the Ayr of old might have done, this side were possibly guilty of attempting to play too much rugby in the wet and slippy conditions. It's a remarkable change in just one season as the club finished mid-table last time out. Coach Kenny Murray deserves huge credit for turning the club's philosophy and fortunes around a full 180 degrees in what is his debut year.

"The boys have worked very hard for a long time," said the coach. "Our pre-season started way back in June of last year. It's been hard work, but when this happens it all seems worth while. I think we have added another dimension to our play.

"We took our foot off the gas in the second half, but I think we did enough to merit the win early on. We have scored the most points and conceded the least so I don't think anyone can argue that the right team has won. We have been consistent throughout the season. It is fantastic for everyone involved."

Andrew Wilson calmed the home side's nerves with an early try when winger Flo Marin latched onto Climo's cross-field kick before sending the fullback hurtling towards the try line. Scott Nimmo claimed the other first-half try when Ayr again turned over an Accies scrum and the flanker drove over from short range. Climo added two conversions and two penalties to give his side a 20-0 lead at half time.

The third quarter remained scoreless, but Accies got off the mark just as things were drawing to a close. Scrum-half Mike Campbell was successful with his third penalty attempt and Pete Burns scored a try with the last move of the match.

But by that time the champagne corks were already popping in the grand stand as the celebrations started early.

Ayr: A Wilson (D Steele 70 min), F Marin, J Montero, R McCallum, S Magorian (R Holland 60 min), F Climo, AJ McFarlane; G Reid, P McArthur, S Fenwick (G Sykes 50 min), D Kelly, S Sutherland, J Wilson (S Nimmo 57 min), A Dunlop (P Burke 50 min), G Tippett.

Edinburgh Accies: T Brown, D Rattray, M Coupar (S Walker 70 min), I Berthinussen, J Pecquard; R Bonner, M Campbell; L Niven (A Marsh 48 min), M Price, A Marsh (P Burns 25 min), E Stuart, G Campbell, R Snape, R Drennan (J McIntyre 63 min), D Teague.

Scorers: Ayr – Try: A Wilson, J Wilson. Conv: Climo (2) Pen: Climo (2). Accies – Try: Burns. Conv: Pen: M Campbell

Referee: Referee: I Heard.