Ayr take another step towards the double

THEY’RE greedy down in Ayr. You might think the RBS Premiership crown enough for one season. But, with this four-try demolition of the in-form County, the Millbrae men showed they fully intend adding the Scottish Cup.

Ayr 31 - 13 Stirling County

Scorers: Ayr – Tries: Dunlop, Dalgleish, Gossman (2). Cons: Russell (4). Pen: Russell.Stirling County – Penalty try. Con: Archibald. Pen: Archibald. Drop: Edwards.

The two best club sides in the West produced a thoroughly entertaining quarter-final before Ayr’s response to a half-time dressing-down from coach Kenny Murray resulted in the above lop-sided score-line which is perhaps unfair to County, who put a lot into this game for no reward.

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“We looked tired and slack in the first half, so I was happy to be all-square at the break”, said Murray. “I made some changes, stressed patience and ball protection and it worked, on the back of a couple of moments of individual brilliance from the outstanding Craig Gossman.”

County struck first, Brian Archibald converting a penalty try after he was impeded by Richard Dalgleish as they chased Archibald’s own kick ahead.

Finn Russell then goaled a penalty for Ayr, cancelled out by a Stuart Edwards drop-goal, before Ayr, after a string of handling errors had cost them potential scores, got it right – flanker Andy Dunlop crashing over in the eighth phase of a sustained pack effort which, with Russell’s conversion, tied the scores at the break.

The game was then won and lost in a 15-minute second-half spell, ignited by Archibald’s penalty goal to put County 13-10 up.

Three minutes later, Ayr went ahead, Dalgleish finishing off a move which began with Graham Fisken’s break-out on half-way.

Almost from the restart, Gossman gathered replacement Murray McConnell’s hoisted kick, slipped two tackles and motored home between the posts.

Ten minutes later, the combined efforts of McConnell and skipper Calum Forrester turned an advancing County scrum into an Ayr opportunity. The scavenged ball was sent wide to Gossman, who sprinted away for the home side’s fourth try, again converted by Russell.

Ayr: G Anderson; C Gossman, R Fergusson, D Kelbrick, R Dalgleish; F Russell, P Jericevich; D Mutamangira, S Fenwick, D Rae, C White, S Sutherland, G Fisken, A Dunlop, C Forrester. Subs used: H Wisneski, G Sykes, R Doneghan, R Curle, M McConnell.

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Stirling County: J Hope; B Addison, R Hogg, B Archibald, R Aitken; S Edwards, S Kennedy; M McDonald, A Moffat, C Hutton, R Leishman, C Deacons, T Clarke, R Boswell, S Swindall. Replacements used: D Gilmour, R Kennedy, C Black, S Robertson, B Bensanti.

Referee: David Changleng.