This was payback for Ayr; the manner in which they were beaten by Heriot’s in last season’s Premiership play-off final has rankled ever since. And the Millbrae men certainly showed the right stuff to have their revenge.
Right from the off, Ayr were on top, breaking the deadlock in just three minutes, when Craig Gossman burst through on a pre-planned scrummage move to touch down, with Frazier Climo, pictured, converting.
The home pack began to exert their dominance, while Ayr’s defence was solid, repeatedly turning back promising Heriot’s attacks and, midway through the half, after the home pack had rumbled through ten phases – Heriot’s discipline cracked: penalty Ayr. Quick as a flash, Ross Curle tapped and went, right into the in-goal area for Ayr’s second try, again converted by Climo, who quickly added a penalty goal as Heriot’s continued to reel.
However, you cannot keep Heriot’s quiet indefinitely and, on the half-hour, their efficient line-out drive worked a treat and hooker Michael Liness touched down. Alex Hagart converted and it was game on.
Ayr had the final word in the half, in 36 minutes – Climo goaling his second penalty after the under-pressure Heriot’s scrum caved-in.
At the break, however, some Ayr fans were insisting their side simply had to score next to keep the visitors at bay. This they duly did, again scoring three minutes into the half as Curle cut back on a great line onto a Climo reverse pass, before side-stepping three visiting defenders on his scoring sprint. Climo maintained his 100 per cent record off the tee and it was 27-7 to Ayr.
There was still life in the visitors and after some good work by the pack in going through the phases, winger John Rae squeezed in wide-out for their second try, converted by Hagart.
Curle then picked up a yellow card for a marginal tip tackle, but Heriot’s could not breach the Ayr defensive line during his absence; indeed, it was Ayr who scored, Climo landing a 35-metre penalty.
Curle returned, with Struan Cessford then being sent to the naughty step as the visiting pack again collapsed at a scrum. This saw uncontested scrums, as Heriot’s had no front-row cover. This undoubtedly negated Ayr’s forward advantage, and, both during Cessford’s absence, and afterwards, Ayr squandered several chances to emphasise their superiority by claiming the bonus point.
However, there supremacy cannot be denied. The better team won, and deservedly so.
“After what happened last season – that felt really good”, said one Ayr veteran as he left.