A potentially exciting end to a great game at Millbrae was ruined by a refereeing decision.
Hawks, who had shot themselves in the foot by their first half indiscipline – shipping 14 points while Grayson Hart was on the naughty step – came roaring out after the break and scored a great try to get back to 13-17 down. But, within seconds it seemed, they were reduced to 14 men when Brendan McGroarty was given a very harsh red card for an alleged tip tackle on Scott Sutherland.
Compared to the yellow card that a Leicester player got on Friday night for his spear tackle on Finn Russell, McGroarty’s challenge was nothing.
Even the staunchest Ayr fans could not believe it when referee Keith Allen capped an unimpressive display by showing the Hawks’ centre a red.
A later, less-contentious yellow for Junior Bulumakau merely compounded Hawks’ troubles. As disappointed Hawks’ coach Fin Gillies conceded: “You cannot play this Ayr team with 13 or 14 men.”
Hawks made the better start, George Horne goaling an early penalty, before Ross Curle, pictured, replied in kind. However, ominously, the Ayr pack was squeezing the life out of the visiting eight, and, particularly after Hart’s yellow, for some skullduggery as Ayr pressed, the home eight took control.
Blair Macpherson and George Hunter rampaged over, Curle converted both and suddenly it was 17-3.
But Hawks, who butchered about five golden chances through careless hands, kept going and right on the break, Andy Kirkland squeezed in at the corner and it was 17-8 at half-time.
Horne’s quickly taken penalty and a viciously bobbling Hart grubber took Hawks to the Ayr line in their opening second-half attack and from the line-out, Grant Stewart burrowed over – 17-13.
Then came the McGroarty red card, swiftly followed by the Bulumakau yellow – for a high and late tackle on Curle, and Ayr were rampant.
Macpherson picked and drove off the base of an advancing scrum for his second try, then, just after the hour, quick hands sent skipper Grant Anderson over.
New Zealand-born flanker Ruaridh Mackenzie then announced his arrival with a storming solo effort, converted by another replacement, Paddy Dewhirst, before Macpherson completed his hat-trick and secured his second straight Man of the Match nomination with Ayr’s sixth try.
“Our pack was magnificent and it was good to see so much of what we worked on in midweek bear fruit,” said Ayr coach Calum Forrester. He was particularly pleased with the way the young midfield of Dewhirst, Stafford McDowall and Archie Russell operated.