For the second successive Saturday, Ayr’s bunch of enthusiastic amateurs were too strong for Hawks’ professional-loaded XV, as the Millbrae men ensured the two end-of-season finals – in the BT Scottish Cup and now the BT Premiership Play-Offs – will be between them and Melrose.
But, after this six-tries-to-three win, they will travel to the Greenyards on 15 April without the influential Ross Curle, who was red-carded two minutes from time for a high tackle.
After their humbling last week, Hawks rang the changes. They started with seven full-timers, with one more, Tijuee Uanivi, on the bench. To be fair, most of them were genuine Hawks’ boys, and they certainly did better than some of last week’s mercenaries – but, Ayr still won, which perhaps indicates the powers-that-be at BT Murrayfield are maybe under-rating Scotland’s club players.
George Horne missed an early penalty for Hawks, who paid the price when Frazier Climo off-loaded for Archie Russell to open the scoring in eight minutes.
Hawks’ skipper Steven Findlay collected the game’s first yellow card but, while short-handed, the visitors cut the deficit with a Horne penalty. Ayr’s Scott Sutherland then knocked-on in the act of scoring, but, while Sean Yacubian was the second Hawk on the naughty step, Climo set-up Grant Anderson for Ayr’s second try, which the Kiwi stand-off converted.
Then, right on the interval, prop Steven Longwell’s breenge off an advancing maul initiated a clinical Ayr attack, finished-off by Danny McCluskey’s unconverted try for a 17-3 half-time score.
From the restart, Ayr kept Hawks pinned back in their own 22 and it was no surprise when Robin McAlpine forced his way over for their fourth try, converted by Climo. But Hawks still had some fight in them and in 53 minutes, the impressive Matt Fagerson reduced the leeway with a try, converted by Horne.
However, Ayr were soon back on the attack and as the game entered its final quarter, Grant Anderson began and ended the move which brought their fifth try, converted by Climo.
That really was that, before a frantic ending. With five minutes remaining, Peter McCallum stripped Horne of the ball and released Ross Curle who rather milked the applause, and upset his fellow Glasgow Academicals among the Hawks’ support, as he scored Ayr’s sixth try. He left himself with a more difficult conversion than he might have, but still nailed it.
Then, in the final minute, his high tackle on Kerr Gossman earned Curle a straight red card and Hawks a penalty try, which Horne converted, before, in injury time, with Grant Anderson yellow carded and Ayr down to 13 men, Fagerson scored his second, unconverted try, to finish things off.
The aggregate score between the clubs this season is, after this fourth meeting of the season: 141-52 to Ayr.