Stirling County 14 - 29 Ayr: League leaders leave it late

Logan Trotter caught a ball in mid dive to score. Picture: John Devlin
Logan Trotter caught a ball in mid dive to score. Picture: John Devlin
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Stirling let slip a golden chance to turn over league leaders Ayr as they forced their way ahead midway through the second half only to succumb to a late rush of tries. It was a belated restart to the season for the home side with last week’s game against high-flying Melrose postponed because of a frozen pitch while Ayr were hammering Boroughmuir to put them at the top of the table and confirm their place in the play-offs

Former All Black Corey Flynn, released by Glasgow Warriors, added an experienced edge to the Stirling team but it was not enough in the final analysis with Ayr taking maximum points and Stirling left empty-handed and still dogged by the possibility of relegation.

Within minutes of the kick off, Ayr winger Craig Gossman exploited a gap in the Stirling defence, taking his team deep into the home 22 but Stirling had the composure to run it out and retain possession as they attacked with centre Alex Black on the crash ball only stopped a couple of metres short.

Stirling continued to play a handling game but Ayr stand-off Frasier Climo spoiled their neat passing patterns with a fingertip interception and quick pop pass to Danny McCluskey who sprinted 40 metres for the try. Climo converted.

The score was against the run of play and Stirling stuck to their game plan but, by the half-hour stage, Ayr had regained a measure of control and intelligent positional kicking was keeping them in their opponents’ half. Climo knocked over a 25-metre penalty to extend the visitors’ lead.

Stirling rallied and when No.8 Ruaridh Leishman broke through the centre, stand-off Ross Jones seized on the recycled ball to drill it into the corner for winger Logan Trotter to collect in mid-dive and score. Full back Johnny Hope converted from the touchline to make it 7-10 at half-time.

Ayr attacked furiously from the restart for a few intense minutes but when they spilled the ball Trotter grabbed it and went from one 22 to the other up the left wing before he was brought down.

Ayr went straight back down the other end. A rolling maul from a lineout looked to be heading for the line but then abruptly petered out and Stirling were able to clear. They then set up a maul that took them to within five metres but no further. Ayr turned the ball over and cleared but Stirling had the momentum and carried it back. This time the close-quarter handling coupled with some ferocious tackling came good, New Zealander Flynn emerging from the pack to pass to replacement Andrew Grant-Suttie for the try. Hope converted.

With the game in the balance it was Ayr who produced the next try, loosehead prop George Hunter crashing over under the posts. Climo converted.

Ayr closed the game out, effectively confining Stirling to their own half and adding a third try by Richard Dalgleish out on the right wing. Minutes later, as Stirling threw caution to the wind, full back Grant Anderson scored again on the same wing. Climo missed the first conversion but landed the second to seal Stirling’s fate.