Currie 21 - 24 Ayr: Second half makes all the difference

Ayr's Robin Hislop goes over for Ayr's first try. SNS/Bruce White
Ayr's Robin Hislop goes over for Ayr's first try. SNS/Bruce White
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Ayr will not give up their title easily. There were times earlier in the season when even a place in the play-offs was in jeopardy, and times in this Premiership semi-final when they were just clinging on. But they got there in the end, and travel to the Greenyards for the final in two weeks with their morale as high as it has been since the memorable day last spring when they were crowned champions at that very venue.

The two key ingredients of this triumph were Ayr’s scrum and their defence. The set piece gave them the upper hand at critical stages of the contest, and although they conceded three tries in the first half, which ended with them 21-10 behind, their defence held the Chieftains at bay throughout the second.

“Currie played the conditions well in the first half when the breeze began to gust a little bit,” Ayr coach Calum Forrester said. “It was really important for us to get a score on the stroke of half-time.

“The effort across the pitch made it an outstanding game. We’re in a good place now going into the final.”

Currie took a fourth-minute lead when Mike Vernel slalomed through three defenders to touch down behind the posts, Jamie Forbes converting. A scrum penalty allowed Scott Lyle to open Ayr’s account, but with half an hour gone Richie Vernon touched down off a lineout drive for another seven-point score.

Five minutes before the break, another lineout drive led to Thomas Gordon touching down, and Forbes’ third successful conversion made it 21-3. Ayr were a man down at that point, lock Rob McAlpine yellow-carded for kicking the ball out of Charlie Shiel’s hands, but they gave themselves a lifeline late in the half when Steven Longwell crossed from close range and Lyle converted.

The Ayr scrum remained dominant in the second half, and Currie were close to conceding a penalty try when a converted try from Robin Hislop put the visitors right back into it. With around 15 minutes left, Ayr went in front for the first time, with Lewis Anderson scoring from a lineout drive and Lyle again converting. Currie had Vernon harshly sent off late on for a dangerous tackle, but they had run out of ideas by that time anyway, and the Ayr defence were able to see out the match.

“We were happy with the position at half-time,” Chieftains coach Ben Cairns said. “We struggled to get a foothold in the second half just by coughing up the ball too many times.”