Stirling County 13 - 19 Ayr: Barrelling at Bridgehaugh

You're Nick-ed: Ayr's Nick Campbell bullies his way over the line to score the league leaders' opening try. Photograph: Ian Rutherford
You're Nick-ed: Ayr's Nick Campbell bullies his way over the line to score the league leaders' opening try. Photograph: Ian Rutherford
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Never mind the quality of the rugby on show and instead just marvel that two teams were prepared to play at all on a surface that warranted wellies and in weather conditions that started badly and deteriorated dramatically.

It was never going to be a classic and, sure enough, it wasn’t but at least the shivering crowd were entertained by five tries and bucket-loads of endeavour.

Ayr walked away with the points and managed to extend their lead at the top of the league at the same time if only because Gala’s match against Aberdeen was postponed, like so many others. In fact, they could have secured a four-try bonus and probably should have given that their third touchdown arrived with 35 minutes left on the clock.

The two teams both found their way to the opposition try line on a regular basis but they took very different routes to get there. Ayr’s big men rumbled over from short range twice in the opening 40 minutes and again early in the second half. Glasgow lock Nick Campbell had already barged over in the line once and, while the referee wiped that one off the record, he was more generous when the same man did the same thing a little later.

At the end of the first half, Ayr’s hooker Hayden Wisnewski was the last man up after the forwards rumbled over the County line after a period of sustained pressure.

In between times, County proved that the miserable conditions were no barrier to running rugby after carving out two scores for Ben 
Addison. Both came from attacking lineouts but when the forward charge was halted in its tracks, County proved that their handling skills matched their ambition for their fullback to grab a try on 
20 minutes with a second coming eight minutes later.

The first saw great offloads from Danny Gilmour, Mark Bennett and Ross Aitken while the former fired out a long miss pass to enable Addison to dive over for his second.

Both kickers struggled to find their range in a swirling wind so the match was finely poised at 12-10 to the visitors at half time. Within five minutes of the second half starting, though, it was all but over.

Taking a leaf from County’s playbook, Ayr put the ball through the hands with an out/in move between Dean Kelbrick and Murray McConnell sending the scrum-half close to the County line. Wisnewski barrelled his way across the line for the second time in the very next play. The former Stirling player Finn 
Russell added the extras and Ayr’s 19-10 lead looked a handy one in conditions which were worsening by the minute.

If it had been an even contest in the first half, the second 40 minutes were played increasingly in County territory. When the home side attempted to clear their lines either the ball would be dropped or kicked straight into touch as happened on at least three occasions.

On one occasion when they did manage to lift the siege, Sean Kennedy took a quick tap penalty and Gilmour was heading for the corner when the centre put a foot in touch. The referee went back for a penalty and Stuart Edwards was no more successful with that kick than his previous two conversions. It proved frustrating for the County faithful shivering in the stand.

Worse was to come. With ten minutes left to play, County had a golden chance to narrow the lead by three with a penalty just a few feet to the left of the posts. To general incredulity, Edwards sent the ball wide when he could have thrown it over the crossbar.

Brian Archibald was brought into the field to take over the kicking duties and he earned County a losing bonus point after the replacement knocked over a late penalty. The score lifted County, who finished strongly but simply ran out of time and remain rooted to the wrong end of the table.

Scorers: Stirling County: Tries: Addison 2. Pen: Archibald. Ayr: Tries: Campbell, Wisnewski 2. Cons: Russell 2.

Stirling County: Addison; Lindsay, Bennett, Gilmour, Aitken; Edwards, S Kennedy; McDonald, R Kennedy, Hutton, McAlpine, Deacons, Ashe, Clarke, Swindall. Subs: N Mountford, Moffat, Robertson, Dunbar, Archibald.

Ayr: Anderson; Dalgleish, Ferguson, Kelbrick, Gossman; Russell, McConnell; Mutamangira, Wisnewski, Cox, Campbell, Sutherland, White, Dunlop, Forester. Subs: Fenwick, Rae, Fisken, Jerecevich, Curle.

Referee: Cammy Rudkin.