Ayr Ladies and Aberdeenshire Quines entertained a large crowd on Sunday in their BT Women's National League Division 1 tie, with both teams scoring excellent tries.
It was a brilliant start from the home side as Daryl Paterson almost made it to the line with mere minutes on the clock, only to be shoved into touch. But seemingly seconds later, flanker Rachael Mulholland fought her way over for a try, which was converted by stand-off Catherine Shennan. 7-0.
The Ladies have been working hard in pre-season and a vast improvement in handling was evident in the first quarter, with backs and forwards moving the ball quickly and accurately. They were determined to keep it away from Quines and when the ladies from Aberdeenshire did get their hands on the ball, Ayr quickly turned it over.
There was some very strong running from second rows Zoe Montgomerie and Phoebe McDowall, and centre Laura Turner burst through the defence to race away for a try. Shennan, on assured form with the boot, got the conversion. 14-0.
Quines were struggling to get out of their own half and they were being dominated at the scrum too. When they did retain possession, Paterson and flanker Ashleigh Nelson put in some huge tackles to dislodge the ball.
Turner continued to shake off tackles and it was another break from her which allowed Paterson to get the try. Shennan converted from out wide. 21-0.
There were some teething troubles at the line-out for Ayr, but they managed to mop up the mistakes. Both sides were brave in the tackle, with Mulholland, Paterson, McDowall and scrum-half Kelsey Swift throwing themselves into the thick of the action.
Scotland under-20s cap Lisa Croniken was also tough in defence but there was a brief stoppage as she caught her breath after a particularly stinging tackle.
Turner and Mulholland combined to move within inches of the try-line but Quines found their composure after such a quick start from their hosts, and turned it over. Number eight Lynda Morgan led the defensive effort, with Nelson, Shennan and prop Lindsay Dick getting stuck in.
Quines flew off into Ayr's half but winger Lisa Main caught up with the attacker to force her into touch.
Morgan showed great speed to race round the Quines' defence but they swarmed all over her eventually.
Ayr Ladies didn't have long to wait for another try-scoring opportunity. Turner, prop Michelle Nelson, Croniken, Paterson and Swift were patient on Quines' five-metre line before Paterson spotted the gap and dashed over. It was another wide conversion and Shennan nudged it to the side of the post this time. 26-0.
Quines started the second half with a real cutting edge to their attacking play. They scythed their way through Ayr's defence and a lovely dummy allowed them to dive over for their first try. The visitors, too, had a skilful kicker and added the extras. 26-7.
Ayr were still putting them under pressure at the scrum and took several against the head. Shennan made a nice break to get into Quines' twenty-two and replacement prop Louise McLauchlan forced her way further, but with drizzle beginning to fall, the assured handling from the first half wasn't as prevalent.
The two teams had some heated encounters last season, but discipline was good from both sides. Shennan took a whack to the face from a hand-off gone wrong, but the referee was in the right place at the right time to see there was no malice intended.
Replacement back Connie Griffiths, who recently represented Scotland at the Sainsbury's School Games, livened up proceedings with a slicing run and Croniken took a lovely pass to crash over for a try. Shennan's conversion was short. 31-7.
It looked like the ladies in pink and black were home and dry, but Quines weren't done yet. They converted another fine try to double their points haul. 31-14.
They were determined to get more, but Turner and Griffiths both put in flying tackles to stop them in their tracks. They stayed put in Ayr's half and a very frantic period ensued as the home side desperately defended.
Some infringements by Ayr didn't help, but Croniken and Morgan worked well at the line-out to steady things. It wasn't enough, unfortunately, as Quines regained possession and muscled their way over for an unconverted try to bring the match to a close. 31-19.
- Elena Hogarth.