It was an odd match between Stirling County and Ayr at Bridgehaugh on Saturday afternoon, as the scoreboard remained unchanged for half an hour and it was well into the second half before a try was scored. But the visitors were glad to come through a tricky encounter with the very tough hosts.
It all started so promisingly with fancy footwork by winger Craig Gossman and centre Ross Curle and a few deft touches from stand-off Frazier Climo.
Ayr got into Stirling's twenty-two and camped out there for the first quarter without success. It wasn't for wont of trying. Gossman, second row Rob McAlpine and centre Archie Russell made for the line only for County winger Matt Lamb to nearly intercept.
Curle got held up after hard work by number eight Pete McCallum and Climo, and then it seemed like the whole team plunged for the whitewash to no avail. The home defence was outstanding.
County's attack was pretty impressive too, with centre Danny Gilmour's rip-roaring break whipping the large crowd into a frenzy.
Ayr were found offside and County winger Jonny Hope stepped up to the tee with twenty-nine minutes on the clock. 3-0.
The rest of the half was messy, with aimless kicking by both sides and handling errors from Ayr.
County pushed on into Ayr's half at the resumption and Hope had another kick at goal. 6-0.
The Millbrae men were managing to break through the County defenders thanks to barging by winger Richard Dalgleish and flanker Blair Macpherson.
The visitors' line-out went awry on a few occasions, but they were solid in the scrum.
A huge effort by Ayr got them back into County's half and they showed real patience in the twenty-two before Macpherson refused to be dragged into touch and just dotted the ball down in the corner. It was an extremely difficult conversion but Climo got it. 6-7.
Climo was lining up another kick a few minutes later when he slotted a penalty. 6-10.
Stirling were determined to get back into Ayr's half and could scent a score. But replacement centre Danny McCluskey and Dalgleish put in excellent tackles to bring any chance to an end.
Ayr launched a final attack themselves through scrum-half David Armstrong, Dalgleish, prop George Hunter and McCluskey but another couple of handling errors scuppered their hopes.
It was a very tense final four minutes as Dalgleish was sin-binned for an unfortunate-looking tackle and County got right up to Ayr's five-metre line. But it was the visitors' turn to defend with might as the clock ticked past eighty minutes.
Ayr are now twelve points clear at the top of the BT Premiership table with just one more game to go - the delayed match against Hawick, provisionally rescheduled for the end of February - before the play-offs in April.
Final score: Stirling County 6 Ayr 10.
- Elena Hogarth.