Ayr Ladies overcame a sluggish start to their BT Premier League tie with Cartha Queens Park Ladies to run in five tries and begin 2017 with a good win.
It was dry overhead but soggy underfoot at Dumbreck in the south side of Glasgow, and Ayr were largely confined to their own half for much of the first quarter, and the home team had the better of the possession.
Ayr were sturdy at the set-piece, dominating the scrums, but they weren't quite firing on all cylinders with (the albeit quite greasy) ball in hand.
The back row of Rachel Morrison, Phoebe McDowall and Kelsey Swift was kept busy, shutting down any attacking attempts by Cartha. Along with captain Laura Turner, hooker Lauren Gunn and stand-off Catherine Shennan, they repelled the hosts at their try-line, turned over and got themselves out of danger. But not for long.
A loose ball was scooped up by Cartha and they were away for the opening try, which they converted with ease. 7-0.
This woke Ayr up and they set off on a series of forays into Cartha's half, Morrison leading the attack, with wingers Erin McSorley and Kirsty Wilson in support. But the home defence was strong and Ayr couldn't get to the try-line.
Props Louise McLauchlan and Michelle Nelson and second row Sonia Liekens nullified Cartha's counter-attack (and later cropped up in attack themselves), until the home team lost a player to the sin bin for a high tackle.
Ayr took the penalty quickly and full-back Claire Law weaved her way through the defenders to score. It was a tricky angle for Shennan but she struck the conversion perfectly. 7-7.
The visitors took the lead after another solid scrum, Law hacking on for centre Julie David to chase. It bobbled into the hands of Cartha though and they cleared. Ayr secured their line-out, found David and she was unstoppable as she headed for the try-line. Shennan converted. 7-14.
Cartha levelled up the scores just before half-time with a flier of a converted try. 14-14.
It looked like the hosts were going to repeat the feat at the start of the second half, but Ayr wrestled back possession before they could get any more points, and McDowall lead the charge for Cartha's line. They were, however, held up.
Law, David and McSorley combined once again to break into Cartha's twenty-two and Morrison flew over for a try in the corner. Shennan couldn't convert. 14-19.
Ayr put their foot down from then on, Morrison, Law and Swift blasting through the tackles. Scrum-half Emily Irving kept the momentum going, with centre Connie Griffiths and replacement winger Ann-Marie Connelly - on her final game before retirement - moving play ever-closer to the whitewash.
Turner, who moved from the second row to number eight for the remainder of the game, picked up from the back of the scrum and found David, who danced through Cartha tacklers for her second try. It went unconverted. 14-24.
Cartha worked hard to get out of their own half but Turner and Law smothered any further attacking opportunities, as did Swift and Griffiths, with some textbook tackling.
Things became a little scrappy and ragged as the ball got more slippy, but Gunn, McDowall, David, Morrison and Connelly combined brilliantly to send Milissa Montague, on her Ayr debut, over in the corner. Shennan couldn't make the conversion from out wide before the whistle blew for full-time. 14-29.
- Elena Hogarth.
Photo courtesy of Lisa Main.