Ayr scored six tries on a cold day at Old Anniesland to put west coast rivals Glasgow Hawks to the sword and climb to the top of the BT Premiership table with one round of regular fixtures to go.
The home side showed their attacking intent from the off, wingers Kerr Gossman and Junior Bulumakau - both former Millbrae men - zooming about here, there and everywhere. But they had to contend with the tackling of Ayr stand-off Frazier Climo and flanker Will Bordill.
Ayr scrum-half David Armstrong was his usual lively self, leaping into the air to keep a Hawks kick for the corner in play. Winger Danny McCluskey couldn't take the ball on, and soon Gossman was dodging his way through tacklers again, with hooker Cammy Fenton in support until he was brought to a halt by Ayr prop Steven Longwell.
Climo was leading the way in defence, with captain Pete McCallum, centre Ross Curle and second row Robert McAlpine getting stuck in. Hawks spilled the ball and McCluskey sprang into action, kicking on and chasing and then repeating until it found the hands of Ayr winger Craig Gossman, who released centre Archie Russell on the wing to score. Climo missed the conversion. 0-5.
The visitors had their hands full trying to contain Hawks' trundling full-back Jack Steele, but Russell, Macpherson and prop George Hunter managed to stop him before he could do any damage.
From an Ayr scrum, McCallum launched Armstrong on an attack, the scrum-half selling a dummy to shoot through a gap in the defence. He and McCluskey exchanged passes before Armstrong found himself charging into Hawks' twenty-two. He was dragged down, but wriggled around, legs in the air, so as not to be pulled into touch.
Ayr hooker David Young and Macpherson worked well together at the line-out, before Longwell and Climo pushed on for Hawks' line. A couple of set pieces later and it was Armstrong who took the ball from the scrum and scampered between the posts for a try, which Climo converted. 0-12.
Steele and Kerr Gossman were trying to get something going for Hawks but they kept losing possession, and before anyone knew it, Curle had shot off up the wing. Hunter, Longwell, McAlpine and full-back Grant Anderson got Ayr into a good position but they were pinged for holding on.
Curle found himself on the sidelines for ten minutes, but Hawks couldn't make the man-advantage work in their favour.
The home team began the second half with gusto, flanker Stephen Leckey and stand-off Hagen Schulte on the charge but Ayr were harrying them constantly, Climo, Armstrong, McCluskey and Macpherson there to spoil their plans at every turn.
It had been an even-tempered match so far but things boiled over and the referee laid down the law to both captains. Another sin-binning was on its way but not as a result of this incident. It was a high tackle by Kerr Gossman on his brother Craig (they made up at full-time) that had the referee reaching for the yellow card.
Ayr took advantage of the Hawks' hot-stepper's absence to get their third try, no-one being able to catch Curle. Climo added the extras. 0-19.
Gossman the elder was no worse for the earlier high tackle, darting about this way and that, and even crossing the try-line only for the referee to call him back.
Hawks knuckled down to some patient phases of attack and Hunter, Armstrong, Gregor Henry (on for Bordill) and Lewis Anderson (on for Young) were very busy in defence, as were McCallum, Macpherson and second row Scott Sutherland.
It was a huge tackle from Craig Gossman that dislodged the ball from Hawks hands, Armstrong and replacement prop Adam Prentice taking it on. Possession changed twice in very quick succession until Climo hacked on, retrieved and fired the ball across the pitch to McCallum. He found Gossman but the winger just couldn't get to the line, handing back to his captain who dotted down for the bonus-point try. The conversion angle was too wide for Climo. 0-24.
Hawks kept their heads up, and Ayr giving away two penalties for offside in quick succession gave them a boost. Steele would have been away were it not for a hefty tackle from Russell, and McAlpine also put in some tough work to stop Fenton.
It had to be Kerr Gossman who scored for the home team, his electric pace and mazy running taking him over in the corner, Schulte adding a superb conversion from the touchline. 7-24.
The last ten minutes went in a flash, Ayr getting back into Hawks' half and staying there. McCallum and Russell combined to pop the ball to replacement Jamie Bova and he put his foot on the gas to grab try number five, with Climo getting the extra two points. 7-31.
Steele was once again Hawks' battering-ram-in-chief but he couldn't get very far with Armstrong clinging on to his ankles. Sutherland and Lewis Anderson tackled with precision and soon Ayr turned the ball over.
Armstrong spotted a big gap and put in a cross-field kick that looked like it would bounce straight into Hawks' hands. But it didn't. It sprang into the waiting arms of McCluskey and he cruised over the line for the final try. Climo's conversion attempt hit the post. 7-36.
There is now only one regular league fixture left for Ayr - Watsonians at home next week - but Melrose, who Ayr leap-frogged into top spot, have a game in hand and are just one point behind as the play-offs loom.
Final score: Glasgow Hawks 7 Ayr 36.
Man of the match: Craig Gossman.
- Elena Hogarth.