Ayr Rugby Football Club
Ayr Ladies and Stewartry Sirens battled it out under the floodlights at Millbrae on Friday night but it was the Castle Douglas-based side who triumphed in a compelling Premier Development Cup semi-final.
With the two teams having played each other numerous times over the years and both making the move into the top tier of Scottish women's rugby this season, it was always going to be a close game, and it was scoreless for the first quarter as the players matched each other in every area.

The Sirens had much of the early possession and Ayr centres Connie Griffiths and Julie David and back row Rachael Mulholland, Kelsey Swift and Laura Turner were busy putting in some hefty tackles.

There were solid scrums from both teams (they would later become uncontested due to front row injuries) and Ayr used theirs to launch Griffiths and full-back Claire Law into attack, with some quick service by scrum-half Emily Irving.

A bit of petulance from the Sirens saw them pushed back ten metres and Irving took the tap-and-go, Swift flying on to the ball and into the defence, David, Mulholland, stand-off Catherine Shennan and prop Louise McLauchlan backing her up.

Stewartry were ready with some thunderous tackles and caused Ayr to knock on. The home side turned over after the ensuing scrum, hooker Lauren Gunn and prop Michelle Nelson making breaks before Irving chipped over near the Sirens' try-line. Nobody could reach the ball, however.

A couple of penalties for Ayr kept them in the Sirens' half and Turner and David led the charge for the line but to no avail. Another knock on came, Stewartry held firm at the scrum and went to clear only for the kick to be charged down and Irving to follow it over the whitewash and ground for a try. Shennan nailed the conversion. 7-0.

The visitors were about to reply after hard work at the breakdown. Shennan, wingers Erin McSorley and Lisa Main and second rows Joanne Jones and Sonja Liekens were busy in defence but there was just no stopping the Sirens. They couldn't convert their try though. 7-5.

It looked like they might add another, their backs flying into Ayr's half, but Griffiths just caught one of their attackers before she could do any damage.

There were no further scores in the first half but it was entirely enthralling as both teams gave it their all. The energy levels were outstanding, with every player pushing themselves in attack and defence.

Half-backs Irving and Shennan showed deftness of touch in handling, Jones impressed by ripping the ball from the Sirens and Law handed off defenders with ease, while Griffiths, Mulholland and Gunn led the way with shuddering tackles.

The Sirens kept the pink and black shirts at bay until half-time and carried on at the resumption. Despite some great work under the high ball by captain Turner and lively work in attack by Mulholland, Ayr were pinned in their own half.

The hosts had an early chance when Stewartry were pinged for pushing a player but the Sirens were all over them in flash. They turned over and were away, hitting everything at pace. Swift was putting in a power of work in defence with her forwards in support but the Sirens cantered away up the wing for a try, with a superb conversion from the touchline. 7-12.

The visitors quickly added another converted try. 7-19.

Ayr blasted their way into the Stewartry half, with Turner and Swift leading the charge, but the Sirens built a brick wall round their twenty-two and Ayr just couldn't breach it.

Law, Griffiths and Gunn tried again but the Sirens turned over and were away, their ebullient try-scorer showboating over the line. They converted. 7-26.

They trapped Ayr in their own twenty-two but the ladies in pink and black fought back, Mulholland breaking free. Ill-discipline from the Sirens gave Ayr a couple of penalties before yet more petulance saw the visitors down to fourteen players for ten minutes.

Ayr took their chance, replacement Lee Steward pouncing on a loose ball and Shennan breaking through midfield to race away for a try. She couldn't convert. 12-26.

A number of Ayr Ladies had been good under the high ball in the dazzle of the floodlights and Griffiths joined the ranks, catching a kick and taking off. It was a bruising evening, both sides putting in enormous tackles, and Griffiths couldn't get away from the Sirens' defence.

Ayr brought on some fresh legs in Sarah Braidwood and with time running out, the home team pinned their ears back and went for it. David zoomed on to a ball in her own half, turned this way and that, shrugging off tackles, and ran all the way to the try-line for a brilliant score. Shennan converted. 19-26.

The ladies and their supporters were up for more, and there was just time for one last push but those wily Sirens turned over and booted the ball off the pitch to bring a fantastic game to an end.

Ayr Ladies now turn their attentions to their Sarah Beaney Cup quarter-final with RHC Cougars on Sunday 26th March.

Final score: Ayr Ladies 19 Stewartry Sirens 26.