Ayr-Wellington U18s overcame a spirited Hamilton to retain the West Regional Cup on a sunny Saturday at Millbrae.
Playing on the main pitch, the youngsters lapped up the noisy atmosphere provided by the squadron of Hamilton fans and it was the visiting side who were spurred on by their travelling support.
Ayr were busy trying to contain them, second rows Declan Bryce and Jack Burns and number eight Euan Hamilton putting in the tackles.
The Laigh Bent team had an early shot at goal after an Ayr infrigement, but the ball bounced off the up-right. They gathered it and headed over the line for the opening score. It was unconverted. 0-5.
Ayr were undaunted, flanker Seth Rae selling a dummy to get the attack going. There was a knock-on, but Ayr later regained possession, stand-off Ross McCorkindale and hooker Stuart Collier working together to blast through the Hamilton defence,
The home team were on song at the set-piece, Hamilton's penalties giving them plenty to work with at the line-out. Two such instances let Ayr attack the Hamilton line and full-back Cameron Black went over for the try. Scrum-half Jack Gaw struck the conversion perfectly from the touchline. 7-5.
The backs began to get a hold on the game, wingers James Baird and Craig Hunter setting off, with centres Harry Lynch and Mac McInnes in support, and Euan Hamilton appearing in midfield to power through the tackles. But Hamilton (the team, not the player) were fired up and fired into the action, turning over and racing away for another unconverted try. 7-10.
Things became frantic with possession changing and play moving between the two halves of the pitch at speed. Ayr settled themselves with some sturdy scrums, but the ball came bouncing out of one set-piece. Scrum-half Gaw was on it though, taking the ball into Hamilton's twenty-two before flanker Calum Gaw scored in the corner. It was unconverted. 12-10.
Hamilton were determined to get another try before half-time, but they hadn't reckoned with the defence of props Jack Yuille and Craig Miller, who were all over them, not to mention Lynch and McInnes.
The second half started with two penalties in quick succession by Jack Gaw, who had a great day with the boot. 18-10.
Hamilton also had two shots at goal, but one hit the upright again and the other was wide. They refused to let their heads drop though, and even some wonky passes didn't unsettle them. Much to the delight of their fans (and the anxiety of the groundsman, who must have thought the back of the stand was going to be severely dented, such was the hammering on it from Hamilton supporters), they scored a superb converted try. 18-17.
It only seemed to inspire Ayr-Wellington though, as seconds later McCorkindale sold a beautiful dummy, the ball was propelled through the hands and Hunter scored out wide. Gaw struck another spot-on conversion. 25-17.
It looked like Hamilton might reply through their speedy backs, but a flying tackle from Hunter stopped them in their tracks. Replacements Kerr Borland and Jack Rennie got stuck into defence too and Ayr were soon on the attack again, McCorkindale and Rennie showing great hands.
Hamilton were defending their hearts out on their own five-metre line and did well to turn over, but they were back in the same place pretty soon when Ayr stole their line-out and once again made for the line.
Ayr emptied their bench in the second half, with front row replacements Jack Finnie, Jack McDougal and Calvin Stillie making their presence felt in the scrums.
A period of kicks from both teams gave the fans a breather at least, but Hamilton were soon trying to break out of their own half. Replacement William Chan led the defence for Ayr, with Lynch, McCorkindale, Collier and Calum Gaw tackling with might.
Hamilton chipped through the defence but Rae claimed the ball and Lynch broke through midfield. Collier was in support and it was Jack Gaw who raced away for the try, which he converted. 32-17.
Ayr gave away a penalty, which Hamilton took quickly, heading into the twenty-two, but a pass sailed into the hands of McInnes, who charged up the wing. Running out of space, his backs changed play to the other side of the pitch, the ball in the hands of Lynch, who found Chan and he resisted the Hamilton tacklers to score. It was unconverted. 37-17.
Time was up and Ayr-Wellington celebrated their win against an enthusiastic, energetic and determined Hamilton side who did their club proud.
Final score: Ayr-Wellington U18s 37 Hamilton 17.
- Elena Hogarth.
Image courtesy of Alan Graham Photographs.