Ayr Rugby Football Club

Ayr Ladies welcomed south-west rivals Stewartry Sirens to Millbrae for an entertaining opening fixture in the BT Premier League under the floodlights on Friday evening.

It was a physical game from the start, with Ayr back row Neve Finlay, Kelsey Swift and Rachael Mulholland and centres Connie Griffiths and Emily Irving leading the defence with some fierce tackling.

Quick work in attack by half-backs Rachel Morrison and Catherine Shennan got the ball into the hands of second row juggernaut Joanne Jones and she sprinted unimpeded to the line, swerving through the Sirens defenders, for a thrilling opening score. The conversion attempt was out wide and Shennan struck the kick perfectly. 7-0.
The attack continued in a lively vein, with captain Laura Turner and hooker Lauren Gunn speeding up the pitch.

A knock-on gave the Sirens a scrum but Ayr gave them an almighty shove and as the ball popped out, pink and black hands scooped it up and winger Lisa Main headed for the line only to be tackled into touch.

They were back near the line moments later, and a quick tap-and-go saw Jones fly over for her second try, which Shennan summarily converted. 14-0.

The home back row continued to make progress but the visitors were readying themselves for a comeback, and despite the defensive attentions of Ayr winger Erin McSorley and prop Louise McLauchlan, they shot off for an unconverted try. 14-5.
Ayr full-back Kirsty Wilson danced up the wing to the oohs and aahs of the crowd, and from a later scrum, Shennan and McSorley combined well to bring yet more pace to proceedings.

Stewartry were struggling at the scrum, with the Ayr front row of Turner, Gunn and McLauchlan putting them under pressure all evening. But they were tenacious, refusing to buckle even when a player down after a yellow card.

They looked certain to score a try but McSorley did brilliantly to prevent them from grounding.

Moments later and the visitors got their five points, turning over an Ayr ball to get an unconverted try. 14-10.
Their tails were up and they added a converted score just on half-time. 14-17.
Ayr started the second half well, Griffiths and Finlay leading the attack, with Gunn handing off the defenders with ease, and Jones hitting great lines. But the Sirens had the bit between their teeth and they were off at a gallop.

The visitors scored three tries in a row, converting two. 14-36.

Second rows Jones and Sonja Liekens had their hands full in defence, with Griffiths and Mulholland backing them up but Stewartry had their eye on more scores. They got over the whitewash again only to knock-on. It didn't faze them, and they were soon scoring and converting. 14-43.
They had tired themselves out for the remainder of the match, and Ayr took advantage, poaching at the line-out and dominating the scrum. Jennifer Kerr made her debut, coming on in the second row and getting stuck straight into the set-piece.

Morrison and Shennan directed play back into the Sirens' half, and that speedy back row moved their team-mates towards the danger zone for the visitors. After one attempt for the try-line by Mulholland, she broke from the back of a scrum and got the score. Shennan couldn't convert. 19-43.
Stewartry received their second yellow card of the night, this time for a high tackle on Griffiths, who was unhurt.

Mulholland, Jones and Turner had one last charge at the line, but time ran out, and the referee brought the game to an end.

Ayr Ladies are back at Millbrae this Friday, taking on Cartha QP Ladies in the second round of BT Premier League fixtures.

Final score: Ayr Ladies 19 Stewartry Sirens 43.
_Photos courtesy of George McMillan. Please seek permission before reproducing for commercial purposes.
- Elena Hogarth._