Ayr Rugby Football Club

Nothing quite brings the drama like a national cup competition, and the first round clash of the BT Cup between Ayr and Currie Chieftains had ups, downs, thrills, spills and everything else as the home team prevailed under the floodlights at Millbrae on Friday night.

Ayr had to contend with late changes to the squad due to illness and injury, a pitch that turned into a quagmire during the warm-up and a visiting side just as determined as them to make it to the next round of the cup.

Heavy showers before and during the game meant the ball was like a bar of soap, and knocks-on were unavoidable. Still, Ayr started well, getting to the Currie line, only to be turned over.

The visitors had no qualms about running with ball in hand in such slippery conditions and almost made it from half-way to the try-line, but knocked on. The referee had been playing advantage, and they came back for fly-half Jamie Forbes to kick a penalty. 0-3.
His Ayr counterpart Scott Lyle had a chance to level things but his kick at goal was unsuccessful.

Wise old head Grant Anderson - playing at scrum-half as a late replacement for Harry Warr - was busy tidying up loose ball and barking instructions to his team-mates, but Currie had another penalty. From a line-out, centre David Hall took off and the ball was taken over the line but held up by the tough Ayr defence.

Craig Gossman, the winger at full-back, was escorted from the field by the medical team, and Lewis Young, making his 1st XV debut, replaced him. Young went to scrum-half, with Anderson moving to Gossman's position. It was the first of many a reshuffling of the Ayr team.

The Chieftains were fired up, flanker Thomas Gordon barging over for a try. Forbes couldn't make the conversion. 0-8.
Ayr had to match their intensity and the front row of props Robin Hislop and Steven Longwell and hooker Lewis Anderson controlled the scrum. Captain Pete McCallum broke away from the back of it but the ball was later turned over, and as hooker Anderson lay on the ground, being attended to by the medical team, Currie winger Ruairidh Smith cantered away for a score that Forbes converted. 0-15.
There was no panic from the home team at being fifteen points adrift. Their set-pieces were solid in the mud, the second row of Robert McAlpine and Blair Macpherson reigning supreme in the air, whilst the back row of McCallum and flankers Tommy Spinks and George Stokes joined in the grunt work elsewhere.

A mad scramble after a good line-out take by McAlpine needed Young to guide his backs, and that was what he did. He got the ball to Lyle, who put in a cross-field kick that was scooped up by full-back Anderson, who muscled his way over the line. Lyle converted. 7-15.
Ayr lost another back, winger Robbie Nairn being helped from the field by assistant coaches Pat MacArthur and Glen Tippett. There were no more backs on the bench to replace him, so up stepped the ever-versatile Scott Sutherland.

The game was getting scrappy on and off the ball. Lewis Anderson and centres Danny McCluskey and Sam Graham prevented Currie from doing anything with those scraps of ball, but the men from Malleny didn't help themselves with a display of petulance that caused French referee Luc Ramos to march them back ten metres.

Ayr took the line-out well, and drove slowly and carefully until great hands and vision from Hislop got the ball to Lewis Anderson and the hooker barged over in the corner. Lyle couldn't make the wide conversion, slipping over in the mud. 12-15.
Lewis Anderson was buoyed by his try, and impressed the crowd further with his rambunctiousness that sent a Currie defender flying.

Tempers began to fray, and a massive melee broke out in the middle of the pitch, with the usual pushing and shoving looking all the more dramatic with the players caked in mud and easily slipping over. It was the flankers who were singled out - rightly or wrongly, it was hard to tell as the boggy conditions had rendered shirt numbers illegible - and Stokes and Gordon were sin-binned.

Ayr changed shirts at half-time, but they were soon covered in mud.

The home team cared little though, and soggy jerseys didn't hold them back. Macpherson and Lyle threw themselves into defence, and Spinks was on the charge with ball in hand. They really started to turn the screw at Currie's set-pieces.

The bench was emptied, with Jonathan Agnew, Ruairidh Sayce and Robbie Smith coming on and getting stuck in.

Ayr stole Currie's line-out and shoved them off the ball at their scrum, Agnew grabbing the ball and diving over for a try after one such display of forward power. Lyle added the extras. 19-15.
They weren't safe yet. There was grit - metaphorical and literal - all over the Chieftains' faces. They marched up to Ayr's twenty-two, and, with Macpherson shown a yellow card for reasons unknown, they hammered the try-line. They couldn't get over it but didn't need to in the end, as referee Ramos did the trot of doom to the posts to signal a penalty try. 19-22.
The crowd could barely contain themselves, but the Millbrae men were calm, cool and collected. A penalty got them back into Currie's half, where a spot-on throw by Smith at the line-out was taken by McAlpine. They repeated the feat moments later, but the ball was knocked on.

Still, Ayr didn't despair. The forwards ruined the Currie scrum again, and willed on by the fans, they got their hands on the ball right on the try-line, Longwell finding a way over for the match-winning score. Lyle converted it in a deathly hush before the crowd erupted as the final whistle was blown.

Final score: Ayr 26 Currie Chieftains 22.

Ayr

  1. Craig Gossman, 14. Robbie Nairn, 13. Danny McCluskey, 12. Sam Graham, 11. Jamie Bova; 10. Scott Lyle, 9. Grant Anderson; 1. Robin Hislop, 2. Lewis Anderson, 3. Steven Longwell; 4. Blair Macpherson, 5. Robert McAlpine; 6. Tommy Spinks, 7. George Stokes, 8. Pete McCallum (c).

Replacements

  1. Robbie Smith, 17. Ruairidh Sayce, 18. Jonathan Agnew, 19. Scott Sutherland, 20. Lewis Young.

Slaters Menswear man of the match: Robin Hislop.

Many thanks to the local farming community, who sponsored the match, and BDO, who sponsored the ball.

_Photos by Lisa Main. Please seek permission from the club before reproducing images for commercial or any journalistic purposes.
- Elena Hogarth._