Ayr Rugby Football Club
Ayr got their 2015/16 BT Premiership campaign off to a flying start with a bonus point win against Glasgow Hawks at Old Anniesland on Saturday afternoon.

It's been five months since the end of last season and despite a tough and competitive pre-season, there was some rust on show from both teams early on, with handling errors aplenty.

There was a blow for the visitors as new captain Ross Curle left the field injured with barely ten minutes on the clock, his absence forcing a re-jigging of the backs, with Danny McCluskey taking Curle's inside centre berth, scrum-half David Armstrong moving to fly-half and Ali Price making his debut for Ayr at nine.

The reshuffle didn't seem to cause too much upset and after some steady work at the set pieces, Ayr made inroads into Hawks' half.  Full-back Grant Anderson took a quick tap-and-go to shoot off with second rows Robert McAlpine and Scott Sutherland, McCluskey and debutante Archie Russell in support.

Some toing and froing with penalties and line-outs and turnovers followed before Ayr regained possession and Haddon McPherson, turning out for Ayr for the first time and against his old club, flew up the wing for a superb try.  Anderson missed the tricky conversion.  0-5.

Things can get heated between these two old west coast rivals but, some shirt-pulling aside, the match was conducted in a good-natured manner.  There were, however, several penalties given away by both teams and Hawks' young scrum-half George Horne stepped up to the tee to take advantage of Ayr's infringements.  He unfortunately missed, but a few moments later knocked over a drop goal to make up for it.  3-5.

Hawks forayed into Ayr's half but hefty tackles from new prop Steven Longwell and winger Cameron Taylor prevented them from getting anywhere near the line.  Some slips and stray balls allowed the home team to make their most dangerous move up the wing only to be thwarted by a flying tackle from McPherson.

The game got messier still with more knocks-on and penalties, and Hawks found the scrum a challenge.  A solid take at the line-out from Sutherland let Ayr trundle to Hawks' line and Longwell rumbled over for a try to cap a very fine first appearance in a pink and black shirt.  McCluskey couldn't make the conversion.  3-10.

Hawks continued to struggle at the set pieces, but Ayr's line-out held firm, with number eight Blair Macpherson this time bundling over for try number three.  It was Armstrong's turn to have a go at the conversion, but his kick was just short.  3-15.

Anderson went back to the kicking tee and got a penalty before half-time.  3-18.

The second half began with errors from both teams, but Ayr flanker Graham Fisken tidied things up and used his strength to barge his way into Hawks' half.  They were determined to get back into the game and possession regained, they were firing about with real intent.  It came to nothing, as Armstrong was on hand to fell their attackers.

Flanker Andrew Dunlop spotted a great opportunity as the ball bobbled out of a Hawks ruck and he scooped it up to release McCluskey.  The youngster made some metres but the ball went loose.

McCluskey popped up on the wing again but this time to snuff out Hawks' speedsters Robert Beattie and Erland Oag.

Ayr settled into a period of real pressure in Hawks' half with Armstrong mere metres from the try-line.  They were helped by Horne being sent to the sin bin but their hard work was for nothing as Hawks turned over.  They couldn't clear and were later pinged for a deliberate knock-on.  Ayr took the line-out and Macpherson appeared on the wing for the bonus point try, which Anderson converted.  3-25.

The scoreline may have flattered to deceive as Hawks were industrious throughout the afternoon, but sadly couldn't get anywhere near Ayr's try-line.

Putting in the hard graft too were Ayr's front row, with Longwell and Javan Sebastian looking sharp along with hooker James Malcolm, before he was replaced by Fergus Scott.  Nineteen-year-old prop Sam Kenny came on for Sebastian, marking a good afternoon for Ayr's new players.

All the substitutes made a positive impact, with Kerr Gossman the last of the bench on to the pitch.  Back rower Peter McCallum quickly got himself involved after some fancy handling from Price and Sutherland and fast feet from McAlpine and Anderson.

Armstrong and Russell got stuck in too but the game seemed to be slowing to a conclusion before McCallum slammed the ball over the line.  The referee thought it was held up but after a quick chat with his assistant, the try was awarded.  Anderson converted.  3-32.

Macpherson and McCallum were on the prowl again but time ran out and the final whistle was blown to bring to an end a productive and encouraging afternoon for Ayr.

Final score: Glasgow Hawks 3 Ayr 32.

- Elena Hogarth.