Ayr Rugby Football Club

Ayr beat Marr at a damp and soggy Fullarton in the BT Premiership.

It was the first competitive meeting between the two sides in nearly 40 years and the sidelines were packed with expectant fans. If they had been expecting a game of free-flowing rugby, they would have been disappointed, as a war of attrition ensued.

The hosts were the first on the board, thanks to a Colin Sturgeon penalty. 3-0.
Marr were full of attacking intent early on, and Ayr captain Pete McCallum, props George Hunter and Steven Longwell, fly-half Paddy Dewhirst and full-back Grant Anderson had to grit their teeth and put in the tough tackles.

Barely ten minutes were on the clock when tempers flared and referee Sam Grove-White sent Marr captain Angus Johnston and the aforementioned Anderson to the sin bin.

Scott Lyle stepped up to the kicking tee after a dangerous tackle on Dewhirst got Ayr the penalty. 3-3.
Sturgeon replied moments later. 6-3.
Ayr fought hard for possession and were beginning to batter through the Marr defence, Tommy Spinks - the flanker turned second row turned flanker again - being the battering-ram-in-chief.

A spate of injuries for Ayr had forced several reshuffles throughout the week and on the day itself, with Spinks moving into the back row with McCallum and George Stokes, Michael Badenhorst starting in the second row and Gregor Henry taking his place on the bench.

All the changes and overwrought atmosphere of a long-awaited Ayrshire derby didn't seem to bother teenage half-backs Dewhirst and Harry Warr. They were calm and focused throughout, and even let their creativity show on a dreich day, Warr's eye for a cute popped pass releasing Frazier Climo, who was playing at inside centre.

Dewhirst put in a cross-field kick but the referee brought Ayr back for advantage and Lyle kicked the penalty. 6-6.

Ayr winger Craig Gossman was bobbing about, just waiting for a pass to fly on to, but the match took a turn for the worse with a series of ineffectual kicks for territory, knocks-on and turn-overs that came to nothing.

Marr had the stuffing knocked out of them when second row Kyle Hatherell was shown a red card for a dangerous tackle. Lyle kicked the points for Ayr. 6-9.
The home team rallied, Glasgow Warriors' Greg Peterson - a former Ayr draft player - leading the charge, and they displayed great courage to press for the line. Ayr held them up.

They had two scrums on the five-metre line, and at the second, McCallum appeared with the ball and Ayr cleared their lines. A few kicks more, and Ayr had possession again, hooker Lewis Anderson motoring through the purple shirts, with Lyle, the other Anderson, Longwell and centre Danny McCluskey in support.

Half-time brought some respite for players and fans alike. But it was straight back into a cauldron of tension and emotion in the second half.

Sturgeon missed a penalty kick just after the resumption, but his team didn't let up when they had the ball in hand, Stokes, second rows Badenhorst and Jonathan Agnew and Longwell exhausting themselves in defence.

Lyle, Badenhorst, Gossman and Spinks linked up nicely when Ayr regained possession, and Gossman was on the receiving end of a lovely inside pass from Dewhirst, with Warr, Spinks, McCallum and Agnew in support. But that purple and gold defence was determined.

Again, all structure went out the window, the occasion seemingly getting to both sets of players. The referee had a tight grip on the game, and marched Marr back ten metres for mouthing off.

Ayr found their composure in the final quarter, McCallum leading from the front, with Hunter on his usual devastating form in the loose.

Hard work from Agnew, Lyle, both Andersons and Longwell, and jinking footwork by Dewhirst, created opportunities for Ayr. But the ball was later knocked on from a line-out. Ayr just used their bulk at the scrum though, shoving Marr and turning over. Again, Marr showed bravery and resilience and held Ayr up to prevent the try.

However, the hosts' next attempt to stop a score was illegal and a penalty try was awarded to Ayr. 6-16.
McCallum charged from the back of a scrum and McCluskey zig-zagged through the defenders, but Marr were later caught off side, and Lyle kicked his fourth penalty. 6-19.
Ayr brought on replacements Jamie Bova and Sam Graham, the latter making his BT Premiership debut and putting in a fierce tackle almost straight away as Marr had a final hurrah. They were pinged for holding on, with Lyle booting the ball off the park to bring a bruising afternoon to an end.

Final score: Marr 6 Ayr 19.
_Photos courtesy of Alan Graham. Please contact Alan before using his images.
- Elena Hogarth._