Ayr Rugby Football Club

Ayr got their BT Premiership title defence off to a thrilling start, leaving it late to defeat Boroughmuir at Meggetland.

A good crowd had turned out for the first league game of the season, and the players were welcomed on to the pitch by a pipe band before the 1st and 2nd XVs from both sides and the spectators observed a minute's silence in memory of Boroughmuir club stalwart Arthur Ross who recently passed away.

The home team launched themselves into attack with gusto, led by flanker Aubrey MnCube and centre Ronan Kerr. Ayr second row Robert McAlpine and centres Danny McCluskey and Stafford McDowall organised the visitors' defence and when Boroughmuir got over the try-line, the men in pink and black were well placed to hold the attacker up.

Boroughmuir were determined to catch the defending champions off guard, taking a quick line-out and winger Jordan Edmunds racing away. He couldn't escape Ayr scrum-half David Armstrong, who putting in a thumping tackle to force a knock-on.

Ayr's scrum was steady, young props Robbie Smith and Adam Prentice and hooker (and assistant coach) Pat MacArthur proving an immovable force early on.

Full-back Grant Anderson was launched into attack from the solid set-piece. Armstrong slipped the ball to winger Craig Gossman and he scurried away. Possession then changed hands rapidly, with Armstrong and McDowall trying in vain to stop the Boroughmuir speedsters. Centre Mark Hare got the opening score, fly-half Chris Laidlaw converting. 7-0.
Ayr got themselves into Boroughmuir's twenty-two, with McAlpline, MacArthur and flanker Tommy Spinks firing into attack. A penalty line-out saw Ayr drive over the line but they were held up.

There then commenced what seemed like an interminable series of Ayr scrums on the Boroughmuir five-metre line, with tempers spilling over into a scuffle. MnCube was yellow-carded for a professional foul but it didn't affect his team-mates and they turned the tables on Ayr at the scrum before another bout of shirt-pulling and squaring-up broke out.

Boroughmuir were awarded a penalty and kicked for touch, with Spinks leaping into the air to pat the ball back on to the pitch for Armstrong to scoop up and race away, but the flanker was adjudged to have been in touch.

Ayr got their chance to attack a few minutes later, wingers Gossman and Scott Lyle on either side of fast handling from McDowall, Armstrong, Prentice and Spinks, but they were pinged for holding on.

MacArthur, McAlpine and captain Pete McCallum were involved in attack before Boroughmuir reclaimed possession and their hooker Johnny Matthews broke. Scrum-half Johnny Adams finished it off with a try converted by Laidlaw. 14-0.
Ayr brought on British and Irish Lion prop Ryan Grant to bolster a scrum now under pressure from the hosts.

McCluskey, Gossman, Spinks, second row Scott Sutherland and flanker Blair Macpherson added zing to Ayr's attack, and just before half-time, a strong drive from a penalty line-out got Ayr into a good position. The ball found fly-half Frazier Climo and he held firm to get over the line before converting his own score. 14-7.
The visitors started the second half with more vim and vigour, replacement hooker Lewis Anderson bursting through the home defence. Smith, Gossman and Lyle got in on the act too before Boroughmuir turned over. But they couldn't get away from McDowall, who dragged their attacker off the pitch.

Another barge from Lewis Anderson opened up the attack for Climo and Armstrong before Spinks charged for the line and Macpherson got the try. Climo's conversion attempt hit the post. 14-12.
A kick bounced perfectly for Boroughmuir full-back Greig Cannie and he seemed certain to score in the corner until Climo swooped in with a terrific tackle to shove him into touch.

The line-out was snaffled by Matthews before Cal Davies scored under the posts for the hosts and Laidlaw converted. 21-12.
Ayr hit back immediately, Climo zooming on to a Boroughmuir pass in his own half to score an exciting interception try. Lyle took over the kicking as Climo's leg was strapped up by the medical team, but just missed the conversion. 21-17.
Paddy Dewhirst came on in place of McDowall, and immediately linked up with Climo to cause a bit of creative chaos in mid-field. McCallum, Macpherson and Smith backed them up. Dewhirst dived over the whitewash but Boroughmuir held him up.

A strong Ayr scrum saw McCallum charge off with Armstrong in support, and the scrum-half found a gap for the try. Lyle converted from out wide. 21-24.
Boroughmuir thrilled their fans with their fast and furious play. Winger Ciaran Whyte, MnCube and Cannie combined to send over Hare for his second try, with Laidlaw converting in front of the posts. 28-24.
Lewis Anderson, Grant and Smith worked well together in the loose as well as the set-piece, and the whole pack hunkered down to spoil Boroughmuir's scrum.

Dewhirst mopped up the Meggetland men's mistakes, with McAlpine selling a dummy to exploit a hole in the defence. Spinks, Gossman and Macpherson whipped the ball across to the other side of the pitch for Armstrong, McCallum and Climo to find a way to another try. Smith barrelled through the defenders but a later knock-on halted the attack.

Not that it seemed to matter to McCallum, who worked some magic after Boroughmuir's scrum and appeared with the ball in hand. That attacking attempt also went awry but Ayr ended up with a penalty near the sticks and Lyle kicked it with ease to narrow the scoreline. 28-27.
The next ten minutes felt like an eternity to both sets of fans, but the players never let their energy levels slip.

Ayr's mission was clear: get some points - any points - before the clock ticks past eighty minutes. And with the digital clock at Boroughmuir kaput, nobody but the referee seemed to know when that would be.

Macpherson was in full barging back row mode, bashing the blue and green shirts out of the way at will, with McCallum, Spinks and replacement second row Jonathan Agnew in support. Winger Jamie Bova joined the fray in place of Lyle.

A monster kick for touch by Climo got Ayr into a perfect position but despite Lewis Anderson and Grant rumbling to the try-line, Boroughmuir were fantastic in defence - spurred on by the cries of head coach Peter Wright, which could no doubt be heard from the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle three miles away - and turned over and cleared.

Another line-out for Ayr spelt more danger for Boroughmuir but the ball was knocked on, and it looked all over for the visitors.

But Ayr shoved the scrum and although Boroughmuir got the ball away, the clearance didn't go far enough. The ball landed in the arms of Armstrong, and Smith, McAlpine and Spinks took it into the twenty-two.

With Armstrong attended to by physio Helen Reid, Gossman took over scrum-half duties, marshalling his men into position until he got the ball back to Climo. The fly-half ignored the heavy strapping on his leg and whacked the ball towards the posts with Boroughmuir defenders almost on top of him. The kick sailed between the uprights to put Ayr into the lead and win them the match. 28-30.
Ayr return to Millbrae this Saturday for their first home league game against Glasgow Hawks.

Final score: Boroughmuir 28 Ayr 30.
Ayr man of the match: Blair Macpherson.
Ayr 2nd XV beat Boroughmuir 2nd XV 19-16, with tries by Euan Hamilton, Zac Howard and Michael Badenhorst, with Matt Davidson adding the conversions. Scrum-half Harry Warr was man of the match.
- Elena Hogarth.