Ayr victorious in thrilling BT Premiership opener

Ayr have defeated, last season’s runners-up Gala, 28-24 at Millbrae in the first round of the 2014-15 BT Premiership this afternoon.

Despite the visitors scoring the first try of the match in less than a minute through scrum-half George Graham and dominating the last 20 minutes of the tie, the hosts were the more composed and accurate team on the day.

Gala scored more tries in the tie, with four from Graham, winger Grant Sommerville, a penalty try and replacement flanker, Josh Irvine, but it was the accurate boot of Ross Curle, who converted all three of Ayr’s scores and added three penalties, that ensured the win for the hosts.

Ross Curle's kicking ensures victory for Ayr

Ayr’s try scorers were scrum-half David Armstrong, who arguably put in the best performance on the pitch, hooker Fergus Scott and full-back Grant Anderson.

Ayr head coach, Calum Forrester, said: “We’re delighted with the win today and our first half performance was as good a half of rugby as we have played in a long time.

It is our aim to make Ayr a force in the BT Premiership once again and today’s win has given us a strong platform to do that.

“We could have closed the game out sooner, but we always knew Gala were going to come back at us in the second period and we had to defuse that threat.

“I hope we don’t start a game again this season giving a try away immediately, but the players will learn a lesson from that mistake.”

Run of play

Gala stand-off Ruairi Howarth kicked the match into action and within moments the visitors were on the scoreboard with Graham marking his return from injury taking the kick, crossing the line and claiming the plaudits in the corner.  Full-back Craig Dodds converted. 0-7

The hosts wasted no time making amends though, showing their intentions to play a fast paced, attacking style of rugby.  First centre, Curle added a penalty on six minutes and then Armstrong, following a series of phases up-front, collected the ball from the back of the ruck, took the gap on the fringes and then ran the ball in from 20 metres.  Curle converted.  10-7

Just over ten minutes later Curle added a second penalty taking the score to 13-7, before Gala had a couple of opportunities to cut the deficit. 

At this stage, replacement centre, Ewan Scott seemed to be making a difference to the tempo of the visitors game, but Dodds was unable to add to his penalty tally after 23 minutes and then Sommerville was unable to finish off a threatening attack started by Scott, after knocking the final pass-on three minutes later.

With the clock counting down to half-time, Gala’s second-row, Chris Weir threw a punch in frustration and in turn was sent to the bin.  The loss of a key forward proved the difference as half-time encroached, with Ayr making significant ground in the maul. 

A penalty was awarded and hooker, Fergus Scott, who was plying his trade in the back-row, at this stage while number 8, Andrew Dunlop received treatment, touched down for the hosts second try, bringing the half-time score to 18-7.

Half-time: Ayr 18-7 Gala

Gala came out the blocks flying in the second-half and their attack was rewarded as winger Sommerville crossed the whitewash within two minutes. 18-12

Both sides then took turns to attack and defend, but next on the scoreboard was Ayr when Kerr Gossman broke up the wing before sending full-back Anderson in for the try.  Curle converted.  25-12

10 minutes later, Sommerville was denied a second try after the home defence held him up, but a penalty try was then given with Ayr persistently being penalised at the scrum on the five metre line.  Dodds converted the score.  25-19

With ten minutes left on the clock, Curle then added a third penalty before Gala’s replacement back-row Irvine completed the scoring with a try for the visitors, bringing them within four points.

Gala continued to dominate the possession in the closing minutes of the match, but were unable to breakdown the Ayr defence. 

Elsewhere in the BT Premiership, Glasgow Hawks defeated Heriot's at Goldenacre, 17-10, Melrose got their defence of the title off to a good start with a 27-10 victory over Edinburgh Accies at The Greenyards, Stirling County saw off Boroughmuir 25-18 at Meggetland and Currie pipped Hawick, 18-16, this afternoon.

Full-time: Ayr 28-24 Gala

Ayr team: Grant Anderson; Craig Gossman, Ross Curle, Dean Kelbrick (captain), Kerr Gossman; Daniel McCluskey, David Armstorng; Nick Cox, Fergus Scott, Fraser Watt, Robert McAlpine, Scott Sutherland, Callum Templeton, Andrew Dunlop and Blair McPherson.
Replacements: James Malcolm (for McPherson, 66mins), Stuart Fenwick (for Watt, 49mins), Graham Fisken, Murray McConnell (for Armstrong, 51mins) and Gavin Lowe (for C Gossman, 43mins).

Gala team: Craig Dodds; Graham Speirs, Chris Auld, Alan Emond, Grant Sommerville; Ruairi Howarth, George Graham; Luke Pettie, Russell Anderson, Ewan Johnstone, Chris Weir, Opeta Palepoi, Gary Graham, Stevie Cairns and Tom Weir.
Replacements: Callum MacIntosh (for Johnstone, 31mins), Josh Irvine (for Cairns, 55mins), Ewan Dodds (for Weir, 40mins), David O’Hagan (for Howart, 44mins) and Ewan Scott (for Auld, 23mins). 

Referee: Neil Paterson