Ayr crowned Tennent's Premiership Champions in tense final
Ayr and Heriot’s produced a high-quality show-piece final which swung one way and then another at Millbrae in the Tennent’s Premiership Final (6 April).
It was a frenetic and frantic finale which gave both sets of supporters plenty to cheer about from the first whistle.
It was Heriot’s who made the first move of the final through a drop goal by Stuart Edwards (0-3). Ayr had the opportunity to level things up a few moments later but Frazier Climo pushed the penalty attempt wide.
The first try of the game also went to the visitors. After several phases in their opponents 22, Jack Blain found the hands of Ross Jones to run the ball in the left corner. An excellent conversion from the touchline gave the Goldenacre outfit a 10-point lead.
The hosts then came roaring back into the contest after David Corbenici collected the ball 40m out and ran straight down the middle of the park to score. Climo made no mistake with the conversion this time around. (7-10)
The game swung yet again, as Heriot’s took the initiative after a pin-point cross-field kick by Stuart Edwards found the waiting hands of Craig Robertson, who gathered well in the air to complete the score. Jones was unable to add the extras.
A double by Kyle Rowe within four minutes of each other then stunned Heriot's. His first came through a clever run to pick a hole in the defence to run in. His second was even more memorable as he produced a 60m run, which evaded three Heriot’s defenders, to dive over. Climo was able to convert the first try.
Heriot’s clawed the deficit to one point as the half-time whistle blew as Jones’ penalty attempt sailed through the posts. (19-18)
Half Time Ayr 19 - 18 Heriot's
As the second half got underway it was Ayr who registered the first points of the half as Climo stroked over a penalty with another assured kick. (22 -18)
Heriot’s regained the lead with a try through Jack Blain, made by Charlie Simpson – the full back initially broke down the middle before the ball was recycled, with Simpson popping up on the wing to feed Blain to go in the right corner. Jones wasn’t able to convert and it was back to a one point game. (22-23)
Ayr kept probing and got their reward in the 67 minute with a try by captain Pete McCallum, after Lars Morris had risen and collected well from the line out and the forwards drove the maul over the line. Climo nailed kick form right touchline to huge cheers from the home support.
Both teams searched for openings as the encounter went into the last 10 minutes, but it was the home side who stood strong with some solid defence. With time up the ball was hoisted into touch by Climo to spark wild celebrations as Ayr became the 2018/19 Tennent’s Premiership Champions with the final score 29-23.
After the match Kyle Rowe said: “I thought in the first 10 minutes after they got their two scores that the nerves kicked in a bit, but the old boys like Grant Anderson and Pete McCallum said stay calm and the chances will come, which they did. It was great to come away with the win.”
The two teams will get to do it all again, this time at BT Murrayfield, as part of Silver Saturday where they will contest the Scottish Cup Final.
Asked how preparations will go ahead of that final Rowe added: “Again, we’ll train Tuesday and Thursday and do some analysis of this game and see what we could improve on and where we did well and go into that game believing we can win, like we did this game.
“I’ll really be something we’ll look forward to and would be great if we can do the double.”
Ayr: Grant Anderson, Danny McCluskey, Paddy Kelly, Stafford McDowall, Kyle Rowe; Frazier Climo, Harry Warr, Ruaridh Sayce, Robbie Smith, Steven Longwell, David Corbenici, Lars Morrice, Blair Macpherson, Tommy Spinks, Pete McCallum CAPTAIN, Alex McGuire, Euan McLaren, Alfie North, Cam Reece, Jack Preston, Ollie Smith, Ratu Tagive.
Heriot's: Charlie Simpson, Jack Blain, Ross Jones, Robert Kay, Craig Robertson; Stuart Edwards, Andrew Simmers, Josh Scott, Michael Liness, Struan Cessford, Callum Marshall, Adam Sinclair, Iain Wilson CAPTAIN, Jack McClean, Struan Dewar, Ali Johnstone, Stewart Mustard, Rhuaridh Leishman, Martin Hughes, Jason Hill, Alex Ball, Rory Carmichael.