BT Premiership Play-off Semi-Final


AYR 24

by Callum Kerr

AYR's never-say-die attitude secured a heroic victory on Saturday when they bounced back from an 18-point deficit just before half-time.

You would be forgiven for thinking Ayr heads might drop when they found themselves down 21-3 with a man in the sinbin but Forrester’s men rallied back to win in tremendous fashion.

When the ref blew for kick-off it was clear who were the sharper team. More physical and hungrier, Currie fired out of the blocks and were rewarded with the opening score after five minutes. Michael Vernel cut through the line and in for the try, Forbes converted to make it 7-0.

A trait of Ayr's play this season has been impressive scrummaging and Saturday was no different. They managed to get on the scoreboard on the ten minute mark courtesy of Scott Lyle, who made full use of a scrum penalty won by the pack to make it 7-3.

Throughout the early stages sloppy errors haunted Ayr, with Currie getting numerous opportunities to attack. After 25 minutes the home side started to capitalise on the free possessions and Richie Vernon added to the lead from a rolling maul. Forbes' conversion made it 14-3.

The bad soon turned to the ugly for Ayr, and just after the half hour, a yellow card to Rob McAlpine was quickly followed by a Chieftains try. A man down, trailing by 18, the home side looked impenetrable and Ayr needed to find something spectacular if they wanted to fight back.

Straight from the restart Ayr looked a different team. Tommy Spinks launched himself into the air and managed to tap the ball backwards to regain possession. From the following phase Ayr won a penalty at the breakdown which Lyle sent into the back of the stands.

But for the first time, Ayr had a platform to attack. Carries from Lewis Anderson and George Hunter drove Ayr closer and closer to the line before Steven Longwell powered through the home defence and in for the score. Lyle converted and narrowed the score to 21-10.

Ayr started the second half with purpose. The scrum started to haunt Currie once more. Three penalties in as many minutes resulted in all eyes on the ref, but no penalty try was needed as Robin Hislop bullied his way over for the score. Lyle's lofty conversion made it a four point game.

From the depths of despair only 20 minutes earlier, Ayr were no in cruise control. Currie's penalty count was starting to add up and in 57 minutes another resulted in Scott Lyle sending the ball into touch at the five metre line. Lewis Anderson's throw-in was as straight as a dye and he was rewarded moments later when he bundled over from the back of a maul and Lyle converted as Ayr now led 24-2.

Currie's day was to get worse. With less than 10 minutes to play a tip-tackle on skipper Pete McCallum resulted in Richie Vernon seeing red.

Ayr looked to add to the lead from the following penalty, Lyle's lofty kick drifted wide but precious seconds were burned.

Possibly one of the most intense finales to a game in recent memory, the ball remained in Currie's hands for over five minutes without any stoppages. They tried to barge towards the try line but meteoric defending from a possessed Ayr team constantly pushed them back. The roaring Chieftains fans were only drowned out by the colossal hits of Craig Gossman and George Stokes. Currie's ability to retain possession was sensational but Ayr's discipline mouth watering. Deep into injury-time the ever-dangerous Charlie Sheil found a half yard of space and broke but Ayr dragged him down before he hit top speed. Ayr received a lucky break when a knock-on fell into their hands but the clearance missed touch and Currie charged once more. After what felt like hours of Ayr throwing their bodies into the firing line Currie fumbled- bringing to an end this incredible game.

Ayr now defend their league title away to Melrose on Saturday, April 7 in a repeat of last year's final.