Matt Vallance reports
By Bob Coats
Offside Line reports
MATT VALLANCE @ Millbrae
AYR will finish top of the regular season Tennent’s Premiership table, and will thus be number one seeds with home advantage in the play-offs, following this emphatic win over a game Hawks side at Millbrae.
As you might expect from a West Coast derby, the exchanges were feisty, but English exchange referee Joe James impressed and played his full part in providing an entertaining game in difficult conditions, even if he perhaps allowed more “advice” from the respective captains than a Scottish referee might have.
“They were clinical when they had to be,” said Hawks’ coach Fin Gillies, remarking on how every Ayr try came off turnover ball. However, as Gillies, whose ability to remain cheerful this season has been a lesson to all, also conceded: “They were bigger, better in a lot of departments and they had a physicality we could not match.”
Gillies’ young side, as ever, left nothing out there, but, were simply out-gunned.
Ayr’s Peter Murchie had little to say, beyond: “Job done in tricky conditions.” Well, when you both attack and defend as well as this Ayr team does – week-in, week-out – there is little point in saying anything else.
Paddy Dewhirst took man-of-the-match honours with a first-half hat-trick . Frazier Climo set him up for the first with a great break; Danny McCluskey‘s ruck piracy set-up the third, but the second, a 75-metre slaloming run, was all his own work.
Climo converted two and, although Liam Brims had briefly made it 7-3 with an early penalty, at 19-3 at the break, things looked bad for Hawks.
A stream of replacements took some sting out of the third quarter, before Ayr wrapped-up the bonus-point with Paddy Kelly touching down after a great McCluskey break. Climo converting.
Replacement David Corbenici then sprinted 30-metres off another turnover, before, in a spirited final quarter display, Hawks were rewarded by a Kaleem Barreto try, off that rarity, scrum ball against the head, Brims converted but, right at the death, Ayr broke out of their own 22 and Grant Anderson sent replacement Dutch scrum-half Amir Rademaker over for the final score of the game.
Ayr: G Anderson; P Dewhirst, P Kelly, D McCluskey, J Bova, F Climo, H Warr; R Sayce, A McGuire, S Longwell, A North, L Morrice, T Spinks, P McCallum, B Macpherson. Replacements: S Collier, B Paterson, D Corbenici, A Rademaker, J Pinkerton.
Glasgow Hawks: P Boyer, G Faulds, M New, C Harrison, J McCready, L Brims, K Barreto, G Strain, A Fraser, L Skinner, F Hastie, A Kirkland, C Thompson, S Dow, S Lecky. Replacements: P Cairncross, A Nimmo, G Wilson, M Priestly, J Siems
Referee: J James (RU)J James (RFU)
Ayr: Tries: Paddy Dewhirst 3, Kelly, Corbenici, Rademaker; Cons: Climo 3.
Glasgow Hawks: Try: Kaleem Barreto. Conversion. Liam Brims. Penalty Goal: Liam Brims.
Scoring sequence (Ayr first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-3; 12-3; 14-3; 19-3 (h-t). 24-3; 26-3; 31-3; 31-8; 31-10; 3-10.
Man-of-the-Match: With three tries, and some excellent defensive work, it has to be Paddy Dewhirst.
Talking Point: Ayr have survived a mid-season mini-slump to finish the regular season strongly and, with a game to spare, they will top the regular season standings. But, will they have the strength to get through what already looks like being the tightest and most-competitive play-offs yet?