GLASGOW HAWKS 15
GLASGOW Hawks gave it their best shot, but, they were unable to prevent Ayr from extending their lead at the head of the BT Premiership to nine points, after a messy, but hard-fought battle in the Millbrae mud.
If defences win titles, then, should they prevail in the league this season, Ayr will be able to look back with pleasure at the massive defensive effort which downed the Hawks here. There was never a chance of a repeat of the Ayr side's opening day, five tries to nil demolition of their visitors; indeed, had they shown Ayr's composure, Hawks might have shaded this.
They ruled at the touch lines, but their breakdown work suffered from the early loss of Fin Gillies with a head knock, while, with ball in hand, the Ayr backs were sharper. Also, Kiwi stand-off Frazier Climo gave a master class in tactical kicking after the break.
"Frazier's control was crucial in the second half," said Ayr coach Callum Forrester.
"Hawks had a terrific first half, but, once our pack got going, Frazier began to run things, while I was very pleased with our defensive play. This was the sort of positive performance I was looking for and we have to carry this forward.
"Our next two games are against Boroughmuir and Melrose, the two teams to have beaten us, so, we are naturally keen to win these ones".
Peter Laverie of Hawks was naturally frustrated – for the squad who put so much into the game.
"We played really well in the first half, and should maybe have turned round in front, but, after the break, Climo kicked incredibly well while we put ourselves under pressure and Ayr took advantage, however, we dug in well, but in the end, it wasn't enough".
The rain eased before the kick-off, but, both sides struggled with the greasy ball in a first-half war of attrition which saw Hawks' Fin Gillies and Ayr's Scott Sutherland taken off injured. Tries seldom looked on and, at the break the only scoring had come from penalties – Gregor Hunter opening for Hawks, Climo responding for Ayr.
Climo kicked Ayr in front early in the second period, only for Hawks's skipper Brendan McGroarty to restore his side's lead with an unconverted try, after a fierce spell of pressure from the visitors.
Ayr immediately responded, Hawks repulsed a series of pick-and-go thrusts from the home pack, before George Hunter finally got over. Climo converted and Ayr had a five-point cushion.
Five became eight after another Climo penalty, before Grant Anderson made amends for his first-half yellow card with a telling burst, carried on by Haddon McPherson, who sent Climo in for a try which he converted.
Hawks sorely tested the Ayr defence in the final 15 minutes, but, only once did they unlock it, when Erland Oag got over, after an attack initiated by Gregor Hunter's recovery of his own clearing kick. The stand-off converted, but, the clock beat Hawks as Ayr denied them even the consolation of a losing bonus point.
Scrum control played a huge part in Ayr's Old Anniesland win back in August. Here, the scrums were much closer, indeed, several times, the ball sat in the middle of the tunnel, neither side able to move the other
initially, but, with five Warriors' props on the park, it was hardly surprising.
Mention must be made of referee Mike Adamson. Not that long ago, he was playing in this fixture, at stand-off for Hawks, but, on Saturday, his control was absolute, he was on top of everything in a near-faultless display.
Ayr: G Anderson, H McPherson, R Curle, D McCluskey, C Taylor, F Climo, D Armstrong; George Hunter, D Young, D Rae, R McAlpine, S Sutherland, A Dunlop, W Bordill, P McCallum. Replacements: S Fenwick, J Sebastian, B Macpherson, J Preston, A Russell.
Tries: George Hunter, F Climo; Conversions: Climo (2); Penalty goals: Climo (3).
Glasgow Hawks: R Houliston, P Ramsay, B McGroarty, J Steele, R Beattie, Gregor Hunter, P Boyer; G Strain, J Macfarlane, B Cullinane, A Linton, A Redmaybe, J Eddie, F Gillies, A Hill. Replacements: G Stewart, J Yanuyanutawa, M Smith, S Yacoubian, E Oalg. Tries: B McGroarty, E Oag; Conversion: Gregor Hunter (1); Penalty goal: Gregor Hunter (1).
Referee: Mike Adamson.