Ayr 18, Selkirk 5

Selkirk try to derail leaders, but Ayr's title juggernaut now looks unstoppable


LEE MAKES POINT. Selkirk wing Lee Jones is congratulated by team-mates Scott Tomlinson and Ian Walling after scoring the visitors' only try at Millbrae on Saturday. Ayr stalwart Jock Craig looks on from the sidelines.



TAKING on high-flying Ayr on their own patch was always going to be a big ask for Selkirk. Despite putting up stiff resistance, the Souters were forced to give second best to the physically imposing Premier One leaders, whose victory virtually guarantees a Millbrae 'homecoming' for the 2009 Scottish Championship trophy.

Ayr skipper Damien Kelly typified the home team's hunger and commitment with a fiery display. His driving runs into the middle of the visitors' defence continually forced Selkirk on to the back foot, with the rest of the giant Ayr pack quick to follow his lead to put the visitors under early pressure.

Selkirk's lighter forwards fought gamely to stem the tide, however, with locks Eddie Gauché and Rory Aglen in particular making every tackle count. Behind the scrum the visitors' elusive backs were never allowed the time nor space to play their normal brand of expansive rugby, although Fraser Harkness and Lee Jones did manage to break free from their opponents' defensive shackles on a number of occasions.

Ayr's first try resulted from a powerful run by home skipper Damien Kelly, whose surge upfield stretched the Selkirk defence, and several phases later wing Ryan Holland found enough space to out-sprint his opposite number and score wide out. Fraser Climo's conversion attempt drifted wide, but the home fly-half was successful with a penalty soon afterwards to stretch Ayr's lead.

Ten minutes before halftime Ayr scored a second try in the right-hand corner through Holland to go 13-0 ahead, and this was the way things stood at the interval. In the early stages of the game Michael McVie had been off-target with two penalty kicks, while Fraser Harkness was stopped five metres short of the Ayr try line, with his final pass finding Florian Marin rather than one of his own players.

Lee Jones also came agonisingly close to scoring a try, just being beaten to the touchdown of his own kick over the line by full-back Andy Wilson.

Despite having almost tackled themselves to a standstill trying to stem Ayr's power-packed onslaught in the first half, Selkirk's players began the second half with renewed vigour, determined not to allow the home pack to dictate in set piece or loose play.

Even so the visitors' best efforts came undone when Ayr centre Richard McCallum expertly sent a diagonal kick in the direction of the unmarked Marin, and the Frenchman gleefully crossed for the Ayrshire team's third try. Once again Climo's conversion kick drifted wide, but with the home side now 18-0 ahead, things were looking ominous for the Souters.

In the closing stages of the match Selkirk reaped the reward of quickly recycled ball from the pack - Lee Jones crossing for a consolation try in the left-hand corner, after good leading-up work by Ross Armstrong, Gavin Craig and Scott Hendrie.

The referee's whistle sounded for no-side soon afterwards, leaving Ayr's supporters jubilant at yet another home victory, and the Selkirk faithful reflecting on a brave but ultimately unsuccessful foray into the heart of Burns Country.

Heriot's scoring bonus point against Boroughmuir means the Goldenacre men creep above Selkirk on superior points differential at the top of Premier One, but with a game in hand there is no reason why Neil Darling's men cannot retake second spot in the weeks ahead.



HENDRIE IN A HURRAY. Scott Hendrie chips the ball into Ayr territory during Saturday's game against Ayr at Millbrae, with team-mates Eddie Gauché and Gordon Patterson ready to give chase. (Photos: Grant Kinghorn)

SELKIRK - F. Harkness, S. Hendrie, R. Nixon, R. Armstrong, L. Jones, G. Craig, M. McVie, G. Patterson, S. Forrest, M. Murray, R. Aglen, E. Gauché, C. Johnston, N. Darling, R. Crockatt. Replacements: J. Hendrie, R. Taylor, I. Walling, S. Willet, S. Tomlinson.

Referee - Andrew Healey (GHA).