Ayr 48 Selkirk 7

Ayr secure promotion spot with thumping win over jaded Selkirk.

THE strain of playing three premiership matches in the space of eight days finally told on Selkirk on Saturday, with a rampant Ayr side inflicting the Souters’ heaviest defeat since they succumbed to Gala by the same scoreline on April 22, 2000.
Forced to make wholesale changes in the absence of injured No. 8 Fred Stevenson, openside flanker Craig Forster and fly-half Guy Blair, Selkirk nevertheless made by far the more positive start to Saturday’s game at Millbrae. Full-back Simon Murdoch continues to defy medical science and made a handful of surging runs into enemy territory, while Craig Hunter gained sizeable chunks of ground up the left touchline, and utility threequarter Allen Jamieson looked equally potent on the right flank.
Up front, the positive play of No. 8 Alister Heatlie proved a revelation, and the former Selkirk Youth Club captain demonstrated once and for all that he is more than ready to step up to senior level. Selkirk’s line-out was once again secure — Barnett, de Franck and Jackson all being used to telling effect, backed up by some determined drives from hooker Darren Hoggan. The final weapon in Selkirk’s arsenal was the booming left foot of skipper Scott Tomlinson, less effective against the elements in the first half, but crucial to Selkirk’s chances after the break.
(Caption : Referee Chuck Muir signals play to continue, with Selkirk scrum-half Fraser Jack all set to get his threequarter line moving in Saturday’s premiership game against Ayr.)
However, these spirited efforts by the visitors all foundered on Ayr’s solid defence, resulting in all Selkirk’s early attacks coming to nothing. Indeed what undermined the visitors’ good leading-up work more than anything else, was the number of turnovers they conceded. It appeared every time a Selkirk player took the ball into contact, possession would inevitable switch over to the home team. Knock-ons in promising positions also proved costly, and after weathering the Selkirk storm, Ayr hit back in devastating fashion.
Andy Reid’s ninth minute penalty had put Ayr’s first points on the board, but it was a further 20 minutes before the Millbrae men struck again — fly-half Graham Ferguson cutting inside prop Grant Ruthven (an early replacement for the injured John McDonald) to score the first of his side’s seven tries.
With Murdoch off the field, Ayr launched a slick counter-attack to score again through flanker Paul Burke. Minutes later replacement Neil Brown lost the ball in a tackle, and Ayr immediately swept downfield, with Scott Hazley on hand to cut through the remnants of Selkirk’s scattered defence.
After referee Chuck Muir had played six minutes of injury time, itseemed the halftime whistle would sound at any second... but not before Ayr had again caught the visitors on the back foot, this time Logan touching down, with Reid adding his fourth conversion of the half.
Although 29-0 down at the break, Selkirk managed to start the second half in positive fashion. David Cassidy and Michael Jaffray both came close to penetrating the Ayr defensive wall, and from a line-out close to the home try line Alister Heatlie was able to capitalise on Jackson’s two-handed take to burrow his way over for a try. Tomlinson’s conversion kick sailed over.
Sadly this was the last time the visitors were to trouble the scoreboard boys, and as the match wore on Ayr’s bigger, faster and more penetrative players snuffed out further Selkirk resistance with some sizzling tries from Michael Goldie, Stuart Magorian and a second from Paul Burke.
Selkirk’s afternoon of woe was compounded by a shoulder injury to Matt de Franck, while the Ayr supporters’ day was complete when the announcer informed the crowd that Murrayfield Wanderers had beaten Biggar, so ensuring the Millbrae club of first division rugby next season. Judging by Saturday’s power-packed performance, there is enough momentum in the Ayr juggernaut to keep them there.

Selkirk second row forward Marcus Barnett rises to secure line-out possession, as the visitors set the early pace at Millbrae on Saturday.

SELKIRK — S. Murdoch (rep. N. Brown), A. Jamieson, D. Cassidy, M.Jaffray, C. Hunter, S. Tomlinson, F. Jack, J. McDonald (rep. G. Ruthven), P. Lyons, M. Barnett (rep. D. Lithgow), D. Jackson, M. deFranck (rep. J. Ross), N. Darling, A. Heatlie.

Referee: C. Muir (Langholm).

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