BT Cup – 3rd Round

Stirling County 18 – Ayr 32

Kevin Robertson reports from Bridgehaugh Park

Stirling County’s indiscipline ended their involvement in this season’s national knock-out cup competition, as the Bridgehaugh side lost at home to high-flying Ayr.

This was County’s third defeat at the hands of the BT Premiership leaders this season.

With a number of County regulars unavailable for this BT Cup tie, the home side started with debutant professional loose-head prop Jarrod Firth (from Glasgow Warriors) in the front row alongside tight-head prop Garry Mountford, returning from injury.

In a make-shift pack, the experienced Mark Hunter moved back to cover second-row. In the backs Nick Grigg returned from Scotland Sevens duty to partner Glasgow Warriors’ centre Sam Johnson. Forward Floyd Kesson made his first appearance for the senior side as a replacement.

Ayr were also without a number of their 1st XV regulars, with four Millbrae players having taken part in the Scottish Club International Team’s resounding win over England Counties the previous evening.

County kicked off in ideal conditions, and took an early lead after 2 minutes through an unconverted try by Sam Johnson, who finished off a length of the field flowing move involving Shaun Treweek and Nick Grigg, as the home backs cut through the visitors’ defence.

Ayr responded and stand-off Frazer Climo kicked a 40-metre penalty on 10 minutes to take the score 5 – 3, after County were penalised for not rolling away from the tackle.

The defining point in the match occurred on 20 minutes when County were reduced to 14 men after hooker Cammy Fenton was sent-off for foul play. County brought on Reyner Kennedy for Garry Mountford, with Mark Hunter moving to prop.

Ayr immediately exploited their numerical advantage with a try from professional prop Javan Sebastian who dived over the County line to touchdown after the ball was recycled from a 5-metre scrum. Climo converted to give Ayr a 5 – 10 lead with 22 minutes played.

Four minutes later, County reduced the deficit to 8 – 10 with a 35-metre penalty from winger Jonny Hope.

County continued to press forward, and following a penalty line-out catch and drive, the ball was fed to winger Matt Lamb who was tackled just short of the Ayr try line.

The referee took play back to an earlier off-side infringement, giving County a penalty which was kicked to touch on the right side. County secured their subsequent line-out and following a series of forward drives to the Ayr line, the ball was quickly moved to the right for Jonny

Hope to score a try to the right of the uprights, which the winger converted, putting County 15 – 10 ahead, on 32 minutes.

Ayr missed a 40-metre penalty kick attempt at goal just before the break meaning County led 15-10 at the interval.

County’s Mountford replaced Jarrod Firth at the start of the second half, before Jonny Hope and Vaka Manu were forced to leave the field through injury, to be replaced by Cammy Hughes and Firth respectively.

County began to exert pressure, but couldn’t find a way through the hard-working Ayr defence. Treweek extended County’s lead to 18 – 10 with a successful 30-metre penalty on 51 minutes, after the visitors were penalised for not rolling away from the tackle.

Ayr came back at County and secured a penalty line-out within the home-side’s 22, and drove over the line for a try credited to Peter McCallum, which was converted by Climo, to reduce the leeway to 18 – 17 in County’s favour, with 55 minutes on the clock.

Five minutes later Climo edged Ayr 18 – 20 ahead with a 30-metre penalty after County failed to roll clear of the tackle area.

On 63 minutes Ayr winger Craig Gossman blatantly took out Alex Black in the air as the County scrum-half jumped for a high ball. The referee surprisingly only issued a yellow-card to Gossman for dangerous play, which was clearly a red-card offence.

From the resultant penalty, County took play close to the Ayr line, and following a series of penalties conceded by the visitors, County secured their line-out and drove over the visitors’ line for Reyner Kennedy to score a try.

Following consultation with his assistant, the referee disallowed the try for foul play and yellow-carded the unfortunate Mark Hunter – a case of mistaken identity.

With County reduced to 13 men, Ayr began to take control of proceedings, and increased their lead to 18 – 25 with 10 minutes remaining, through an unconverted try from Frazer Climo who exploited a gap in the stretched home defence and sprinted down the left channel to touchdown in the corner.

Ayr secured victory on 76 minutes with a try from Craig Stevenson after County carelessly dropped the ball on their own line, after securing a line-out. Climo added the conversion to seal a 32-18 win for the visitors.