Highland disappointed to lose on the road again
There were low temperatures and sunshine at Millbrae, creating crisp but good conditions for kick off.
Ayr possibly had the better of the early exchanges, which is to be expected for a home team coming out of the gate. The closest they came to a score was when they were held up over the line after a series of pick and goes wide on the right.
Ayr opened the scoring in 24mins through a Jamie Bova goal kick when Highland were penalised for going off their feet at the ruck, a pen that could just have easily been awarded the other way for the same reason.
Highland responded immediately and were awarded a pen of their own just 2 mins later. Scott Frasers kick from the Ayr 10m line just missed. However, that in itself lead to Highlands first try.
The game restarted with Ayr kicking long from the 22 drop out. The ball was well fielded and taken up field by the returning Andrew Findlater, who shipped the ball on to Seumas Ross. He in turn threw a long pass out to another returning player in Rupeni Rockoduguni. Roko made good ground up the right wing, Seumas secured the ball when Roko was tackled and gained a few more meters.
Highland quickly went through a few forward carries taking the ball into midfield, when Hugo Crush moved the ball left to Scotty Fraser who found Adriu Muritoki.
To be honest the attack seemed dead in the water as Ayr had men in position to cover the attack but their right winger came infield to tackle Adriu leaving Magnus Henry with a little space on the outside. Adriu managed to get the ball to the inform wing.
Magnus was past the covering inside defenders almost as soon as he had the ball. Magnus charged towards the line feinted to the outside before stepping back inside through the tackle of the Ayr Full Back to touch down for Highlands first try.
Scotty Fraser landed a regulation Conversion. to make the score Ayr 3-7 Highland.
Shortly afterwards Roko was heavily involved again with another break down the right wing, but unusually he looked like he was treading water and was chased down by three Ayr defenders who drove him into touch inside their 22.
Ayr again responded by exerting pressure on the Highland try line through a series of pick and goes, and for the 2nd time in the half were denied a try by being held up over the line by a determined Highland defence.
At 38 mins Ayr were moving forward from just inside their half, the ball had reached centre Jamie Bova who passed back inside to Jack Anderson, but he knocked on after a tackle from Owen McDonald.
The ball broke to Adriu Muritoki, who turned upfield past a few nearby forwards finding space down the middle of the park. He was well tackled by last ditch effort from Ayr’s right wing in the 22, who had to watch as Adriu offloaded to the supporting Hugo Crush to score our 2nd try 15m in from the left touchline.
Scott Fraser again landed the conversion. This was just about the last act of the 1st half.
HT Ayr 3-14 Highland.
The second period started with a bit of kicking tennis, I would say Ayr came out net winners – just.
Around 53mins Ayr secure messy possession from a line out on the right wing about 40m out from the Highland try line, moving the ball across to the left touchline just outside the 22.
Ayr were now operating under penalty advantage from the ruck and moved the ball back right to Jamie Bova.
Bova found a hole in the defence, partially created by two Highland defenders inadvertently taking each other out when trying to cover across, to run in at the right corner. He then proceeded to land a great touchline conversion.
Ayr 10-14 Highland.
On 60mins Highland were defending just outside their own 22, when Stephen Murray got pinged for not rolling away after the tackle – ultimately he was in a position that he was damned if he did move, and damned if he didn’t.
Ayr’s scrum half swiftly summed up the situation and milked the penalty. It’s soft – but we’d have wanted the pen if it was the other way around. Bova again stepped up to land his 3rd kick to make it a one point game.
Ayr 13-14 Highland.
From this point on the majority the play was between the 22’s, with neither team making any real in roads.
Around the 68 min mark Highland scrambled the ball back at a ruck and made good ground up the right side of the pitch, with some nice interchange between forwards and backs. The ball was knocked on when trying another off load, when possibly at that point Highland would have been better taking the tackle and recycling into a more ordered attack.
With time rapidly running out, Highland were pressing to try to extend their lead and were just on Ayr’s 22. Ayr successfully jackled and move the ball to their right through a couple of sets of hands to outflank the Highland defence to go the length of the field. The chasing Scott Fraser couldn’t get the tackle in but he did keep full back Scott Watson out wide. This time Jamie Bova couldn’t land the kick.
Ayr 18-14 Highland
Whilst this was a dagger to Highlands hopes, there was still enough time for the restart.
Scott Fraser put up a high drop kick and Highland’s Sean Blair and Ayr’s Cameron Reece had a heavy collision whilst competing for the ball. Both players were grounded, but thankfully after a break in play both got up to carry on with the game.
The game restarted with a scrum to Highland, and they went through several phases of play without threatening before knocking the ball on in a tackle to end the game.
It’s clear that Ayr were delighted to secure the win, and equally clear that Highland were devastated to lose the game right at the end making for a long trip back up North.
FULL TIME Ayr 18-14 Highland.