Club Captain Zac Howard relishes New Role

Over the past couple of weeks sport has been just a small drop in an ocean of uncertainty. Unprecedented times, the suspension of rugby brought to a close Ayr’s club XV Tennent’s National 1 campaign. With three rounds consigned to oblivion Ayr sit in tenth with currently relegated Boroughmuir just seven points behind and a game in hand. Equally, ninth placed Kelso live in catchable territory just four points clear.

 

 

Instead of pondering what could and should happen to final standings Club XV skipper Zac Howard is using the down time to reflect and improve.

It wasn’t a straight-forward appointment into the leadership role for Howard. Club captain Gregor Henry bowed out through injury and second-in-command Johnny McCorkindale flew the coop for a spell in Australia. Veteran forward David Young was next to have his season curtailed by injury, prompting Craig Brown to take up interim charge. Eventually, Stuart Fenwick found his man In Zac to lead the side in the business end of the competition. Adopting a ‘lead by example’ style, the winger has set alight defences all season.

 

He inherited the team at a low point with only one win in the ten games prior. He also faced his own battles, having just returned from a spell on the side-lines: “I had just came back from missing three weeks through concussion, so it was a big responsibility to captain my first game back. The boys all knew what a win against Cartha would do for us and we knew we were capable of winning.

 

“Everyone showed heart and desire to get us back on track with a win. To get that on my first game was a great feeling”.

 

Although hovering just above relegation Ayr will take great positives from the youthful nature of the squad. Zac, at the ripe old age of 23, is now incredibly one of the senior heads in camp and is delighted to see the youngsters being bled into the team: “I remember the step up to senior rugby and it is a massive change in physicality and intensity. The boys from the U18s who have been asked to make the jump have adapted well in training – there’s a lot of talent!”

 

“I’m really looking forward to seeing what they have to offer next season”.

 

Zac believes the biggest downfall of the side this year was discipline but believes the experienced gained will stand them in good stead for seasons to come: “We have let a lot of teams back into games. We are perfectly capable and have a talented group that could beat a lot of teams in this league but we often let ourselves down with poor discipline.

 

“We are a young team and discipline will come so it’s something we can work on moving forward”.

Away from the pitch many of the boys will do what they can to switch off but it can be harder for Zac, with his older sister Gabby set to tie the knot with backs coach and Scotland Sevens captain Robbie Fergusson. The two are also expecting a little one on the horizon.

 

Often being coached outside of training, Zac actually credits his relationship with Robbie as a reason for him kicking on this year: “He has actually helped me a lot so I owe thanks to him. During pre-season any dropped balls or missed tackles would often go unnoticed from the boys, but for me it was months of slagging in the family group chat and jokes at family dinners.

 

“It has made me improve my skills so he wouldn’t have anything to slag me for.

 

“Him bringing in his experience from the pro game and sevens has helped all of the boy’s personal development so it’s been a big bonus for all of us. I just wish he knew that he’s allowed to wear other clothes than his Scotland training kit all the time.

 

“We all know you play for Scotland Robbie, we don’t need a reminder everyday”.


2019/20 Season will not Recommence

Scottish Rugby has determined the current (2019/20) domestic season will not be recommenced, and that the suspension of all rugby remains in place until further notice.

 

The news results in the cancellation of all Ayr Rugby and Ayrshire Bulls fixtures, including the inaugural Super6 Cross-Border tournament.

 

The Scottish Rugby Board first sanctioned an interim suspension of domestic rugby (effective from 6pm on Sunday 15 March) in recognition of Government and NHS advice on the developing Covid-19 virus outbreak.

 

Scottish Rugby’s preferred option to resume the season at an appropriate point is, regretfully, not a reasonable prospect in a safe and practical time frame, with further social restrictions on gatherings and travel an increasing possibility.

 

At the date of the interim suspension, there remained 295 domestic adult male league fixtures outstanding, with additional Cup, Shield and Bowl matches still to be completed (all being at the semi-final stage).

 

The Ayrshire Bulls were set to compete in the Cross-Border competition commencing on Saturday 25 April, alongside the five other FOSROC Super6 teams and six Indigo Group Premiership teams from Wales (Cardiff, Llandovery, Merthyr, Ebbw Vale, Aberavon and Pontypridd).

  

All twelve teams were to play three home fixtures and three away fixtures over a consecutive six-week period in what would have been the first edition of this new club competition.

 

Scottish Rugby and the Welsh Rugby Union are committed to the competition moving forward, with discussions between both unions looking ahead to next season.

 

Ayrshire Bulls C.E.O Billy McHarg, said: “We are disappointed the tournament is not taking place as the club was very excited to be playing in it…

 

“However, every individuals welfare is of more importance and we wholeheartedly support the decision to postpone for this year”.


Awards Dinner Postponed

After considering current safety protocols around on-going Coronavirus (Covid-19) concerns, Ayr Rugby has made the decision to postpone the 2020 Pink and Black Awards dinner scheduled for April 4th.

 

The club is continuing to follow both government and Scottish Rugby advice to prioritise the safety of all staff, players, sponsors and fans.

 

Thank you to Ayr Racecourse for working alongside Ayr Rugby in organising what was set to be a fantastic event in beautiful surroundings.

 

We will keep everyone informed of a rearranged date in due course.


Millbrae closed until further notice

Following on from the club’s statement last Friday, Ayr Rugby have proceeded with the closure of all facilities at Millbrae in-line with government guidance on Coronavirus (Covid-19) and Scottish Rugby’s suspension of all rugby activity.

 

 

This is uncharted territory for the club and we are working hard to ensure the safety of all players, staff, sponsors and fans. We appreciate everyone’s understanding during this time.

 

 

This will result in immediate cancellation of any on-field activity, closure of club bar and denied gym access.

 

 

Ayr Rugby are monitoring both government and Scottish Rugby advice daily. We will strive to keep you informed as and when new information becomes available to us. We will update you on reopening dates when we can.

 

 

If you have any queries please direct them to [email protected]

 

 

 

Thank you all for your support during this time.

 

Photo - David Kerr Photography


STATEMENT - Club Rugby Postponed

This Afternoon Scottish Rugby released a statement suspending all domestic competitions and training from Sunday 15 of March at 18.00 until, and including, 29 March.

 

Tonight's Tennent's National 1 fixture with Heriots Blues has also been postponed due to player welfare concerns.

 

This is uncharted territory for all parties involved and we are working together to ensure the safety of all players, coaches, volunteers, sponsors and fans. We appreciate everyone's understanding during this time.

Scottish Rugby's decision comes in light of government restrictions on public gatherings due to rising concern around Coronavirus (Covid-19).

 

 

This will impact rugby in all domestic league and cup fixtures, training, festivals and other rugby events as well as the FOSROC Super6 tournament, which come under Scottish Rugby's jurisdiction. During this suspension period Scottish Rugby will undertake further assessment and advise on any further action that may be required. The Ayrshire Bulls Play-Off Semi-Final against Heriots Rugby next Sunday will therefore be affected.

 

 

The Scottish Rugby Age-Grade Programme (male and female) will also be cancelled with immediate effect for the remainder of the season. This includes all training sessions that were planned for the age-grade teams as well as all other age-grade internationals for the rest of the season. However, the U20 Six Nations fixture tonight versus Wales will still go ahead in Colwyn Bay.


Reid Joins Northampton Saints

Ayrshire Bulls prop Gordon Reid has joined English Premiership side Northampton Saints with immediate effect. He joins the Saints for the rest of the 2019/20 season and is available for selection for their next match. The 33-year-old has played an integral role in the Bulls securing a FOSROC Super6 semi-final.

Last August Reid was unveiled as the Ayrshire Bulls first signing ahead of the inaugural Super6 season. The following month he was selected in Gregor Townsend’s Rugby World Cup squad where he went on to feature in all four of Scotland's matches.

 

In November he agreed a partnership contract between the Bulls and Glasgow Warriors. He leaves both sides to head south of the border.

 

We wish Gordy all the best at Northampton and thank him for his services.


Bulls Semi-Final Confirmed

The Ayrshire Bulls' FOSROC Super6 Play-Off Semi-Final against Heriots Rugby has been scheduled for Sunday 22nd of March at Goldenacre, kicking off at 14.00.

The fixture was previously announced for the weekend of Friday 20th and has been pushed back to Sunday 22nd for television coverage. The match will be live-streamed on Scottish Rugby TV and the BBC Scotland website.

 

The winner of the semi-final will go on to play the winner of Watsonians v Southern Knights at Scotstoun Stadium on Saturday 28th of March. The final will kick-off at 19.20 and you can secure your tickets online now at scottishrugby.org.


Pink and Black Awards Dinner

This year's annual Pink and Black Awards dinner will take place on Saturday April 4th at the beautiful setting of Ayr Racecourse.

 

The night gets underway with a 19.00 arrival for a 19.30 start. Guests will be treated to a delicious three-course meal, live entertainment and the 2020 awards ceremony.

The latest edition of the Pink and Black Awards will mark the inaugural end-of-season dinner for the Ayrshire Bulls - who will celebrate the conclusion of their maiden domestic campaign alongside Ayr RFC's senior teams.

 

The evening is priced at £35 a-head and players and coaches can book via their respective team managers. To book a table or seat separately contact [email protected]


Gala squeak victory after scoreless second half

This afternoon Ayr fell the wrong side of a 12-14 nail-biter with Gala Rugby.

 

Despite a frantic start scores soon began to dry up when weather conditions took a turn, meaning Gala’s two-point lead at half-time would see them through to final whistle.

 

After the final whistle Ayr head coach Stuart Fenwick expressed frustration with his sides performance: “We are talking about the same things time and time again. We are making similar mistakes and similar errors.

 

“We tried to play too much rugby in our own half and that really cost us”.

 

A tad more upbeat, Stuart continued: “We showed a whole lot of heart – especially defensively in that second half… We are a team that wants to play rugby, so we don’t want to coach that out of the guys. We just need to make sure we do it in the right areas of the park”.

 

Ayr started the stronger of the sides. A handful of penalties for numerous infringements put them in touching distance, before referee Tom French decided enough was enough and signalled penalty try from a scrum five. Gala’s tight-head Martin Christie was sin-binned in the process.

 

This sparked a reaction from the visitors, who immediately sprung to life. Second row Richie Todd managed to burrow his way over the line after the borderers were held up in the previous play. Fly-half Dean Keddie chalked it all up with the conversion.

 

Just before the half-hour mark Ayr regained the lead. On his debut, Aiden O’Connor sniped clear after a storming break from Euan Hamilton. The 17-year old had a busy introduction to senior rugby but was tamed by the treacherous conditions nullifying his magic feet.

 

The final score of the of half – and coincidentally the game - came from Gala. The visitors shipped the ball wide to Robbie Irvine who powered through contact to finish. Keddie struck a beauty of a conversion given the wind and rain to secure the all-important 12-14 lead.

 

Ayr spent majority of the second half defending for their lives. The only real chance mustered for the hosts came after the clock struck eighty. A last gasp surge put the with a throw-in five metres short of Gala’s line, but they couldn’t connect.

 

The borderers regathered and kicked clear to signal the final whistle.

 

Full-time: Ayr RFC 12-14 Gala Rugby.

 

Camie Black was named Slaters Menswear Man of the Match after another controlling eighty-minute performance at scrum-half.

 

Ayr/Millbrae also fell short of victory, losing 24-31 to GHK 2nd XV.


Ayr looking to push on after Cartha win

Tomorrow Ayr Club XV will look to catch Kelso in the Tennent's national 1 league when they host Gala at Millbrae. Stuart Fenwick's men currently sit four points adrift of ninth place, but have a game in hand.

 

It will be no easy feat turning over Gala, who enjoyed a 36-17 victory over the Millbrae Men last time they came to blows. Ayr will take confidence from their win over Cartha last time out, and will hope a home crowd will spur them on.

Gala sit further up the table in fifth.

Speaking of the dangers the borderers pose, Stuart Fenwick said: "You always expect a physical encounter with Gala, but that day (the away fixture) they moved the ball really well and had dangerous backs. It was probably one of our toughest games this season.

 

"Hopefully we see both sides out playing a similar, expansive, game of rugby".

 

Stuart Fenwick has selected a settled pack, with the only change the return of Cameron Young replacing Seth Rae. Young starts at openside with Morgan Leatherbarrow shifting to eight.

 

On the wing U18s star Aiden O'Connor makes his Club XV debut.

Ethan Aitken replaces Dylan Wilson in the midfield and Ciaran Wood comes in at full-back for James Baird.

Stuart Collier, Stephen Adair and Lewis Clark all come onto the bench. Kerr Borland and Adam McGowan are the only retained substitutes.

 

The action gets underway at 15.00 at Millbrae, and you can follow the action every step of the way on Twitter @OfficialAyrRFC.

 

Ayr/Millbrae are in action at the same time tomorrow, underway on the 2nd XV pitch. They take on GHK 2s. Their team is also listed below.