Weekend Summary - Agony for the Bulls, Ecstasy for the Ladies

Callum Kerr

It was a mixed bag of results at the weekend for Ayr Rugby’s senior sides in action. On Saturday the Ayrshire Bulls couldn’t quite overcome a resilient County defence on the road at Bridgehaugh, losing 33-24. The Ladies had better fortunes yesterday, securing their place in the National Plate Final with a 36-17 victory over Livingston Women in front of a rocking Millbrae baking in the Alloway sun.

(Image – Alan Graham)

Bulls:

Speaking at full-time following his sides defeat Ayrshire Bulls head coach Peter Horne was disillusioned with his sides efforts.

 

“We didn’t get off the bus” was the line that resonated most with those who watched on. Despite being on the back foot and trailing at the break, the Bulls managed to hog the ball in the second half and dominate both possession and territory, but it reaped little reward. County took their chances when they came and put in a heroic effort to defend their line, which ultimately was the difference.

 

Praising his opposition, Horne continued: “Fair play to Stirling, they battled hard and forced us to try make that extra pass. They forced us to tough it out and we didn’t.

 

“They defended really hard and showed a lot of pride in their line”.

 

This weekend the Bulls will look to get their sprint series back on track when they welcome Heriots to Millbrae. The opposition currently sit at the top of the table, so a win would propel Pete Horne’s men back into contention.

 

Ladies:

Despite a score line that reads like it was comfortable, there was nothing routine about Ayr’s semi-final victory.

 

It was the visitors that scored first before a tit-for-tat opening forty minutes ended with Livingston in charge 10-12 at the break. A score for each side after the break, with only one conversion from Ayr’s skipper Catherine Shennan, meant it was all square at 17-17.

 

Just to make the job even tough, the hosts received a brace of red cards, meaning they’d need to pull ahead with only 13 players on the pitch if they wanted to make the trip east for the cup final. The two-person deficit didn’t seem to hinder Ayr, who managed to run in a flurry of late scores to secure a comfortable victory in the end.

 

Now they have the small task of a National Plate Cup final ahead of them that’s set to take place on the international pitch at BT Murrayfield on 14 of May. Biggar RFC will provide stiff opposition in what promises to be another historic day for Ayr Rugby.

 

The match is scheduled for a 14.30 kick-off and details on ticketing and travel will follow in due course.


Reaction - Still Work to do Insists Horne

Callum Kerr @ Millbrae

On Friday night the Ayrshire Bulls opened their Sprint Series account with a 24-17 victory over the Boroughmuir Bears at Millbrae. Despite the odd sign of rust after a long lay-off both sides put on a show for the television cameras, with an expansive game providing some stunning scores.

It was Peter Horne’s first competitive match at the helm of the Bulls, and although relieved to secure the win, he believes there’s plenty work still to do: “I felt like we struggled to get going. Credit to Boroughmuir they brought a lot of intensity around the breakdown, they forced a lot of mistakes out of us, they got a lot of turnovers on the ground. They clearly came in with a game plan to have a crack and slow us down and it worked.

 

“We’ve got some improving to do but job done. We got five points which is a good way to start – you’d rather that than play great and lose!”

 

The Bulls come into the sprint series reigning FOSROCSuper6 Champions, and although this is technically a different tournament with another trophy up for grabs, they’re the pacemakers in terms of quality. Speaking on transitioning from Pat MacArthur’s championship side, Horne said: “The roles haven’t changed all that much, Pat’s brilliant at getting the boys going, he’s still got a big role to play, and we bounce off each other pretty well – we both have a bit of work to do but we’ll be better”.

 

It was everyone’s first look at Pete Horne’s Bulls, which included eight debutants (and two new faces from the pro release). Andrew Nimmo, Alex Samuel, Lewis McNamara, Joe Knight, Cam Jones, Thomas Glendinning and Liam McNamara all started and took to life at Millbrae like ducks to water. Tim Brown provided reinforcement from the bench and looked equally handy at this level. Horne continued: “There was some good performances from the debutants. I thought Thomas worked hard… He slipped a few tackles and he’s physical. Tim Brown came off the bench and was excellent. Big Alex Samuel had a cracking game too.

 

“There were some really promising performances in there and it’ll be the start of a bright future for them in a Bulls shirt”.

 

It was newcomer Alex Samuel who concluded his performance with FOSROC Player of the Match honours, after a bruising performance in the engine room.

 

The Bulls will hope to carry on their winning ways next Saturday when they travel to Bridgehaugh to face Stirling County. The match kicks-off at 16.30.


Bulls Announce Departures and Returning Players

The Ayrshire Bulls can now announce their list of departures ahead of the FOSROCSuper6 Sprint Series kicking off next Friday night (April 15th). This also confirms the core squad of players who are returning from the 2021 Championship team.

 

Firstly, Ayr Rugby would like to wish the best of luck to all of those who have moved on from the Ayrshire Bulls. Every man played a key role in the Bulls becoming the first FOSROCSuper6 Champions in history last October, creating memories that will be cherished in the hearts of players, sponsors, members and fans.

 

Peter McCallum and Ruiaridh Sayce won’t be going far, having joined up with the Club XV squad at the conclusion of their Super6 campaign. Craig Miller joined Marr Rugby, playing a starting role in their Tennent’s Premiership triumph Saturday past.

 

An array of players have made the step up to professional rugby; George Thornton is plying his craft in Australia with Northern Suburbs, Tom Everard is staying put at Jersey Reds, Yaree Fantini is with Benetton Rugby in Italy and it was announced late last year that Tom Jordan has joined Glasgow Warriors on his first professional contract.

 

A trio of players have joined international 7s setups, with Gavin Lowe and Matt Davidson in the Scotland squad and Tom Williams with his native Wales.

 

Harry Warr has moved down south to purse career ambitions. Robbie Nairn has also departed.

 

This means that Head Coach Peter Horne has retained the services of 14 players, who are:

 

  • Blair MacPherson
  • Michael Scott
  • Calvin Henderson
  • Alex McGuire
  • Rhodri Tanner
  • Edward Bloodworth
  • Ewan Bulger
  • Ryan Sweeney
  • Jordan Lenac
  • Matt Minogue
  • Tom Lanni
  • Bobby Beattie
  • Aaron Tait
  • Elias Caven

 

Over the next few days the Bulls will be confirming Scottish Rugby’s allocated FOSORC Academy Stage Three players, as well as a handful of new faces who will be unveiled in the coming days. Stay tuned on our official channels.

Speaking on how the squad is shaping up, Peter Horne said the following: “I’m delighted with the group we have going into the sprint competition. We’ve acquired some young men who firstly have the attributes to play the type of game we want to play but have also been stand-out performers in their respective competitions over the last 12 months.

 

“We’ve had a brilliant pre-season with some tough fixtures and some quality time spent together. I’m excited to see all the hard work we’ve put in together on show next Friday night at Millbrae”.


Fenwick Reflects on his Sides Heroic Performance

Callum Kerr @ Millbrae

Ayr 1XV left arguably their best performance of the season to their last home game with an emphatic 64-7 victory over Cartha Queens Park this evening at Millbrae. The last of the daylight dwindled away shortly after kick-off setting up a dramatic scene under the lights in Alloway. Stuart Fenwick’s men rose to the occasion, delivering on much of the promise that’s shimmered in spells throughout their campaign.

(Image – George McMillan)

It comes on the back of a 39-14 win over Melrose on Saturday, with the boys now seemingly hitting their stride at the business-end of the year. It’s too late in the day to challenge, but recent form indicates that their potent mix of youth alongside a few Millbrae veterans bodes well for next season.

 

At final whistle Stuart Fenwick was full of praise for a clinical performance with ball in hand: “I think attacking-wise you could say that was our best performance of the season. Certainly one of the best. We spoke at length about how we needed to back up the Melrose performance. We came out excited and did a bit of damage in those first ten minutes”.

 

It’s a score line that Cartha will want to forget, but it doesn’t highlight the full story. Despite early set-back the visitors held in there and made a game of it. A try late in the fixture gave them minimal consolation, but with three previous scores held up over the line it could have been a different match. Fenwick continued: “Fair play to Cartha. They refused to go away. The first half an hour was fairly even. We just had the advantage on the board from the early blitz.

 

“They had another good patch after half time but we weathered that pretty well and clinical finishing let us pull further away on the little ball we had. Our tempo didn’t drop all game even when we flooded the bench and got everyone on which is immensely pleasing for us”.

 

One of those to enter the field in the second half was 17-year-old Scott Watson, making his Ayr and senior rugby debut after dispensation from Scottish Rugby at the eleventh hour. Unperturbed by the challenge of bossing a game from stand-off, Watson took to the task at hand like a duck to water. A few glimpses of stardust rounded off a measured performance in the ten jersey, gelling immediately with his new teammates.

 

“You’d never have known. He kicked from hand really well and made all the right decisions” insisted his head coach: “It is very promising for the future”.

 

The frantic scoring provided press with a headache when it came to selecting man of the match. A trio of players walked away with two scores, Frazier Climo carved his away around the park providing numerous assists and Cam Reece controlled the game before being rested at half time. In the end, Harry Lynch rose above the rest. Two tries were the product of seamless support running all evening and he didn’t put a foot wrong defensively. He was physical with ball and hand and also provided a few silky touches to put his comrades over.

 

Ayr will look to take their rich vein of form into their final league match on April 16th, when they travel to Biggar.


Stuart Fenwick Delighted with Victory over Melrose

Callum Kerr @ Millbrae

This afternoon Ayr triumphed over their old foes Melrose Rugby at a sun-drenched Millbrae. A match which went tit-for-tat in the early stages eventually opened up for the hosts, who put together a 24-0 run in the second half to secure a 39-14 victory.

(Image – George McMillan)

Millbrae was buzzing come final whistle, with Stuart Fenwick’s men delivering on the promise that fans have seen in glimpses throughout the season. Speaking at final whistle, the head coach’s jubilation was easily spotted: “I’m really proud of the boys and the effort they put in. It’s brilliant to see everything we’ve spoken about at training over the last couple of weeks coming out.

 

“It’s even more pleasing when we can sit and look at the age of the team, particularly in the backline. We brought on two eighteen-year-olds and a nineteen-year-old off the bench today. It’s fantastic to be able to give these youngsters opportunities and see them step up to this level and play with that intensity. They rewarded us with one hell of a shift!”

One of the youngsters to enter the fray later on was U18s star Jamie McLauchlan, earning his senior debut in an emphatic win. Jamie, son of Ayr Ladies stalwart and committee member Louise McLauchlan, becomes the fourth generation of Ecrepoint to pull on the pink and black jersey.

 

The two sides previous encounter this season fell in favour of Melrose in a match that could have gone either way. Stuart Fenwick believes that having the memory of that result fresh in the minds helped focus the squad on the task at hand: “That game down there certainly hurt a lot of the boys. We spoke about it through the week but didn’t put too much emphasis on it. They knew they underperformed that day in a real physical game, so yeah I think it spurred us on”.

 

When Ayr are firing they can score for fun, and some of the length of the field efforts on display today didn’t surprise anyone watching, but in previous games this young side often struggle to manage the closing stages – Today was the opposite. A Jamie Bova penalty before half time snuck them a 15-14 lead at the break, but it was in the latter stages where they kept their foot on the gas and managed to pull clear.

Stuart Fenwick added: “We spoke a lot through the week about how we often need just that extra ten percent to win games when the going gets tough. We are a good side to get in those positions, but we often lack that extra ten percent particularly on the road. We re-emphasised that at half time today and we wanted to come out and hit them hard. Those two tries within the first ten minutes of the second half were the reward of that!”.

 

Ayr will look to build on today’s win to finish the season on a high. Although lingering in the mid-table they’ll be keen to keep the momentum up and grow confidence before the break. Their next trip out is this coming Friday where they host Cartha Queens Park under the lights at Millbrae. The action kicks off at 19.45.


Watsonians 31-21 Ayr Rugby

Callum Kerr @ Myreside

This afternoon at Myreside Ayr fell short in a 52-point stunner on ladies’ day.

 It was a result that could have gone either way, but truth be told when the going got tough, Watsonians got going. Ayr chased the game from the first minute to the last and did well to make it a three-point ball game on numerous occasions, but there was no denying the hosts composure at decisive moments.

With just two minutes left on the clock Ayr could have squeaked a victory, but Watsonians showed their mettle to stretch the lead and secure a 31-21 final score line.

Watsonians currently find themselves in treacherous relegation territory and came out all guns blazing from first whistle. An early penalty, followed by a converted score shortly after, put them ten points clear after fifteen minutes.

Ayr responded well, and after a period of back-and-forth bagged a try of their own. The backs exploited space out wide to make valuable yards before last-minute stand in Caleb Rae – who was pencilled for the bench before injury to Ben Paterson – muscled his way over. Ritchie Simpson’s conversion made it a three-point game.

Both sides seemed to grow into the game as the half unfolded, but it was the hosts who showed greater discipline. Watsonians mustered their next score from relative obscurity. All winger Jamie Stove needed was a metre head start on his defender to show off his wheels and sprint clear out wide. The touchline conversion concluded the scoring before the interval.

Half-time: Watsonians 17-7 Ayr Rugby.

 

Despite a discrepancy on the scoreboard, it remained anyone’s game, but Stuart Fenwick’s men knew they needed to start the half with intent. Debutant on the day Moe Zimmerman created an opportunity to do just that when he shot out of the line minutes into the first half to intercept the ball. He galloped valiantly and managed to unleash a speculative offload when brought down. The ball didn’t find the intended target of Danny McCluskey, but the quick-thinking centre managed to hack on and win the foot race for the ball over the line. Richie Simpson added the extras to make it a 17-14 game.

From then on it became a shoot-out. Watsonians would score to make it a ten-point game, then Ayr would retaliate in similar fashion to make it three. Watsonians made it 24-14 first, with Fraser Cousin taking full advantage of Ayr sleeping on a quick tap. True to script, Scott Clelland wrestled his way over to return the favour.

Unfortunately for Ayr the definitive score would be Watsonians next. With the result hanging in the balance at 24-21, Watsonians utilised their next turn to score by leaving mere minutes on the clock for Ayr to answer back.

Despite the result most likely away from them, Ayr still had a try bonus and losing bonus on the table, but they were found wanting on their final attack.

Full-time: Watsonians 31-21 Ayr Rugby.


Ayr find victory over Dundee at Millbrae

Callum Kerr @ Millbrae

A win at Millbrae, a Pete McCallum try and Stuart Fenwick almost cracking a smile – Just like old times, eh? This afternoon Ayr triumphed 20-15 in a close tussle with visitors Dundee in front of a delighted home crowd.  

A lot has been said about the youthful nature of this side, but today it was cool heads and composure under pressure which sealed victory for Ayr  – the sign of a maturing squad

Dundee opened the scoring from relative obscurity after eleven minutes. From their first crack in Ayr’s 22, a crafty line-out play released their number eight up the blindside to touchdown unchallenged. The conversion slid off to the left of the posts.

Ayr retaliated in ideal fashion. A line-out drive on Dundee’s five didn’t bring any spoils, but a yellow card to their front row and scrum allowed them to muster another attack. It was here club stalwart Peter McCallum – on his return to Millbrae after a three-year hiatus – powered over from the back of a ruck to mark the occasion with a score!

A Jamie Bova conversion was soon followed by another three from the tee to conclude scoring for the first interval.

Half-Time: Ayr Rugby 10-5 Dundee Rugby

The second half started with another score for the hosts.  Deep in the Dundee 22 Zac Howard caught the ball in midfield and spotted his parallel winger, Jamie Bova, open on the touch line. Howard skimmed a flat pass over several players to find Bova in full flight to stride over.

The score didn’t faze Dundee, who began to flex some muscle and gain an advantage at scrum time. After a long period of pressure hooker Tom Hall wormed his way over. A subsequent conversion made it a three-point ball game.

Ayr managed to find a cushion shortly after. Well-worked hands found Fraser Thomson out wide to score his first senior try seconds after entering from the bench. The conversion didn’t connect making the lead eight with ten minutes left to burn.

Dundee fought tooth and nail till the bitter end, but the reward of a penalty kick in the last play of the match wasn’t enough to change their fate. The strike split the uprights to narrow the gap but also ignited the final whistle.

Full-Time: Ayr Rugby 20-15 Dundee Rugby.

The watching press rather poetically named Peter McCallum man of the match after a familiar eighty-minute performance for the former club and Bulls captain.


Ayr Bounce Back against Boroughmuir

Callum Kerr @ Meggetland

 

This afternoon Ayr 1st XV fended off Boroughmuir in what turned out to be a thrilling encounter. Trailing at the half, Stuart Fenwick’s men tallied up an impressive 29 points after the interval to seal a 29-39 victory on the road.

A joyous Stuart Fenwick expressed delight – and slight relief – at final whistle: “They (Boroughmuir) didn’t go away and they kept playing rugby… We didn’t expect them to keep coming back the way they did. The pleasing thing for me was that with ten minutes to go we re-composed ourselves and took control.

 

“If we let the game continue to open up and expand the way they wanted to play that could have been a very different ending.

 

“We did what we spoke about through the week in terms of what our jobs were in certain areas of the park and that’s what got the result at the end of the day”.

 

Boroughmuir led 17-10 after the first forty, with Ayr’s tries coming from John Fulton and Jamie Bova.

 

Ayr kick-stated the second half by going on a 24-point tear to flip the fixture on its head. It was interim skipper Michael Kirk who started the run with a close-range score. The next was courtesy of impact substitute Ben Paterson. The prop – returning to Meggetland for the first time since leaving on a stretcher two and a half years ago – won two scrum penalties within five minutes of being on the pitch, before marking his tenth minute of action barrelling over for a try.

 

A Jamie Bova penalty followed by a try on debut for Jack Burns made it 17-34 to Ayr after an hour played.

 

The hosts had no intention of shutting up shop. Two well worked tries within minutes of each other propelled them into the contest and set up a five-point gap between the sides with ten minutes left to play.

 

The hosts put themselves in touching distance of the line on numerous occasions but couldn’t break through.

 

With the clock deep into the red, Boroughmuir won a scrum and a last chance to roll the dice. A thunderous drive from Ayr muscled them backwards, resulting in the ball scuttling out and into the opportunistic hands of Ross McCorkindale. He slipped through a hopeful tackle to dive clear and conclude an epic encounter.

 

Stuart Fenwick refused to pinpoint one man for Player of the Match honours, instead praising the collective effort of the squad: “Yeah we had a lot of great individual performers, but I’m genuinely delighted with every man across the park today”!


"Intensity Shouldn't Come at a Cost" Insists Fenwick

Callum Kerr @ Millbrae

 

This afternoon Ayr 1st put in a valiant shift against Heriots Blues at Millbrae but inevitably came up short against the league leaders due to a last-minute score.

 

It looked like it was Ayr’s game when Richie Simpson dotted down to make it 20-10 on the 70th minute, but Ayr shipped twelve points in the final ten minutes to fall 20-22.  

(Image – Ritchie Simpson’s late score, George McMillan)

 

“Intensity shouldn’t come at a cost” were the sharp words of head coach Stuart Fenwick at final whistle: “We talked all week about intensity and confrontation and today we done all of that, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of ill-discipline and silly penalties.

 

“You can’t fault the effort and energy of the side today, and the game was there for the taking – but we were our own worst enemy. Yes, I am happy that our performance put us in a position to win but that’s another loss that was preventable”.

 

Ayr started the match in fine fettle, with Harry Lynch cruising clear when a fine offload from Ritchie Simpson caught him in open prairie.

 

Such was the story for much of the afternoon, Ayr followed their score with an error-strewn exit and Heriots opened their try-scoring account moments later.

 

A second score for Ayr, this time through Robbie McLaren extended the hosts lead to 12-5, but once more a lack of discipline hindered any momentum. Despite the lead a succession of yellow cards – first to Ross McCorkindale and second to Scott Clelland – meant the best Ayr could do was hold out the visitors until the interval.

 

Half-time: Ayr Rugby 12-5 Heriots Blues

 

Heriots managed to close the gap early in the second half, with winger Craig Robertson darting over for his second score. They enjoyed the lion’s share of territory from then on but couldn’t quite break down a strong Ayr defence.

 

Opportunity eventually knocked for the hosts and Jamie Bova made full use of a penalty just inside Heriot’s half. A trademark punt from the tee gave his side some well-needed breathing room and kept the scoreboard ticking as we entered the end game.

 

Suddenly Ayr looked revitalised. A trio of line breaks within minutes of each other sprung the Millbrae faithful into life. It was capped off by a heroic break down the flank by Simpson, who dove clear to what many thought would be the deciding blow.

 

Alas the penalty count continued to grow, and as a result Heriots were given crucial territory in the dying embers of the match. Two late scores and one, nerve-tingling conversion deep into injury time, meant they left victors.

Full-time: Ayr Rugby 20-22 Heriots Blues

In an albeit disappointing afternoon, Ayr showed spectators watching on their league credentials, which on another day would have resulted in a win over the table toppers. A handful of individual performances stuck out, but it was Richie Simpson who secured Man of the Match honours. The fly-half produced moments of magic when called upon and conducted his backs throughout the eighty with assured confidence.


Peter Horne to Step into Bulls Head Coaching Role

Ayr Rugby is delighted to confirm that Scotland International and current Ayrshire Bulls assistant coach Peter Horne will be stepping into the head coaching role in the new year.

 

The 32-year-old is set to retire from playing with Scottish pro-side the Glasgow Warriors to move into the position on a full-time basis, effective from January 1st.

(Image – Pat MacArthur (L) and Horne (R) lifting the FOSROC Super6 Trophy in October)

 

Horne replaces former Warriors teammate and friend Pat McArthur, who led the Bulls to lift the inaugural FOSROC Super6 trophy earlier this year. Horne was successful in applying for head coach in March 2021. To allow him to finish his playing career, MacArthur took on the role with the understanding that Horne would take over in January 2022. Despite stepping back from the role MacArthur will remain involved with his boyhood club going forward.

Peter Horne is a well-known face among Scottish Rugby. Since making his Warriors debut in 2009 he has enjoyed a 12-year career at the top level, amassing 45 Scotland caps in the process. He joined the Ayrshire Bulls coaching set-up last year and was heavily involved in the recent Super6 success.

Speaking of the appointment, Ayr Rugby President Stewart Kerr said the following: ““We are delighted to see Peter move into the head coaching role with the bulls after impressing over the past year under Pat MacArthur.

“He brings a wealth of playing and coaching experience with him and we are positive for what the future has in store. Be it Ayr or the Bulls we have built a reputation on success, and I have no doubt that more will follow in the coming seasons.

“It would be remiss of me not to pass on my overwhelming thanks to Pat in all that he has done for Ayrshire rugby. In his season in charge, he’s put the Bulls ahead of the chasing pack, setting the benchmark for others to strive for”.

Horne becomes the third person to take the reins of the Ayrshire Bulls, with maiden coach Peter Murchie now in the support staff at the Glasgow Warriors, highlighting that bridging the gap between club and professional rugby isn’t reserved solely for players.