Ayr Ladies managed to salvage their place in Scottish Rugby’s topflight on Sunday with an emphatic 12-41 victory over Heriots Blues. It has been a slog of a season for the Ladies, who finished bottom of the Premiership, but a win over the National 1 Champions came in their finest hour to show they are still alive and kicking.

(Photo: Academy duo Cieron Bell and Hazel McMillan playing alongside their Academy coach, Girls Development Officer Connie Griffiths. SRU//SNS) Potentially the most pleasing thing for Andy Duncan's women would have been the influence of new faces, with a barrage of academy graduates seamlessly integrating to senior rugby. The trio of Hazel McMillan, Cieron Bell and Holly McIntyre all started on Sunday, with the later making her debut and marking it with a score and Man of the Match performance. Bell chipped in with a scintillating brace and McMillan provided carrying go-forward for the full eighty. All just 17 years old, head coach Andy Duncan believes it is a sign of things to come: "They were standout, especially in key positions. You had Holly on her debut controlling the game really well, Cieron getting two from fullback and Hazel, who is just an absolute workhorse".

It was a slow start for the ladies, conceding a soft score twenty minutes in to trail. Potentially a blessing in disguise, it provided the much needed wake-up call to kick on and not look back. They opened their account through Connie Griffiths, who will take much of the credit for the Academy trio's performance, having coached them over the past few years. The centre capitalised on front-foot ball to pierce through the line and over unscathed. Skipper Catherine Shennan was next, diving clear on the stroke of half-time to take a lead into the interval. Half-time: Ayr Ladies 10-5 Heriots Blues. With second halves often their undoing this season, a strong travelling support at the Oriam were anxious with play back underway, but this was Ayr's day to come of age. Gemma McIvor was up next, finishing strong through contact to extend the lead.Cieron Bell, who has built up a menacing strike-rate in a Scotland Jersey at U18s, showcased her threat with a 60-metre run in. The full-back pranced through the line and won the footrace against her opposite number to score under the posts. Shennan duly converted. Bell wasn't done yet, and dotted down eight minutes later for her brace. McIntyre punctured the line from the back of a ruck before freeing up Bell with a crafty offload to finish. Shennan made it 5-29 from the tee. McIntyre turned from creator to scorer, tearing through the middle of the field with ten left to play and darting clear. It was merely poetic justice when Shennan concluded the charge. It has been a rough season for the captain, but her commitment to the cause hasn't wavered. When McIvor was brought down just short of the line it seemed only fair it was her supporting on the shoulder to sign off the season on a high. To their credit, Heriots mustered up one last attack to conclude what has been a fantastic league campaign for them. After multiple infringements close to the line the AR signalled for a penalty try. FULL-TIME: Ayr Ladies 41-12 Heriots Blues Ladies.