Ayr 20 - 19 Llandovery: Late Ayr raid pays off

AYR recovered from a dire opening 45 minutes to keep their dream of being the first Scottish side to reach the quarter-finals of the British & Irish Cup alive. They will achieve their goal if they can beat Doncaster Knights at Millbrae, on 26 February.

But, for long periods of this game, it seemed Ayr's own errors would throttle their ambition as they repeatedly handed their Welsh visitors easy points.

Ayr, though, began well. From the kick-off they went through nine phases before offside at a ruck enabled Ross Curle to kick them ahead from the penalty.

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But, at the re-start, the home side were penalised for "crossing" and Llandovery's Howard Thomas levelled. The visitors then went in front after eight minutes, young referee Matt Carley, one of the English officials being fast-tracked by the RFU, getting it wrong when he penalised Gordon Reid in a scrum - Thomas kicked the penalty.

To be fair to the official from Kent, overall he had a good match.

Llandovery's excellent start continued in 17 minutes when scrum half Rhodri Williams scampered home for an unconverted try.

Lock Giles Vaughan was sin-binned for "clothes-lining" Ayr scrum half AJ MacFarlane in 26 minutes but all Ayr could conjure up from their ten minutes of 15 against 14 was a Steven Manning try in the corner. Curle's attempted conversion came back off the near post. The visitors' three-point interval advantage was doubled after five second half minutes after Ayr hooker Stewart Fenwick was yellow-carded at a ruck. Half-time replacement Paul Burke was drafted in as stand-in line-out thrower, the ball was snaffled by the Welsh and Thomas clinically kicked a drop goal.

Dean Stewart had no better luck at the next line-out and depleted Ayr were hanging on by the skin of their teeth when, in 50 minutes, Llandovery surged 11 points clear as a great running line by centre Nathan Bowen sent winger Jake Randell over for an unconverted try.

Fenwick returned, only to be quickly replaced by Stephen Adair. Scott Sutherland, freshly home from a lengthy Australian walkabout, replaced the elder Stewart, then Scott Nimmo came on for skipper Damien Kelly and the replacements gave Ayr new forward impetus.

On the hour Adair, in his first scrum action, nicked a Llandovery scrum feed against the head and Andy Dunlop surged over for a try. Curle converted and it was a four-point game.

While Ayr's changes regenerated the side, Llandovery's detracted from a previously sterling forward effort and the last quarter was all Ayr.But, credit to the Welsh defence, they held out under intense pressure until the closing ten minutes, when Dunlop touched down a good old-fashioned push-over try to give Ayr a narrow win.

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The match ended with the Welshmen pushing Ayr back into defence, but the pink and black line held and, if they can beat the Knights in their final sectional match, glory awaits.

Scorers: Ayr: Tries: Manning, Dunlop 2. Con: Curle. Pen: Curle. Llandovery: Tries: R Williams, Randell. Pens: Thomas 2. DG: Thomas.

Ayr: Anderson; Manning, Curle, M Stewart, Taylor; Fergusson, MacFarlane; Reid, Fenwick, A Kelly, D Stewart, D Kelly, Dunlop, Colhoun, Tippett. Subs used: Adair, Sykes, Sutherland, Nimmo, Burke.

Llandovery: Sauro; Randell, Bowen, Grundy, Rogers; Thomas, Rhodri Williams; D Williams, Yelland, Howells, de Marigny, Vaughan, Day, Aiono, Fitzgerald. Subs used: Evans, Allen, Kajaks, Ryan Williams, Jones, Murphy.

Referee: M Carley (RFU).