Boroughmuir coach Fergus Pringle is demanding an improvement from his men when they travel to face Aberdeen Grammar on Saturday after opening the RBS Premiership campaign with a home defeat.
The most open title race in many seasons started badly for the Meggetland men as they went down 38-22 against a well-drilled Ayr side that has been energised by the acquisition of several pacey backs. And, while Pringle’s men displayed plenty of spirit, and offered many reasons for optimism among the home side’s supporters, the coach was left ruing the result.
“We just made too many individual mistakes in defence and turning over ball, and they capitalised well. You make three or four mistakes and that can be 20 points – and that’s what happened,” he said.
“We were hoping to win. We will see how the guys respond next week. It’s not a good start to the season. It’s going to be a good test of character for the guys. But there’s some stuff there that I know we will be able to fix pretty quickly. It’s important we turn this round.”
The competitive nature of the chase for the silverware and likelihood that contenders will take points from each other means that a single defeat is far from ruinous to aspirations of being in the mix as the season unfolds. And there were many aspects of Saturday’s performance that suggested ’Muir have reasons for optimism, particularly given the imminent return to action of experienced half backs Ally Warnock and Calum Cusiter.
“The positive of the whole game was the scrum. We really dominated them and put them under pressure. There was some good individual stuff. We took their forwards on and did well but we just didn’t get any width in our game,” added Pringle.
The Capital outfit started brightly and a well struck penalty by Graeme Blackhall eased ’Muir into an early lead. The visitors’ recruitment activity over the close season has injected substantial pace behind the scrum and their coach Kenny Murray has created a side that, on Saturday’s evidence, is a contender for honours.
They struck back with a try by Scott Sutherland before Craig Gossman displayed his finishing power when he sprinted over from half way to double the tally and, had stand off Finn Russell found his range with the boot, the hosts could have been in trouble.
However, as Pringle noted, there have been few changes to the personnel at his disposal, and there is now a greater maturity in the squad. That was evident as they calmly emerged from a spell on defensive chores and gained a foothold in the Ayr half. From there, they applied pressure to a creaking defence that eventually cracked, allowing Sean Crombie – a prolific scorer last season – to resume where he left off during the previous campaign, displaying his innate ability to squeeze through the tiniest of gaps for a try which Blackhall converted to restore parity.
But, having offered a glimpse of their positive side, the hosts then displayed their frailties as they attempted to run the ball from defence and conceded a penalty at the breakdown then failed to defend it effectively and allowed Nick Cox to crash over for a try which, with the addition of the conversion by Peter Jerecevich, sent the visitors into the break with a 17-10 lead.
While the concession of that score in injury time had been frustrating for Pringle, events of the third quarter were a cause for considerably greater concern. Kerr Gossman darted in for the bonus point try, Sutherland stretched over for his second, and Callum Forrester bagged touchdown number six, with Jerecevich slotting all three conversions to move Ayr into a 38-10 lead.
And while Pringle was quick to acknowledge that Ayr may have eased in the closing stages, he took heart from a final flourish that yielded tries by Greig Scott and skipper Andy Rose, the former converted by Keith Buchan and the latter coming after the visitors had Ross Curle red carded for a dangerous tackle on ’Muir’s Sam Johnson.
“The guys stuck in there and didn’t give up. Sometimes when a team has you at that point and they are 20 points ahead, it’s easy for them to turn off, so you have to be realistic about that, but the guys did stick in there and played right to the final whistle,” added Pringle.
Boroughmuir: Tries – Crombie, Scott, Rose. Conversions – Blackhall, Buchan. Penalty – Blackhall.
Ayr: Tries – Sutherland (2), C Gossman, Cox, K Gossman, Forrester. Conversions – Jerecevich (4).
Boroughmuir: K Buchan, R Guedroudj, M Clapperton, M Hare, J Webster, G Blackhall, A Watt, R Wilson, S Crombie, K Coertze, G Scott, A Davidson, J Swanson, I Moody, A Rose. Subs Used: M Brown, J Latta, N Rodger, S Johnson, D Hoyland.
Ayr: G Anderson, C Gossman, R Fergusson, D Kelbrick. K Gossman, F Russell, P Jerecevich, N Cox, S Fenwick, D Rae, A Dunlop, S Sutherland, R Doneghan, G Fisken, C Forrester. Subs Used: G Hunter, S Diaz, R Curle.
Referee: J Van der Merwe.