Boroughmuir captain Chris Laidlaw was left ruing a late loss of focus by his side after the Meggetland men produced a promising performance on the opening day of the BT Premiership campaign, only to go down to a last ditch drop goal.
Muir led title holders Ayr 28-27 entering the final minute of a match that had ebbed and flowed. Ayr appeared to have lost the game when their hosts stole possession just short of their line. But, a clearance kick that failed to find touch allowed Ayr to launch one final assault which ended with Frazier Climo landing a drop goal that snatched the 28-30 victory.
“We had probably done enough up until 79 minutes. We just lost a bit of composure at the end and kicked the ball that stayed in play and that led to the drop goal,” said Laidlaw. “But you’ve got to play for the full 80.”
The stand-off, who formed a lively half-back partnership with Johnny Adams, landed all four conversions after Mark Hare claimed two tries while Adams and Cal Davies had one apiece. That left Muir with the consolation of two bonus points.
For Ayr, Climo touched down twice and he was joined on the scoresheet by Blair MacPherson and Robert Armstrong, with two of those scores converted. Scott Lyle booted a penalty and Climo was on target with the drop goal that left the hosts shattered.
Despite the loss, Laidlaw is confident Muir are better placed to pose a serious challenge this season.
“I think from where we were last year to where we are now, we’ve made massive strides,” he said. “There’s a bit of consistency in our squad although we’ve picked up a few injuries in this game. But there is definitely enough there to take forward.
“But we’ve got to realise that in a league like this where everybody is really competitive, we’ve got to stick it out for the full 80 because everyone is capable of winning on their day. We can’t get into that mindset where we are happy with two losing bonus points. We’ve got to kick on and win games if we want to finish in the top four.”
Among other reasons for Muir to retain a positive outlook for the season ahead was an impressive debut by Johnny Matthews, a Scottish-qualified hooker who had a spell as a professional south of the border and looked lively in open play, particularly in the lead up to the second try. And, with the squad set to be bolstered in the coming weeks by the availability of players who were absent on Saturday, achieving a play-off spot looks to be within the grasp of Peter Wright’s men if they win tight games.
Meanwhile, across the Capital, Heriot’s had to settle for a narrow-defeat bonus point after a second-half resurgence by Stirling County saw the hosts surrender a 22-15 half-time lead to go down 28-25. Charlie Simpson, Craig Robertson and Tom Wilson had a try apiece and Ross Jones added ten points with the boot against his former side, but Stirling profited from an extra man after Stuart Edwards was yellow carded, and established a lead that they managed to retain despite a late flurry by Heriot’s.
Currie Chieftains made an impressive start to the campaign, taking all five league points from a 39-28 win away to Hawick. Charlie Shiel, Stephen Ainslie, Ruaraidh Smith and Harvey Elms all touched down, while there was also a penalty try and Jamie Forbes kicked the other points as the Malleny Park side, who have been slow starters in recent seasons, go the campaign underway in style.
Also in the Borders, the new coaching team at Watsonians had a tough first day in their new roles as they went down 54-22 against Melrose. The Myreside men’s cause was not helped by two yellow cards in quick succession, meaning they played three first-half minutes with only 13 men. Angus Duckett atoned in part for his ten minute spell in the sin bin with two tries, while former Edinburgh professional Mike Allen also touched down and Ewan Fox booted the other points.