BEES hit rock bottom in this British and Irish Cup tie before bouncing back to finish on a high with two well taken tries.
A nightmare 300 mile coach journey up to Scotland wasn’t the best preparation for this pool D match at Millbrae, Alloway, the place where Scotland's national poet Robert Burns was born..
A flat tyre on the M6 that took two hours to repair, countless roadworks, players sick on the bus and finally the driver being out of hours and having to stop put paid to any plans for a gentle ride north.
All this for a team who’s main target is survival in the English Championship, not an exotic trip to far flung parts of the British Isles.
Ayr on the other hand, fancy their chances of progressing into the knock out stages of the competition and were up for the encounter.
However coach Eugene Martin was reluctant to blame the journey for his team’s failure to deal with Ayr’s attack, particularly their first half aerial bombardment.
“Did the trip up affect us, well, yes and no, but that’s why you travel up the day before so that things like that won’t cause too many upsets,” he said, “our main problem was our failure to deal with Ayr’s high ball.”
On the positive side, Bees won the second half 14-12, and Martin said he was delighted with the way key players had stepped up and seized their opportunity.
“The way we played in the last 20 minutes is the way we want to play, moving the ball wide and giving it plenty of air.
“Our problem is that to achieve that we have to wear down the opposition and contain them in the first half and we demonstrably failed to do that here against a team who were very good indeed.”
The Ayr game plan was there for all to see right from the kick off Bees coming off worse in a bout of aerial ping pong that brought a three point penalty for homeside’s outstanding Kiwi centre Frazier Climo after two minutes.
Six minutes later Bees again failed to deal with a high ball which was scooped up by scrum half AJ McFarlane who fed prop Gordon Reid out on the wing who scored with a flamboyant dive. Climo converted from wide out to make it 10 nil.
With Bees still not up to speed the Scottish premiership outfit went further ahead when flanker Paul Burke, lurking in the centre, burst through two tackles to score after 14 minutes, Climmo again adding the extras.
Bees, now 17-0 down, made a mess of the re-start too and Ayr took the opportunity to pile on more points, Climo adding a penalty and then another one on 29 minutes to make it 23-0.
With the game now virtually out of sight, Bees at last found their legs and a fine drive down the left was ruined by interference by hooker Pat McArthur – on loan from Glasgow Warriors – who was yellow carded on 32 minutes for his troubles.
Bees travelling band of 12 supporters may have thought this was their opportunity, but instead it was Ayr who went further ahead, Climmo again doing the damage before feeding Burke who scored. Climo adding the conversion on 39 minutes.
Ayr ended the first half with a flourish, a Bees attack broke down, the loose ball was scooped up by fly half Jamie Hunter who fed McFarlane who scored in the corner. Climo again converted. Half time must have brought stern words from Martin as Bees started with fresh purpose, as he also rang the changes, bringing on fresh legs in the shape of David Orme and Dale Garner for prop Leo Halavatua and hooker Ben Phillips.
Rod Petty also came on to bolster the back line. However Ayr weren’t done, Climo scoring a try of his own on 49 minutes and converting a try by replacement Rory McKie on 56 minutes.
From then on though it was all Bees, scrum half Sam Brown started to cause problems in the home defence and from one his breaks fly half Tom Foden scored on 60 minutes, Petty adding the extras.
Two minutes later Bees crossed again, full back Anthony Elliot claiming the score and Petty the conversion. However it was all too late, too late.
“Obviously the scoreline was not brilliant,” said Martin, “but we are at last getting some shape and getting nearer the 22 who will begin the start regularly and who will carry us through to the key play off period of the Championship.”