Maroons find it tough at the top, but losing bonus point keeps them in the hunt

Ayr v Gala. Ewan McQuillin goes on the rampage.
Ayr v Gala. Ewan McQuillin goes on the rampage.

Ayr 19

Gala 14

RBS PREMIERSHIP

ATHOLL INNES reports from Millbrae

THERE was major disappointment in the Gala dressing room on Saturday as the players contemplated what might have been after an intriguing game which swung like the proverbial pendulum until referee Neil Paterson’s final whistle.

Perhaps it was a little premature with a few seconds left on the clock and no time added on for injuries or substitutions.

The Maroons had to be content with a losing bonus point after a try two minutes from the end, and the score was no less than what the sterling performance deserved on a heavy pitch.

Yet it was a disappointed backs coach, Scott Nichol, who rued an afternoon of missed chances, despite having a high percentage of possession and territory.

“It was a brave performance and we went close,” he said.

“The late try was crucial and it was a game that we could have won.

“But we have to be thankful for that point – we are only one point behind Ayr with six matches to play and we will just battle on.”

If the championship goes down to the wire, the final game is at home against Melrose.

Coach George Graham added: “It was a massive game for both of us and we have important matches to come. We have a lot of rugby to play yet and a succession of home games that will keep us ticking over in a vital part of the season.”

Gala were equally disappointed that they had gone so close and the result probably went down to the defences.

If the Maroons were superb, hosts Ayr were simply magnificent, and the manner in which they kept the visitors out in the final minutes was beyond belief.

Euan Dods’ late touchdown, converted by Lee Millar, came too late; yet Gala maintained the momentum as they sought a score in the final two minutes, while Ayr players applauded the home support, who were as vociferous as Gala will encounter anywhere this season.

They set up a barrage of attacks on the Ayr line, which seemed almost impregnable, and the crowd held its breath as the rearguard stood firm.

Gala got off to a great start with a Dods try after 16 minutes, Millar converting.

The fact that Ayr were level with Craig Gossman’s try and Finn Russell’s conversion shocked the Maroons, and they fell behind to a Peter Jerecevich score to trail 7-12 at the interval.

It was a cold day, but the action on the pitch was hot and furious, and despite ball monopoly, the Netherdale outfit fell further adrift to Scott Sutherland’s score and Russell’s conversion.

There was still time for Dods and Millar to cut the deficit before the referee’s final whistle saw the Maroons beaten by Ayr for a second time.

But, as president George Marshall admitted: “There is a bit to go and we need to try and get five points in every game.”

Gala: A. McLean; G. Somerville, C. Auld, A. Emond, C. Robertson; L. Millar, George Graham; L. Pettie, C. Mackintosh, E. McQuillin, C. Weir, O. Palepoi, C. Keddie, Gary Graham, E. Dods. Replacements: M. Christie, C. Borthwick, S. Cairns, B. Turner, G. Young.