Gala marooned after third straight loss

Opeta Palepoi's forward movement is restricted by Ayr prop George Hunter
Opeta Palepoi's forward movement is restricted by Ayr prop George Hunter

Gala 14

Ayr 32

The mini break in Scottish Rugby’s BT Premiership championship may prove to be vital time for Gala to regroup in the wake of a third successive reverse after defeat to the new leaders Ayr at Netherdale.

“It’s not very often that Gala lose three games in a row – it’s been a good few years since that’s happened,” said Gala coach, George Graham. “It’s hitting the players psychologically, but we just need to get over it.

“We’ve got a wee break now and we’ll come back and redress the situation. It’s still the early part of the season and as everyone knows it’s about the fourth position.”

Gala competed well against Ayr in the first half, but were decidedly second best after the break as the Maroons’ mistakes rose to stratospheric levels.

“The error count today was ridiculously high,” suggested Graham. “We just didn’t seem to keep a hold of the ball, so we couldn’t build any phases.

“We’re going through a slump. We can’t fault the boys for their effort. Unfortunately, today, the ball never stuck for us and it did for them.

“Ayr at the best of times are a dangerous side. We paid the price for errors.”

Yet Ayr had to work hard to break down a gritty Gala side that led 7-3 early in the match and in which number 8 Euan Dods showed up well. But in the second half, the Millbrae club, with Ross Curle playing majestically after moving from centre to the pivotal role following an injury to the promising Danny McCluskey, were dominant.

Crucially for Ayr, Curle judged the game exactly, using the pace of the Gossman brothers and Robbie Fergusson when the opportunities arose and kicking shrewdly from hand. And off the tee, Curle finished with five successes from six attempts to wrap up a good performance.

Ayr were hugely helped by Scotland and Glasgow prop John Welsh, whose strength and technique at tighthead, complemented by the power of fellow pro George Hunter on the other side of the front row, exerted a huge influence in the scrums.

Gala, too, had professional experience in the former Jed players Lewis and Gregor Young, and Edinburgh scrum half Grayson Hart. In the event, Lewis Young scored a gem of a try for Gala, Gregor Young made the only clean break of the match for the Maroons and Hart set up a try for Euan Dods.

But the contribution by Welsh added up to a lot more, the Scotland prop being instrumental in securing a scrum penalty early in the game and in a try scored by no. 8 Blair McPherson off a five-metre scrum.

That score was followed by two tries by Craig Gossman, the bonus point coming from a late touchdown by lock Rob McAlpine to send Ayr into rarified atmosphere at the summit of the championship table.

Gala will have a Border League game against Kelso before resuming their Premiership struggle away to Currie, a match the Maroons will need if they are to rebuild confidence and return to winning ways.