A new season, and new Cup competition with a preliminary round, a new Ayr team, being the “Club” XV of a Super 6 club and a new-look Dundee side, all added to a degree of uncertainty in advance of this Mayfield encounter, which began with a strong, rain-bearing wind blowing down the pitch from the pavilion end.
Led by Vice-captain Stuart Barlow, due to the absence of injured Captain Fraser McKay, Dundee kicked off against the elements, were soon penalised and, when Ayr kicked to the corner and began an assault in the home 22, there were fears among the home support. Three penalty offences by Ayr, however, allowed Dundee to clear to the Ayr half and, when a kick by Ayr from their 10 metre line was taken by the wind over the Dundee dead ball line, Dundee were offered further respite.
Although there were early indications that the home scrum was under pressure, they were holding their own in open play and a good break by Lewis McNamara enabled Dundee to retain the initiative until Ayr were penalised about 30 metres out and debutante Paul Kerr slotted the goal to give Dundee the lead: 3-0 after 15 minutes.
Ayr broke through from the re-start, reaching 10 metres from the Dundee line and, when Dundee were penalised, Ayr opted for the scrum and a potential push-over try. Dundee were penalised again and a second scrum selected by Ayr. This time, however, the ball was moved out, but the attack foundered, Dundee stole the ball and cleared. From the resulting line-out, Ayr moved the ball at pace and stand-off Pinkerton darted over for an unconverted try. 20 minutes played and 3-5.
Dundee mounted a series of attacks after the kick-off, but lacked a vital cutting edge against a strong Ayr defence. When Ayr were penalised on their 22, however, Paul Kerr was able to kick a second goal to return the lead to the home side: 6-5 with 30 minutes on the clock.
Ayr were immediately on the attack after the re-start and full-back McCorkindale broke through an attempted tackle to score out wide on the left. The conversion attempt was again unsuccessful, but Ayr were back in front after 32 minutes, 6-10.
When Ayr were penalised after the kick-off, Dundee were presented with another penalty goal opportunity, but 40 metres into the strong wind looked like a tough challenge for Paul Kerr. To the delight of the home support, however, the kick sailed between the uprights and Dundee remained in touch, 9-10 after 35 minutes.
Ayr were again on the attack, but knocked-on in the Dundee 22. Under pressure in the scrum, Dundee were penalised and again Ayr elected for a scrum, but lost possession and Dundee fly-hacked the ball to safety into the Ayr half. Play flowed back and forth with no further scoring opportunities until the whistle blew for half-time.
Half-time: Dundee 9 Ayr 10
In spite of having to play against the strong wind, Dundee were holding their own and the evidence thus far indicated that fears about Super 6 club sides proving dominant may be unfounded. The rain had ceased, the sun had appeared and there was hope that, with the wind at their backs, Dundee could well get the better of the second half. Apart from the scrum area, there appeared little between the sides.
Dundee began on the offensive and a penalty offence by Ayr allowed Dundee to kick to the Ayr 22, but a knock-on by Dundee enabled Ayr to clear. A good break by another Dundee debutante, Finlay Ormiston, ended with lost possession, but Ayr were penalised at the scrum and Paul Kerr was able to land his fourth penalty goal and restore Dundee’s lead, at 12-10 after 6 minutes of the half.
Further Dundee attacks followed, to be ended by a penalty offence. An up and under clearance from Dundee’s defence was missed by Ayr and the ball bounced into the hands of Callum Nicol, also making his first appearance for the Club and he raced 50 metres before being caught just short of the Ayr line.
Ayr survived and were able to return to the attack, where they exploited some leaks in the home defence to mount an offensive which ended with another unconverted try. Now it was Ayr ahead again, 15 -12 after 55 minutes.
Ayr were penalised after the re-start and Paul Kerr lined up a shot at goal out wide on the right and some 8 metres inside the Ayr half. Given his results into the wind, there was hope that the distance would not prove too great with wind assistance, but the kick fell just short.
For the next 10 minutes or so, play flowed to and fro until a great handling move by Dundee, with the ball moving in and out, ended with a fine try by Connor Lane, yet another player wearing a Dundee shirt for the first time. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful, but the lead was again Dundee’s: 17-15 with 64 minutes played.
There was hope now in home hearts, although in spite of wind-assisted clearances by Dundee, Ayr were mounting attacks, eventually reaching 10 metres from the Dundee line. Although the ball was lost, Dundee were penalised, leaving Pinkerton the simple task of goaling the penalty and the lead was back in Ayr’s favour, 17-18, with 5 minutes of regulation time remaining.
Ayr broke through after the resumption and Dundee were under a lot of pressure, eventually relieved by an Ayr knock-on and then a penalty offence, which allowed Dundee to find touch for a last-chance line out opportunity on the Dundee 10 metre line. A sustained effort by Dundee gave hope, only to end with a forward pass which brought the whistle for no-side.
Full-time: Dundee HSFP 17 Ayr 18
From a Dundee perspective, there were many positives from a squad continuing seven debutantes. Although some scrum improvement will be sought, a cohesive team effort and the narrowest of losses against a Super 6 club side gives grounds for optimism that, with more experience of playing together, a strengthening of the scrum and a tightening of defence, Dundee need have little to fear once the league programme begins next week.
Try: Connor Lane
Penalties: (4) Paul Kerr
Dundee Player of the Match: