Weekend Result: Ayr - Nil Forces of Nature - Bonus Point
By Ron Evans
They tried. Oh my goodness how they tried
Ayr's British and Irish Cup tie against Llandovery fell foul of the weather but only after colossal efforts by the volunteers at Millbrae had moved, if not heaven and earth, then at least vast amount of snow off the pitch.
The new frost covers had been laid, taken up to let the pitch thaw then relaid by a squad of frozen volunteers at 5am on Thursday - Yes, that is five o'clock in the morning when most of us were snugly tucked up with still a few hours to go before the alarm went off!
Llandovery played their part having endured a long wait at Cardiff airport where I spoke to them on Friday evening as they waited for a delayed flight from Paris to transport them on to Glasgow and they were upbeat at the prospect of a game even if the flight wasn't due to leave until 11pm.
Eventually they arrived at their hotel in Ayr at 1.45am on Saturday morning by which time an unseemly amount of snow had been dumped on the town.
So by Saturday morning, hope was fading but the game was finally called off by the two captains and referee David Walker, drafted in since the RFU official appointed to the game was unable to get to Millbrae
There was little more Ayr could have done in either the financial or practical sense yet there were those who suggested that the club had indulged in an unhealthy dose of wishful thinking and that it should have been apparent that there was no chance of saving the game and that should have been communicated to Llandovery particularly since their departure was delayed into the spell when the weather really took a turn for the worse.
The response to that from Ayr Director of Rugby Jock Craig was both emphatic and indignant.
"The club did everything possible to get the game on and we came up against two real problems. Firstly of course we had to contend with the weather conditions at Millbrae and they were as extreme as you are going to get at this time of year. In order to combat that the club invested in the frost covers and they seemed to be doing the job.
"The frost had eased out of the ground over Wednesday night into Thursday morning and that was when we had the squad out at 5am to relay the covers. During the day on Thursday it seems that wind did get below the covers and did some damage but at around 2.30pm on Friday the pitch was playable."
"It was at that point that we were informed by the SRU that the 4G pitch at Murrayfield which was also on offer to Currie for their B & I Cup match against Worcester was unplayable so our back up facility was suddenly unavailable. Nevertheless we were of the opinion that Millbrae would be playable and since it was only as late as 1.15pm in Saturday that the final decision was taken, I think our optimism about getting the game on can be justified."
"There is one thing I would make very clear" he continued "and that is that in no way were Llandovery brought to Millbrae under false pretences. We acted throughout in good faith and are as unhappy as they are that the game was called off."
So where do we go from here? I spoke to the RFU's Dave Barton who advised that it was now up to the clubs to re-arrange a suitable date for the fixture to be played on or before February 23, in order that the competition can proceed. If the clubs cannot come to an agreement on the date, then it will go before the British and Irish Cup organising committee who will assess the situation and make a decision accordingly.
Ayr assistant coach Peter Laverie touched on this when he said "Yes, Llandovery were disappointed but they knew the amount of work we had put in and they shared our frustration that the game could not go ahead. At one point it was mentioned that the game might be played on the weekend of the Welsh international which is on Saturday, February 12."
If that were to be the case, it would fall into the time scale envisioned by B & I Cup committee and although Ayr have a cup tie scheduled against Dunfermline that day at McKane Park, that could be more readily changed to accommodate the cross border competition.
Probably the most frustrating thing of all for your correspondent is that I was hors de combat from Wednesday onwards and therefore had to rely on text, e-mail and telephone contact t keep me up to date. Although communication at times left a bit to be desired, from conversations I had with those at Millbrae before, during and after the whole shennanigens I have to say that I believe the club did act in good faith throughout and at no time did they think that the game would not go ahead until Millbrae adopted its Siberian aspect on Saturday morning.
Only one game in the British and Irish Cup went ahead when Cornish Pirates beat Leinster 43-12 in Penzance-what is so special about that corner of the UK that they have been able to play in the past two weeks when the rest of the country has been frozen off? I think I will apply for a research grant!
Anyway, enough of moaning about frozen pitches and frustrated players, now is the time to wish a very happy Christmas to all of those who endure these scribblings every week.