Peter Laverie, the Ayr assistant coach, last night expressed relief at watching his side secure a win over Heriot's which has afforded them further momentum in the chase for the Premiership title.

It was a match which took time to warm up and even when it did Ayr toiled towards their 22-16 win.

Meetings between the two teams have been stuffy affairs and Ayr can take some succour from having come out on top despite not being at their best. Laverie highlighted weaknesses in the tackling and urgency of his side as causing him most concern, while the yellow card shown to Nick Campbell following a moment of impertinence did not help.

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"We somehow got the win but it was an ugly one," said Laverie. "It was a tough, tough game against tough opponents. In fact our matches against them have been our hardest of the campaign.

"We were too slow at times in the first half against a quick and impressive team and our first-up tackling was very poor by our standards. The second half was better as we picked up the pace and worked much harder for each other and simple rugby brought two tries from Jon Welsh.

"Then a moment of madness resulted in a yellow card for Nick Campbell and we had to dig very deep with 14 men for the last 10 minutes. Our defensive resolve saved us."

Ayr's other try came from Ross Curle, while Finn Russell scored three kicks. It is a result which will feel even more significant since Gala remain hot on their heels after their tense 17-6 win against Currie.

However, George Graham, the Gala coach, was left irked that uncontested scrums hindered his side's pursuit of a bonus point. "That did for us," he said.

A score by Grant Somerville along with a penalty try had put them in control, but it took a late penalty from Lee Millar took them out of reach of Currie.