WHILE he wasn't exactly griping or groaning, Heriot's coach Phil Smith had a valid point when he observed after his side's defeat at Millbrae that the hosts featured no fewer than five pro players in their match squad, compared to his team's tally of precisely zero. Tries by released Warriors pair Greg Peterson - the USA World Cup star - and Fijian Junior Bulumakau paved the way for Ayr to stretch their lead in the race to secure a home-turf play-off semi final. However, Smith - with justification - believes his outfit competed solidly in the circumstances. "I thought it was a pretty fair contest throughout," he declared. "We didn't start too well (Peterson ploughing over in the opening minute) but we managed to gain a foothold in the contest during the first half and closed out the first 40 in a good place. "After the restart, a couple of decisions didn't go our way, which meant we were chasing and ended up coming up just a little short. "All in all, it was a good honest game though and we did compete well when you consider the pro-player involvement." Are Ayr now in the driving seat to wrest the crown from Heriot's? "Yes, I would say they should be considered that," added Smith. "But if we get to to play offs, we will be looking forward to the better weather and underfoot conditions as well. That would make it interesting." In truth, Smith understated the Heriot's contribution to the contest, with Ayr requiring to show considerable defensive mettle to keep their noses in front when it mattered most. Though boosted by Peterson's instant impression, his score being converted by Frazier Climo, the stubbornness of Heriot's combined with the seasiders' slap-dashery prevented them making further inroads before the halfway stage. With Graham Wilson slotting a penalty in reply, it was all to play for at the restart. The visitors suffered a setback that was to prove crucial when Max Learmonth was yellow carded. And Ayr cashed in through Bulumakau, who pounced on an angled lob from Climo. An outbreak of "handbags" prompted two further sinbinnings - rival full-backs Grant Anderson and John Semple being sent to ref Lloyd Linton's the naughty step. Climo clipped over a penalty to give Ayr breathing space, only to see Russell Nimmo bag a try in reply. Another strike by Climo steadied the home nerves, which reappeared as skipper Ross Curle saw yellow for a high challenge. In terms of possession, territory and effort, Heriot's were not lacking in the closing stages - but to no avail.