Calum Forrester readily admits that the last two weeks have been nerve-racking occasions in his development.

As the new coach at Ayr, one of the most successful Scottish clubs in recent seasons, he knows there is little time for him to find his feet and stamp his imprint in such a febrile environment as Millbrae.

None the less, this redoubtable character has witnessed just about everything in the sport and, as a pivotal member of the Ayr force who won the national title for the first time in 2009, Forrester is clearly relishing the challenge of charting new paths to triumph.

Just a couple of Saturdays into the BT Premiership campaign, his charges have edged past Gala 18-14 and Glasgow Hawks 20-18. They and Stirling County are the only unbeaten teams, and there will be plenty more twists and turns in the months ahead. Yet Ayr have generated a steely band of brothers and have ambition in their DNA.

"It has been tough; if you look at the league so far, there have been so many close matches. It shows the small margins which exist between the sides," said Forrester. "We lost a try against Gala early in our first fixture but, since then, we have been in front and we now have to step it up and chase a few bonus points.

"I think these will be crucial as the winter kicks in. Gala, for instance, have picked up three points, so they have hardly lost any ground. But ever since I was part of the first title-winning side, we have had a core of six or seven experienced guys and they have worked out how to get over the line in really tight games.

"We still have that attitude and that has been the main positive from the start to the season. Last year, we might not have managed to win from the situations we have been in.

"We were beaten three times at Millbrae last time, which just isn't good enough. But we have dug deep, we have defended well and while it has been more stressful than I was expecting, we've eventually got the job done."

It helps that Forrester isn't engaged on a solitary mission. Instead, he has recruited two of his former team-mates, Glenn Tippett and Scott Forrest, and this trio look able to bring the same tenacity and up-and-at-'em belligerence from the touchline which they displayed throughout their glory days.

"We've come through the ranks, with Scott and I having played [together] at age-group level, and we all learned a lot from [Ayr's former coach] Kenny Murray, so that has obviously helped us," said Forrester. "I didn't think I would be coaching as early as this - I'm only 27 - but I had reached knee operation No.5 and realised I could only put my body through so much.

"The task now is to keep moving forward and, although wins are the main thing, we have to look for try bonuses and seek out every single point. Scott is good with the backs and brings his knowledge from the Scotland Sevens set-up and Glenn and I have been part of the Ayr pack for several years. These are early days, but it is going fine so far."

By their own exalted standards, the men from Burns country were not at their coruscating best 12 months ago when they sought to defend their second championship success. One suspects their travails have simply made them doubly determined to regain the initiative in the quest for fresh honours.


GHA have shown signs of a revival in recent seasons, which can only be a positive development for rugby in the west of the country. They demonstrated their ability to meet and beat tough opponents when they travelled to Myreside on Saturday and defeated Watsonians 40-30. It seems a while since Braidholm was in the spotlight, but fortunes might be changing in their favour again.


Stirling County weren't among most people's list of contenders for the Premiership title. Yet, 20 years after they powered to their first and only national title, the Bridgehaugh brigade have made a terrific start to the new campaign with an away win over Boroughmuir and, most impressively, success against reigning title-holders Melrose. These are early days, but the County set are on the march.