Irvine laboured into the first round proper of the BT West Regional Shield under challenging conditions at Whiteshawgate.
Prop Logan Ferguson’s brace of tries laid the foundations before Ben Auld and substitute Craig Lang pulled the visitors decisively clear in the final quarter with scores of their own. Neil McMillan, starting the new season at full back, converted all four.
Hosts Strathaven had squared it up through hooker Danny McQueen on the stroke of half time, fly-half Valderon Hawkins converting, shortly after the sin-binning of David Kirkwood for Irvine – but although they had the bettter possession and territory in the first half with the strong wind at their backs, and threatened sporadically in the second, that was the only time they worked the scorers.
Irvine now travel to Violetbank to play fellow BT West 1 contenders Annan for a place in the quarter-finals.
Laudably both sides set out to throw the ball around despite the conditions – with Irvine, playing into the wind, largely reliant on breakouts led with aplomb by new captain Ryan Elliston – and the only surprise in a first half that was at times open and at others stop-start was that it took 29 minutes for the deadlock to be broken, Ferguson crashing over under the posts to crown an incisive counter-attack.
The home side turned up the heat after this, and their pressure paid off with Kirkwood’s sin-binning and McQueen’s try – but there was still time for some drama as winger John Carson looked set to score only to appear to have the ball slapped out of his hand. Referee Graeme Fisher ruled a knock-on and blew up for half time.
If Irvine were aggrieved at this decision, they did not waste time dwelling on the matter and the second half was barely two minutes old when Ferguson was in for his second try.
The weather deteriorated as time wore on with the inevitable effect on the standard of play, but the visitors were playing the better of what rugby broke out and Auld put clear daylight between the sides for the first time when he crossed on the right on 63 minutes.
Strathaven stuck to their task but rarely looked like finding the scores they needed to get back in the game, and there was a sense of inevitability when Lang darted over from a similar position to put the result beyond doubt.
IRVINE – 15 Neil McMillan; 14 John Carson, 13 Jake Cresswell, 12 Ryan Elliston (capt), 11 Scott Cook; 10 Per Jacobson, 9 Paul Johnstone; 1 David Kirkwood, 2 Ross Campbell, 3 Logan Ferguson, 4 John Alan, 5 Craig Stevenson, 6 Andrew Lang, 7 Craig Maxwell, 8 Ruchin Filander. Subs: 16 Ben Auld, 17 Alan Nugent, 18 Robbie McVey, 19 Craig Lang.
REFEREE – Graeme Fisher
STRATHAVEN – Try: Danny McQueen. Con: Valderon Hawkins.
IRVINE – Tries: Logan Ferguson (2), Ben Auld, Craig Lang. Cons: Neil McMillan (4).