by STUART RUTHERFORD
1. Anderson’s misjudgement allows Melrose to strike first
Both sides cautiously tested the water in the opening 15 minutes, before the hosts eventually drew first blood following a gaffe from Ayr’s fullback – Grant Anderson. With Melrose in possession on the half-way line, the ball was played to Baggott, who hit a wondrous cross-field kick over the head of the visitor’s marooned full-back and into touch inside Ayr’s five metre-line. Anderson – to the surprise of his teammates – decided to take a quick line-out to himself and was immediately tackled by the chasing Craig Jackson behind his own line. The ball was dropped and David Armstrong was bundled over the deadball line as he tried to tidy the mess. A handful of phases later, the hosts were gifted the first points of the afternoon with a Jason Baggott penalty.
2. Late tackle allows Ayr to stretch their lead
After Ayr took a deserved lead via two penalties from the crafty Frazier Climo, the visitor’s bench was left infuriated by a late, no-arm tackle from Melrose prop Nick Beavon left the stand-off a crumpled heap on the turf. As the physio attended to the Kiwi, the 200 travelling travelling supporters were left with hearts in their mouths, but their anxiety soon turned to joy as Climo made a miraculous recovery, and successfully converted the resulting penalty. Melrose – who were now six points behind – were fortunate to still have 15 men on the park.
3. Runciman inches away from glory
Ayr further tightened their grip on the contest with Climo’s fourth penalty of the afternoon just after the interval and it was beginning to really look like this might just be the Millbrae outfit’s afternoon, however, their hard work was nearly undone following a careless kick from their, usually reliable, stand-off. With the visitors in possession inside their own twenty-two, the ball was whipped back to Climo, and before the former Taranaki star had a chance to look up the relentless Grant Runciman was on top of him, and the attempted clearance was charged down by the Melrose captain for the day. With the ball ricocheting towards the Ayr try line, and Runciman in hot pursuit, the Melrose faithful were on their feet in anticipation of the afternoon’s first try, but Climo recovered to get back in the nick of time, and the visitors kept their nine point advantage.
4. Melrose score to leave the visitors’ stomach in a Knott
Tremendous breaks from the host’s Sam Pecqueur and Fraser Thomson gave the home crowd a much needed lift, before The Greenyards outfit eventually drag themselves right back into the contest via a well worked try from the impressive Ruaridh Knott. From an attacking line-out deep inside the Ayr 22, the ball was secured by Neil Irvine-Hess before being played short to abrasive replacement wing George Taylor. After the home side worked a number of pick-and-goes, led by Glasgow Warriors prospect Jamie Bhatti, the visitors found themselves a man short out wide and they were duly made to pay. Baggott, Jackson and Fraser Thomson showed slick hands to release Knott on the left, who trampled over Armstrong and powered past a despairing challenge from Lewis Anderson on his way to the whitewash. Although Baggott missed the resulting conversion, and the score read 12-8 in Ayr’s favour, the hosts had well and truly clawed themselves back into the clash.
5. Sutherland steals the show
Following a ten minute period of intense pressure – during which the host’s had Jackson held up over the line and the visitors had Pete McCallum sent to the bin for collapsing a line-out drive – it appeared that Ayr may be in for a another dose of the heartbreak which saw them lose in the dying moments in last year’s final against Heriots. However, with Melrose camped on the visitor’s five metre line and pressing for the go-ahead try, they chose to kick a penalty to the corner (despite of the fact that the lineout had been a problematic issue all afternoon). With the referee signalling that there was only 40 seconds left on the clock, Russell Anderson hastily threw the ball in, but visiting lock Scott Sutherland was alive to the situation and rose majestically to pluck the ball out of the air, and a few seconds later Climo was able to end the match with a swift kick to touch.