Melrose 23 Ayr 36
On their first visit to Scottish Hydro Cup Finals Day Ayr kept alive their hopes of a glorious league and cup double with a mightily convincing five tries to two victory over Melrose. Fittingly the triumph was secured by two young home-grown players, wingers Cameron Taylor and Andrew Wilson, with cracking tries in the final ten minutes.
The trophy was bound for Millbrae but credit to rugby in the south-west generally.Melrose certainly had periods of ascendancy but Ayr’s defence was resolute and when they had opportunities they were the more clinical. Given that the game doubled up as part of the race for the Scottish Hydro Premiership – an admirable decision by Melrose to forego home advantage – the result means Ayr are now level on points at the top with Currie who play Selkirk at Philiphaugh later tonight.
Highlights of cup finals day will be shown both on tomorrow’s [Sunday] STV Rugby show at 5.25pm, extended highlights will be shown on www.scottishrugbytv.com from Monday.
Ayr's coach Kenny Murray said: "The boys showed true grit and I'm really proud of them. Up to the last two scores I thought it could have gone either way but we took our chances, pressed on and got the tries."
His Melrose counterpart Craig Chalmers said: "Our performance was just not there today. Full credit to Ayr; they took the chance when it came their way. It was closer than the score suggests but Ayr were far more composed with them at the right times, so full credit to them, they deserved to win."
Melrose enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges. Scott Wight, their captain and stand-off, saw a second minute penalty rebound off the right upright but Melrose managed to regather and in the subsequent phase Ayr were caught offside. Wight made no mistake with the ensuing penalty.
From the restart, however, Wight had a clearance kick charged down by Ayr’s blindside flanker Jonathan Crossan who collected and surged over for the opening try. Frazier Climo converted.
If Wight had been guilty of an error there, he redeemed himself speedily. His crossfield kick, bounced wickedly within the Ayr 22 for the defending Andrew Dunlop. Fraser Thomson, the Melrose full-back pouched and, after what seemed an eternity, off-loaded to Ben Allen, who did very well to cross for the score with two Ayr defenders scragging him. Wight’s touchline conversion was spot on.
Ayr sought to get their abrasive forwards on the charge and Climo’s 27th minute penalty levelled matters at 10-all.
The dangers of premature celebration were writ large in the 33rd minute. Grant Anderson, Ayr’s full-back and Scotland 7s internationalist, chose to raise his arm aloft in jubilation a good 12 metres from the Melrose try-line. Not exactly designed to endear himself to the Melrose defenders who got back to satisfy assistant referee Ronnie Dumma that Anderson had failed to ground the ball. Ayr coach Kenny Murray’s vocabulary at that point would probably have been post-watershed . . .
Fortunately for Anderson an Ayr score was not overly-delayed. Rewarded for eschewing a kick at goal, Ayr’s forwards rumbled and Jamie Hunter’s pop pass was meat and drink to prop Gordon Reid who bull-dozed over the line at a decent lick. Climo converted and Ayr led 17-10.
On half-time, however, and Wight landed his second penalty to narrow the deficit to four points.
Half-time: Melrose 13 Ayr 17
Melrose restarted brightly but could not make anything of a visit to the Ayr 22, opting for the touchline with one penalty rather than a kick at goal after Paul Burke’s footwork had incurred the displeasure of touch-judge Archie McInally.
Ayr, on the other hand, capitalised on their visit to Melrose territory. From percussive pick and go, substitute scrum-half Alasdhair Macfarlane fed Scott Sutherland on the narrow side and the former Greenock lock brought some belated cheer to another west coast seaside town, with Ayr’s third try. Climo’s conversion went astray but after 53 minutes Ayr led 22-13.
Melrose tried to uncork Ayr’s defence and a fine pass out of contact from James King set free Allen but he was clawed down in the Ayr 22.
Nine minutes remaining and Melrose at last garnered points as Wight landed a high tackle penalty. But if that was to cause any anxiety in Ayr ranks it certainly did not show, as Cameron Taylor, the beneficiary of some basketball and Andrew Wilson, showing his pace up the right flank, crossed for tries, both converted by Climo for a haul of 11 points.
In the final play Melrose centre Jamie Murray crossed for a try to which Wight added the extras but the silverware was justly en route to Burns Country.
Melrose: Fraser Thomson; Callum Anderson, Jamie Murray, James King, Ben Allen; Scott Wight captain, Robert Chrystie; Kieran Cooney, Wayne Mitchell, Richard Higgins, Graeme Dodds, Garry Elder, John Dalziel, Ross Miller, Grant Runciman
Subs: Lindsay Gibson, Nick Beavon, Stuart Johnson, Nick McTaggart, Scott McCormick, Allan Dodds and Craig Jackson
Ayr: Grant Anderson; Andrew Wilson, Ross Curle, Mark Stewart, Cameron Taylor; Frazier Climo, Jamie Hunter; Gordon Reid, Stuart Fenwick, Gordon Sykes, Scott Sutherland, Damien Kelly captain, Jonathan Crossan, Glen Tippett, Andrew Dunlop.
Subs: Scott Nimmo, Stephen Adair, Blair Macpherson, Paul Burke, Johnny McClung, A J Macfarlane, Steven Manning
Crowd: 5, 616
Scottish Hydro Man of the Match: Damien Kelly (Ayr)
Referee: Iain Heard (Gala)
Earlier in day North Berwick won the Scottish Hydro Regional Bowl and Lasswade won the Scottish Hydro National Shield. Read both match reports on the community pages of this website.