RBS Premiership defending champions, Ayr made an advance back towards the leading spots of the top-flight division and reclaimed the Bill McLaren Shield today at The Greenyards, with a 27-17 victory over Melrose.
The Millbrae men were desperate to make amends for the previous meeting between the two sides, which saw them slump 33-11 at home. However, today’s victory was thanks to scrum-half Murray McConnell, flanker James Eddie, centre Robbie Fergusson and stand-off Ross Curle who all scored a try each.
Curle also slotted two of the three conversions and added a penalty.
Captain, Grant Anderson, said: “I told the boys at half-time not to leave here without a win, so we’re delighted to have come back and secured the victory.
“We were a little cagey to start with but we know that if we can continually attack a team for 80 minutes they won’t be able to handle us. Going forward we have to keep building up the momentum.
“We know when we come down here Melrose will always be a formidable opponent.”
At the end of the first period it looked as though the hosts were en route to win the match, with a 14-5 lead courtesy of forwards Todd Pearce and Andrew Nagle and the bulk of possession.
However, Ayr proved too skilful in the second half and all the hosts were able to add to their tally was a penalty on 59 minutes, from the boot of centre Joe Helps. Helps also converted the two tries.
Run of play
The visitors opened the scoring at a very wet Greenyards. A break from winger Craig Gossman in front of the stand was then completed with clean hands through the backs and scrum-half McConnell touching down at the opposite side. 0-5
Quarter of an hour pasted and it was then Melrose’s turn to put points on the board. Hooker Pearce battered through the visitor’s defence for a perfectly executed forwards try. Centre Helps converted. 7-5
Just past the half-hour mark and Melrose touched down again. This time it was back-rower Nagle claiming the plaudits. Helps made it two conversions from two. 14-5
The hosts dominated the attack throughout the first period and were encamped in and around the Ayr 22 for the majority of the half. In this vain the first 40 came to an end with Melrose working through the phases for a third score, but it wasn’t meant to be with Ayr turning over the threat.
Half-time: Melrose 14-5 Ayr
Ayr re-opened the second half scoring, nine minutes in, when centre Dean Kelbrick picked up a loose ball and opened up his partner Fergusson for the score. Curle converted. 14-12
Five minutes, later and the visitors retook the lead with a piece of brilliance. Flanker Graham Fisken burst through the Melrose defence in his own 22 and made 30 yards before sending in Eddie for the try under the sticks. Curle added the extras. 14-19
Despite looking for a third try Melrose were unable to execute anything threatening with mistakes proving a hindrance in the damp conditions. But it wasn’t only the home side that struggled, Ayr also had their fair share of forced and unforced errors.
On 59 and 70 minutes the two sides exchanged penalties with Helps striking first and then Curle adding his penalty. 17-22
Curle concluded the scoring with another fantastic try when he and Dean Kelbrick worked a lovely loop and pop to open up the space for the score. 17-27
Melrose will take a break in the league next weekend to make way for the viagogo Autumn Tests, while Ayr will play their match against Edinburgh Accies, that they have in hand following British & Irish Cup duties.
Elsewhere in the RBS Premiership, Edinburgh Accies beat Aberdeen Grammr 42-26, Gala pipped the victory at Netherdale, 11-9 v Heriot's, Hawick and Glasgow Hawks levelled at Mansfield Park 17-17 and there was a confidence boosting victory for Currie at Bridgehaugh. They beat Stirling County 27-10.
Full-time: Melrose 17-27 Ayr
Melrose team: Fraser Thomson; Damien Hoyland, Andrew Skeen, Joe Helps, Austin Lockington; Richard Mill, Bruce Colvine; Nicky Little, Todd Pearce, Gary Holborn, Graeme Dodds, Ross Ovens, Peter Eccles, Grant Runciman and Andrew Nagle.
Replacements: Richard Ferguson, Chris Keen, Ross Miller, Allan Dodds and Callum Anderson.
Ayr team: Grant Anderson; Craig Gossman, Robbie Fergusson, Dean Kelbrick, Kerr Gossman; Ross Curle, Murray McConnell; Nick Cox, Fergus Scott, George Hunter, Peter McCallum, Scott Sutherland, James Eddie, Andrew Dunlop and Callum Templeton.
Replacements: Stuart Fenwick, Denford Mutamangira, Graham Fisken, Peter Jericevich and Richard Dalgleish.