BT Premiership PREVIEW | Melrose aim to increase breathing space against Ayr

Melrose host reigning league champions, Ayr, in the BT Premiership this Saturday (9 December, 2pm).

The sides have already met twice this season in the BT Charity Shield and the league with The Greenyards club coming out on top on both occasions.

Last week’s results mean that this replay of the 2016/17 BT Premiership final is also a clash between the top two sides in the league.

Melrose’s perfect start to the season and Ayr’s impressive form performance against Hawks in the first half give the match added edge.

Melrose Head Coach, Rob Chrystie, will be under no allusions to the challenge his squad faces if they are to maintain their winning streak.

Chrystie sadid: “Ayr at the Greenyards is always a fixture that our players want to be a part of and training this week has been intense with players desperate to play.

Ayr are playing really well with confidence now and will be looking forward to coming down to the Greenyards.”

The league leaders will be without Scotland 7s player Sam Pecquer who will be in South Africa on the IRB circuit but see the return of Fraser Thomson and Nyle Godsmark to the backline.

Ayr make one change to the starting line-up which beat Glasgow Hawks last weekend with Paddy Dewhirst coming in for the injured Danny McCluskey.

Head Coach of Ayr, Calum Forrester, said: “Last week against Hawks was the best 60 minutes of rugby that we have put together this season.

“We cannot afford to switch off, as we did in the last 20 minutes this week, against a very dangerous Melrose side.

They have been the outstanding side in the BT Premiership this season and the players are looking forward to the challenge in what will be a bruising encounter.”

Melrose sit 18 points clear at the top of the table and Ayr, leading the chase, will be eager to be the first side this season to top topple them and start to close the gap.

Elsewhere, Hawick travel to Marr looking to back up their first victory of the campaign at Fullarton Park.

Heriot’s host Glasgow Hawks and Stirling County welcome Watsonians after contrasting results in the last round.

Currie Chieftains will play their second Edinburgh derby in as many weeks when Boroughmuir visit Malleny Park.

Melrose v Ayr will be live-tweeted from @Scotlandteam.

Clubs from across BT National Leagues 1, 2 and 3 will also continue their season on Saturday. For a full list of fixtures, visit scottishrugby.org.

Melrose v Ayr, The Greenyards, 2pm

Melrose: Fraser Thomson; Patrick Anderson, Nyle Godsmark, Craig Jackson, George Taylor; Jason Baggott, Bruce Colvine; Grant Shiels, Russel Anderson, Nick Beavon, Angus Runciman, Ian Moody, Neil Irvine Hess, Grant Runciman CAPTAIN, Ali Miller

Replacements: Richard Ferguson, Ruairi Mcleod, Ruaridh Knott, Murdo Mcandrew, Gavin Wood

Ayr: Grant Anderson; Paddy Dewhirst, Scott Lyle, Stafford McDowall, Craig Gossman; Brandon Thomson, Lewis Young; Robin Hislop, Robbie Smith, Steven Longwell, Blair Macpherson, Robert McAlpine, Tommy Spinks, George Stokes, Pete McCallum CAPTAIN

Replacements:Lewis Anderson, Ruairidh Sayce, Scott Sutherland, Jonathan Agnew, Sam Graham

BT Premiership Round 12

Saturday 9 December

Marr v Hawick, Fullarton Park, 2pm

Heriot’s v Glasgow Hawks, Goldenacre, 2pm

Currie Chieftains v Boroughmuir, Malleny Park, 2.30pm

Stirling County v Watsonians, Bridgehaugh, 3pm