TENNENT'S PREM PREVIEW | Ayr and Melrose go head to head at Millbrae

Round 5 of the Tennent’s Premiership has arrived and the league’s two unbeaten teams face off in the weekend’s most hotly-anticipated fixture.

Ayr host Melrose at Millbrae (Saturday 29 September, kick-off 3pm). It’s the first time the teams have met since last season’s Premiership Final at the Greenyards where Melrose took the honours with a 16-13 victory. 

As 2016/17 Premiership champions, Ayr are no strangers to victory and will be looking to get a step ahead of their title rivals.

Both teams have enjoyed four bonus-point wins from four in this campaign, but Melrose top the table on points difference - 129 as compared to Ayr’s 62. Ayr will enjoy the home advantage but all the signs point to this being a close contest.

Ayr put forward the same backline as last week, with two changes in the forwards. Glasgow Warriors’ and Scotland cap Jamie Bhatti starts at loosehead and Gregor Henry comes in for Pete MaCallum in the number seven jersey. 

It’s all change on the bench with former Glasgow and Scotland hooker Pat MacArthur and Cam Reece set to make their first appearances of the season, while winger Robbie Nairn has also been drafted in from the Warriors.

Ayr Head Coach, Peter Murchie, said: “We welcome Melrose to Millbrae this weekend and are looking forward to being back in front of a large home support. 

“The players worked hard for each other last week and we know that we will have to raise the performance level again this weekend, as we strive for further improvements in our game. 

“The rivalry between the two teams is clear and the players are well aware of the challenge that Saturday will bring against a Melrose team who have picked up where they left off last season.”

Melrose’s starting XV sees a return for Edinburgh Rugby half-back Jason Baggott who is partnered with Murdo McAndrew at scrum-half, while Bruce Colvine moves out to the wing. 

In the pack, Grant Runciman returns, after missing last weekend, to captain the team.

Melrose Head coach, Rob Chrystie, said: “A trip across to Millbrae is one all our players want to be a part of but we are well aware of the level of performance that will be required against an Ayr team that are being tipped as league favourites. 

“We have prepared well this week and are looking forward to the physical challenge that will come with any Ayr-Melrose fixture.”

Elsewhere in the Tennent’s Premiership, Hawick will be aiming for their first win of the season as they head to Myreside to take on Watsonians. 

Fifth-placed Stirling County face third-placed Heriot’s at Bridgehaugh, in what seems likely to be a close match.

It’s an Edinburgh derby as Edinburgh Accies take on Boroughmuir at Raeburn Place, with Accies hoping to get their 2018/19 campaign underway after a winless start. 

Third-placed Currie Chieftains are at home against Glasgow Hawks, who will be looking to move up the table from eighth place.

Clubs from across Tennent’s National Leagues 1, 2 and 3 will also continue their season on Saturday. For a full list of fixtures, visit scottishrugby.org/fixtures-results.

AYR Grant Anderson; Kyle Rowe, Paddy Kelly, Stafford McDowall, Rory Hughes, Frazier Climo, David Armstrong, Jamie Bhatti, Robbie Smith, Steven Longwell, David Corbenici, Marshall Sykes, Tommy Spinks, Gregor Henry, Blair Macpherson CAPTAIN. Substitutes Pat Macarthur, Ruaridh Sayce, Cam Reece, Danny McCluskey, Robbie Nairn.

MELROSE Fraser Thomson; Bruce Colvine, Patrick Anderson, Craig Jackson, Iain Sim, Jason Baggott, Murdo McAndrew, Grant Shiells, Russell Anderson, Conor Young, James Head, Angus Runciman, Ruaridh Knott, Grant Runciman CAPTAIN, Iain Moody. Substitutes Finlay Scott, Ruairi McLeod, Callum Wilde, Struan Hutchinson, Gavin Wood.