Ayr Rugby Football Club

Ayr came up against a ruthless Melrose at Millbrae on Saturday in round three of the BT Premiership.

The visitors from the Borders showed their intent early on, with barrelling hooker Russell Anderson scoring the first try, and centre Craig Jackson converting. 0-7.
A fumble at the re-start from Melrose allowed Ayr winger Craig Gossman to harry and harass the opposition, but they tidied up and cleared. A strong Ayr line-out followed, with captain Pete McCallum driving on before centre Scott Lyle stepped up to the kicking tee for a penalty. 3-7.

Melrose were bristling with energy, full-back Fraser Thomson a live-wire all day, and his initial jinky run led to winger Sam Pecqueur's try, which Jackson converted. 3-14.
Lyle was back at the tee after a high tackle on Gossman but the kick went wide.

Ayr were working hard, and the scrum was solid. In the loose, second rows Robert McAlpine and Jonathan Agnew were making a nuisance of themselves, and fly-half Frazier Climo and centre Stafford McDowall were trying to make something happen, but they couldn't get through that water-tight Melrose defence.

Gossman hit the ball like a train, but Ayr were later pinged for holding on, and Melrose moved out of the danger zone and into Ayr's half. Before anyone knew it, winger Ross McCann had scored a try and Jackson converted. 3-21.

Ayr hooker Lewis Anderson and prop Steven Longwell were strong with ball in hand, and scrum-half Harry Warr got stuck into the tackles, but Melrose soon had the upper hand at the set-piece and got a penalty at the scrum, which Jackson kicked. 3-24.
Gossman out-foxed the opposition at the re-start, zooming on to the ball and firing it to flanker Tommy Spinks, with fellow back-rower Blair Macpherson and Climo combining to make their way through the black and yellow shirts.

However, little errors were starting to creep into Ayr's game, and Melrose were lightning quick to capitalise. A spilled ball in their own twenty-two was scooped up by McCann. With no-one at home for Ayr, he hared away up the wing for a try that thrilled the travelling fans. Jackson's metronomic boot did the rest. 3-31.
Ayr hit back immediately, forwards and back working well together to send full-back Grant Anderson over. Lyle converted just before half-time. 10-31.

Melrose began the second half with another penalty. 10-34.
Ayr claimed a turnover, and Lewis Anderson, Spinks and Longwell charged for the line. They didn't quite make it, but a couple of line-outs kept them in a good attacking position. When they trundled for the whitewash, Melrose prop Ruairi McLeod illegally collapsed the maul, was summarily sent to the sidelines for ten minutes and Ayr were awarded the penalty try, which Lyle converted. 17-34.
Those were the last points of the match, but Ayr desperately tried to close the gap. Fresh legs in second row Michael Badenhorst, centre Paddy Dewhirst and prop Robbie Smith pepped them up.

Ayr strung together some promising phases, but Melrose fly-half Jason Baggott flew on to a pass and was away for a try had it not been for Dewhirst, who pivoted into a tackle and brought him crashing to the ground.

Spinks and Macpherson gritted their teeth and flew into the defenders, with Macpherson bashing them out of the way at will. A penalty line-out let Ayr drive for the line and Dewhirst dodged past the tacklers to go over the line but the ball was adjudged to have been knocked on.

Still, Ayr pressed on, young guns Dewhirst, Lewis Anderson, Smith and Badenhorst leading the charge, with McCallum and replacement Jamie Bova showing a clear pair of heels at times, but there was no getting near that Melrose try-line.

The defence did well to keep Melrose from adding to their points tally, Longwell, Badenhorst and winger Danny McCluskey tackling with might and forcing some wild passes from Melrose. The game, however, fizzled out and the referee brought things to an end.

Final score: Ayr 17 Melrose 34.
Ayr man of the match: Tommy Spinks.
___Photos courtesy of George McMillan._

- Elena Hogarth.