Ayr Rugby Football Club

On Saturday Ayr booked their place in the Tennent's Premiership Grand Final with a dramatic last gasp winner against Melrose. As the clock ticked into the red the Borderers held a narrow lead but when Tommy Spinks heroically leaped into the air and stole a line-out it provided a life-line for the hosts. Peter Murchie's men were able to grind out a further five more minutes before a penalty try ignited an emotional Millbrae. The result means Ayr will host Heriots at Millbrae on April 6th, in a replay of the 2016 final. 

 

After a week of strong winds and treacherous rainfall the skies cleared in time for kick-off - with the sun beating down on a picturesque Millbrae. A feeling of nervous energy surrounded the stand with the reality of knock-out rugby starting to settle in. A guard of honour made up of all youth and mini teams stretched from the changing room to the pitch, and spurred on their champions as Ayr took to the field.

A routine penalty from Frazier Climo settled the nerves after two minutes, before a disallowed try after 12 heightened blood pressure. A cross-field kick from Climo landed perfectly into the hands of Kyle Rowe in full-stride, but the inside ball to put Grant Anderson in was deemed forward.

At 20 minutes a break in the midfield from skipper Pete McCallum had the stand rocking. Robbie Smith carried to contact before pulling off a NBA-certified 'hook shot' over a chasing defender into the hands of McCallum who charged up the field. The play put Ayr in touching distance but like most of their chances in the first half they couldn't click when it mattered. A multitude of errors brought on by stiff Melrose defence continued to deny Ayr,  preventing them from stretching the lead.

A Craig Jackson penalty after half an hour concluded scoring in the first half, leaving it a stalemate at half-time.

Half-time: 3-3.

Despite the visitors shooting ahead early in the second half with two penalties it was Ayr who were looking dangerous courtesy of their pack. In the biggest game of the season leaders stand out and the veteran back-row of McCallum, Spinks and Blair Macpherson were coming to the fore. Bulldozing carries and a tenacity in defence set the tone for a tentative contest. A commanding display at scrum-time was spearheaded by the two props in pink. The ever-consistent Steven Longwell had the better of his opposite number, with young gun Ruairidh Sayce in inspiring form at the set-piece.

After 50 minutes Ayr managed to cross the line for what would be the first score of the contest. A stabbing run from Frazier Climo was thwarted by Melrose defence but not before the Kiwi could release a beautiful offload unsuspectingly out the back door to the open Anderson, who dived over. A wide conversion meant Rob Chrystie's side still led by a point.

With ten left to play Craig Jackson slotted his fourth penalty on the day to give his side a 8-12 lead.

As precious seconds withered away Ayr began to become restless. A Steven Longwell score to take the lead was chalked off with referee Ben Blain unable to see grounding, before a piercing run from Ross Curle which looked dangerous was flagged for a forward pass inside to Rowe.

With the clock pitch-side now expired the game looked over when an Ayr jersey was pushed into touch with the ball, but the ref signalled for line-out with play being delayed for an earlier injury. It looked all too easy for Melrose to secure and exit before the leaping Tommy Spinks got his hand on the ball and palmed it down to Harry Warr. The play was eerily similar to that of Scott Sutherland's league winning steal in injury time two years ago... once again at the expense of Melrose.

Ayr began probing metres out before a high-tackle on Macpherson provided the opportunity Murchie's men needed. Smith made no mistake with the throw and when a charging rolling maul was brought down over the line illegally Blain had no choice but to whistle for penalty try.

Ayr will now look to right the wrongs of 2016's home final loss when Heriots come to town on April 6.