Ayr Rugby Football Club

There was disappointment for Ayr as Melrose claimed the BT Charity Shield at Millbrae on Saturday afternoon.

Last season's BT Premiership champions hosted the BT Cup champions as the curtain-raiser to 2017/18 and to support Scotland and Melrose stalwart Doddie Weir and others who are fighting motor neurone disease, with the admission fees donated to charity.

The visitors got off to a flying start, inside centre Gavin Wood, winger Sam Pecqueur and full-back Fraser Thomson firing the ball about before hooker Richard Ferguson got over for an unconverted try. 0-5.
Ayr were quick to reply after scrum-half David Armstrong, openside flanker Tommy Spinks, winger Craig Gossman, prop Robbie Smith and fly-half Frazier Climo injected urgency and energy into play. Prop Adam Prentice bounded over for a try, which Climo converted. 7-5.

Melrose got their noses in front again thanks to a Ben Chalmers penalty. 7-8.

Climo hit back moments later. 10-8.
But Melrose retook the lead after they trundled to the whitewash from a penalty line-out and prop Nick Beavon touched down. Chalmers couldn't convert. 10-13.
It looked they were going to score another when outside centre Nyle Godsmark intercepted but Armstrong managed to spin round quickly enough to tackle him.

Armstrong and Climo were orchestrating the attack for Ayr, with Gossman, Smith, second row Scott Sutherland, full-back Grant Anderson and winger Jamie Bova involved, but Melrose were repelling any attempt to breach their twenty-two.

Beavon was barging about the paddock like an escaped bullock, and Prentice and captain Pete McCallum had their hands full trying to keep him from the Ayr line.

Melrose didn't need anyone to cross it though, as a penalty try was awarded when Climo was adjudged to have deliberately knocked on. He was sent to the bin for ten minutes too. Chalmers summarily converted. 10-20.

Replacement back Paddy Dewhirst burst through the black and yellow shirts, wriggling free from grabbing hands, to give the crowd something to cheer about. McCallum, Bova and Anderson were in support but the ball went loose.

Melrose pounced and Thomson shot off, but outside centre Danny McCluskey to put in an excellent tackle to bring him to a halt.

It wasn't enough, as Melrose quickly hacked on and winger Ross McCann chased it all the way to the line for a fine try. Chalmers added the extras. 10-27.
Thomson got on the score sheet for the men from the Greenyards, going over in the corner after speedy handling by his fellow backs. The conversion was too wide an angle for Chalmers. 10-32.
Ayr were unbowed, Dewhirst, Armstrong, Spinks, Prentice and McCallum getting the attack moving, and hooker Lewis Anderson dodged this way and that to elude the Melrose defence.

When they got to the five-metre line, they were patient, and even though they were held up, they had another go after the ensuing scrum. McCallum charged, and McAlpine threw himself over for the try, which Climo converted. 17-32.

Ayr had their chances early in the second half, Macpherson bashing through the defence to open up play, and McCluskey speeding up the wing. But they just couldn't get near the try-line.

Melrose had a spring in their step, but Ayr inside centre Scott Lyle and replacement back row George Stokes put in the tackles to stop them causing more havoc.

A high tackle on Dewhirst gave Ayr a penalty and they took the line-out, Macpherson grabbing the try. Climo had a good day with the boot, and got the conversion. 24-32.
Replacement prop George Hunter picked up where he left off last season, putting his foot on the gas and powering through tackles. Replacement second row Jonathan Agnew followed suit.

Ayr put Melrose under pressure at the scrum, and Lewis Anderson harried their attackers. They kicked away possession, letting Bova loose with the ball, and allowing McAlpine to show off his handling skills.

Climo, McCallum, Smith, Macpherson and Gossman were flying about, but Melrose kept them pinned back with outstanding defence.

Melrose replacement Jason Baggott lined up a penalty but it hit the post and, the ball still live, Climo pounced and Lyle cleared.

The visitors took a line-out at their next penalty opportunity and demonstrated slick handling to swarm into the Ayr twenty-two. There was no way over in one corner, so they just kicked across to the other side of the field and despite a fumble, Pecqueur dotted down for the try. Baggott missed the conversion. 24-37.

McCallum led his troops in retaliation, Hunter muscling his way up the pitch with Climo and McCluskey in support. Macpherson dived over for a determined try, with Climo converting. 31-37.
The crowd had hopes of a late comeback, but Melrose had other ideas. Flanker Neil Irvine Hess was slippery in attack, but replacement Harry Warr dragged him down eventually.

Melrose's energy and confidence couldn't be dampened, and McCann shot off for a try, converted by Baggott. 31-44.
Time wasn't on Ayr's side, and although Lyle, Hunter, Spinks, Warr and Lewis Anderson charged for the line, there were no more points for Ayr.

Final score: Ayr 31 Melrose 44.
BT man of the match: Neil Irvine Hess.
Ayr Slater's Menswear man of the match: Scott Lyle.
_Photos courtesy of George McMillan. Please seek permission before reproducing for commercial purposes.
- Elena Hogarth._