TENNENT’S PREM ROUND-UP | Ayr triumph over Melrose to top the table

It’s early days in the Tennent’s Premiership but for two unbeaten teams, both former Premiership champions, this fifth round fixture might as well have been a final.

Coming into the game with four bonus-point wins from four, hosts Ayr and visitors Melrose came out of the blocks filled with intent and the fans filling the stands at Millbrae were treated to 80 minutes of rugby played at full-throttle.

Both teams showed their determination from the off, with play alternating from one end of the pitch to the other. But with strong defence from both teams, there was no signs of either side breaking through to put points on the board.

The first man to attempt it was Frazer Climo, the Ayr stand-off who had a chance at goal following a high tackle on Gregor Henry.

The kick went wide of the mark but Ayr’s endurance finally paid off as the first quarter approached. Full-back Grant Anderson, who had switched to nine, scored the opening try having won the ball from a loose Melrose pass. The conversion went over the posts to give the hosts the lead (7-0).

Melrose were fired up after the restart, using the rolling maul to inch towards the Ayr 22 but were stopped by the strong Ayr defence. A high tackle from Rory Hughes on Fraser Thomson resulted in a yellow card and the hosts were reduced to 14 men.

Possession went back and forth before the visitors’ capitalised and Ayr gave away two penalties. Baggott kicked both to touch before going out wide on the second attempt to cross the whitewash and bring Melrose back into the game (7-5).

Ayr wasted no time in driving the match back into their rivals’ half, winning a penalty which sailed over the posts from a Climo kick (10-5).

As half-time approached, Ayr made a break with Tommy Spinks tearing up the pitch then passing to Stafford McDowall who in turn shipped the ball to Grant Anderson who looked to have scored a dazzling try but the pass was ruled to have been forward.

The game was being played with such speed and intensity that players were beginning to show signs of fatigue. Ayr kept chipping away and were rewarded when Kyle Rowe and Grant Anderson set up a move that allowed Climo to dance his way through the Melrose defence and score a fine try before adding the extras (17-5).

HALF-TIME: Ayr 17-5 Melrose

Melrose returned to action fired up and looking to claw back some points. The team wasted no time in taking the action out wide for Patrick Anderson to score a try which Baggott converted (17-12)

The game was soon to swing back in the hosts’ favour as Ayr’s persistent attacking play overcame the Melrose defence allowing Stafford McDowall to cross the whitewash, with the conversion extending the hosts’ lead (24-12).

Despite the points gap the teams remained closely matched. Melrose continued to look strong with ball in hand and enjoyed plenty of possession but couldn’t seem to translate the effort into points. With 58 minutes on the board, Ayr’s Blair Macpherson was sent to the sin bin for coming in at the side of the ruck.

Melrose sensed an opportunity and Bruce Colvine found the space to put another five points on the board. Jackson missed the conversion, taking the score to 24-17.

Just when it seemed like the pace was slowing and the players were beginning to run out of steam, Ayr found the energy to make some decisive moves.

Having returned to the field with nine minutes of play left, captain Macpherson wasted no time in getting back in the game, scoring from the line-out while Climo added the extras. Just two minutes later Gregor Henry took full advantage of a Kyle Rowe pass to cross the whitewash for the final time, putting the game out of reach of the visitors (36-17).

The conversion was good, taking Ayr to the top of the Tennent’s Premiership table.

FULL-TIME: Ayr 38-17 Melrose

Elsewhere, Watsonians took the win at home against Hawick at Myreside, while Stirling County just lost out to visitors Heriot’s in a hard-fought match. The Edinburgh derby was a close affair but Boroughmuir edged the win at Raeburn Place. Currie Chieftains were dominant at home taking victory over Glasgow Hawks.

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. 

Tennent’s Premiership Round 5 Results:

League table

Watsonians 54-14 Hawick

Stirling County 17-19  Heriot's

Ayr 38-17 Melrose

Edinburgh Accies 13-15 Boroughmuir

Currie Chieftains 71-28 Glasgow Hawks