Melrose went into this match on a run of three successive wins over their hosts, and they came out of it having extended that superiority. Rightly so as, even when Ayr held the whip hand in the second half, they could find no way past determined defence and as the game unfolded, the belief gradually grew that this would be Melrose’s day.
Victorious Melrose coach John Dalziel put that outcome down to his side’s superiority up front. “We felt we had the better scrum,” he revealed. But the Rose also bloomed at the breakdown, where they repeatedly denied Ayr the quick ball off which the home backs flourish.
Opposite number Calum Forrester bemoaned the fact his side “played too much rugby in the wrong parts of the field”. But he had to also admit that indiscipline – flanker Will Bordill and skipper Ross Curle both spent ten minutes on the naughty step for yellow card offences – contributed to Ayr’s defeat.
There was a lot of sloppy handling; the lineouts were a lottery, neither side establishing a solid platform, but, when it came to game management and ball retention, Melrose were better.
They outscored Ayr, two tries to one. The visitors’ first “try” was controversial, referee Graeme Wells awarding a penalty try when the retreating seven-man Ayr pack went to ground ten metres from the line, in the first scrum after Bordill’s dismissal. His decision seemed premature.
Their late second try, which secured victory, was a tribute to the command of the Borders pack, Nick Beavon bashing his way over after a fierce onslaught by the visitors.
Ayr’s try, scored by Craig Gossman, was a beauty, not least for the sublime pass which lock Scott Sutherland produced to send his winger over. Otherwise it was a kicking contest, Joe Helps kicking ten points for Melrose to Frazier Climo’s eight for Ayr.
Dalziel had issues with the pressures on the match balls, which he felt contributed to several unaccustomed misses by two of the BT Premiership’s more-reliable place kickers.
So, Melrose are BT Murrayfield-bound, to face Heriot’s in the cup final, but both teams now turn their attentions to Saturday’s BT Premiership play-off semi-final, back at Millbrae.
“After heading the regular season standings, this is the one we really want to win”, Forrester admitted. “We need a result on Saturday, but we will need to lift our game, be more disciplined and take it head-on.”
He believes his side can do it, adding: “In three of our four losses to Melrose, including today – we have let ourselves down.”
Dalziel’s message to his men is: “You’ve won nothing yet. Getting to the cup final is nice but it’s the league we want and to win back here on Saturday, we will have to be even better than we were today”.
Ominously for Ayr, he is certain his men will improve. “We tend to do well against the top teams like Ayr and Heriot’s, it’s elsewhere we let ourselves down,” he pointed out.