When these two sides met in Ayrshire earlier in the season, it was the Borderers who bossed proceedings and staged an irresistible second-half display to come away with the spoils.
Yesterday, in the wind and rain at the Greenyards, the roles were well and truly reversed. This time it was the men in pink and black who gained revenge, utterly dominating the after the interval and outscoring Melrose three tries to nil in the second half after deservedly going in at half-time nine points behind.
At the final whistle, having just registered their fourth try for a bonus point, the men from Ayrshire were unable to contain their pleasure at a victory that puts their league campaign back on course.
Man of the Match Ross Curle was particularly vocal, screaming his delight at the ferocity of their comeback.
Ayr had actually drawn first blood early on when Craig Gossman broke out of his own 22, the visitors then running through the phases until the space appeared for scrum-half Murray McConnell to bundle his way over in the far corner, with Curle missing the touchline conversion.
Melrose, though, dominated the set-piece, constantly shunting Ayr back even on the visiting side’s put-in and ruling the lineout equally emphatically. It was this edge which provided the home side’s first try when Ross Ovens won a lineout on the Ayr 22 and Melrose launched a drive which only ended when hooker Todd Pearce barrelled through the remaining Ayr defenders for a try which was converted by Joe Helps.
Throughout the remainder of the first half, Melrose’s backs showed a greater invention and verve despite the rainy conditions, but serious failings at the basics – the quality of the some of the passing would have shamed both clubs’ mini sections – undermined their attempts to turn pressure into points.
Indeed, the only real chances that came their way were two eminently kickable penalties, one of which Helps completely miscued and one of which bounced back off the upright, while Curle also hooked a penalty across the face of the posts just before half-time.
It was only when Melrose decided to play it tight, with No.8 Andrew Nagle forcing his way over off the back of a scrum five minutes before half-time and immediately after Ayr were reduced to 14 men when influential second row Scott Sutherland was sin-binned.
Melrose went into half-time leading 14-5 but were in for a rude awakening during a second half in which they were blitzed by the visitors. Ten minutes into the second period, and with Sutherland restored, the fightback began when Robbie Fergusson went over after Curle had made a glorious little break, converting the try he had himself started.
Ayr now had the bit between their teeth and despite still struggling in the tight they began to dominate in the loose, their tight driving style and Melrose’s increasing number of missed tackles leading to a change in the dynamic of the game, which replacement scrum-half Peter Jerecevich fully exploited. Their next score came when James Eddie cantered over under the posts after No.8 Callum Templeton picked up off the back of a scrum just inside his own 22, broke through one tackle and found himself in acres of empty space, feeding Eddie on his inside for the blindside flanker to outpace the chasing cover tacklers.
With Helps and the increasingly influential Curle trading penalties, Ayr added the coup de gras when they constructed a beautiful try which brought the bonus point and put the outcome beyond question. It was a gem, too, and a try which showed Ayr’s quality. It started with replacement No.8 Graham Fisken making a break down the centre before the ball was fed right where centre Dean Kelbrick turned on the afterburners down the right touchline before passing the ball inside so that Curle could claim the try that his all-round play richly deserved.