Ayr and Melrose agree Murrayfield final will double up as a league tie

ONE cup final – two results. That is the potential outcome of an agreement between Melrose and Ayr that their match at Murrayfield on Saturday week will double up as a league fixture.

• Murrayfield Stadium

The agreement, which has been approved by the SRU's championship committee, was struck at a meeting of Premier clubs on Monday night and is designed to deal with a fixture backlog which has left Ayr in particular struggling to finish the season by a reasonable date.

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With Ayr still challenging Currie for the championship, it means the Scottish Hydro Premier Cup final could also have a big influence on the outcome of the league race.

The possibility of two different results coming about from the same match arises because the cup and league are played under different rules. If the match is a draw after 80 minutes, that result will stand for league purposes, with the teams getting two points each for the tie and an additional bonus point if they have scored four or more tries. In terms of the cup, however, that tied score would necessitate extra-time.

As the two competitions have different regulations regarding the use of professional players and the number of substitutes allowed, the clubs also had to come to a compromise on those points. Seven subs per team will be permitted, but neither side may include any of its attached professionals. The game's status as a double-header appears to leave ample room for confusion among spectators, but both clubs insisted yesterday it was the best way of sorting out what is left of a season which has been badly disrupted by adverse weather.

"The clubs accepted that we needed to get the season finished as early as possible," Melrose president Mike Dalgetty said. "We were scheduled to be at home to Ayr in the league on May 22, which would be too late for some of our guys for one reason or another. It's nobody's fault there is a backlog of fixtures. We've given up a home gate, so it's cost us a wee bit of money, but that's life."

Ayr already have experience of playing in such a double-header, albeit at an earlier stage of the cup. Their sixth-round match at Currie last season was on the verge of going into extra-time when Ayr stand-off Frazier Climo scored with a penalty from just inside the Currie half to give his side a dramatic 22-19 victory.

This is the first time, however, that the final itself will double up as a league encounter. Ayr president Billy McHarg agreed with his Melrose opposite number that it was the best solution.

"We've had a backlog of fixtures in the league and cup and in the British & Irish Cup too," McHarg said. "We just want it finished.

"We might have to win five more league games to win the league, and if we do become champions we will have a game against Japan A to play as well."

The game between the new Scottish champions and Japan A has been scheduled for Wednesday 26 May – six days before a Scotland XV take on the visitors at Murrayfield as a warm-up for their summer tour to Argentina. Full details of the fixture have yet to be announced.