The 32-year-old Kiwi stand-off, who also scored a try, showed nerves of steel to nail a tricky penalty at the death and seal an incredible comeback by the league champions, who lifted the cup for a fourth time.
“Straight away,” said Climo afterwards when asked about his decision to go for the sticks moments after he had missed a conversion from a similar spot. “I’ve been kicking them alright and the [missed] conversion was a good sighter!
“I just had to straighten up the left to right curve. I did that and as soon as I looked up I was pretty confident.”
The 24th national cup final, and last before the advent of the Super 6 era, proved a cracker as Ayr got off to a flier in the opening minutes when hot prospect Kyle Rowe continued his habit of being a thorn in Heriot’s side with an early try.
The former Scotland Under-20 wing had scored twice against them in the Tennent’s Premiership Grand Final 29-23 success at Millbrae earlier in the month but the conversion was missed and the Edinburgh side got a foothold back into the game when centre Ross Jones knocked over a penalty from just outside the 22.
Ayr reasserted themselves in the 25th minute when hooker Ross Jones barged over after a series of surges at the Heriot’s line, Climo converting, but just five minutes later the match was thrust back into the balance.
Heriot’s full-back Charlie Simpson was on the end of an excellently worked move and Jones’ conversion brought it back to a two-point deficit.
It was Heriot’s who were starting to take control of possession and play with more freedom and purpose. They had the chance to take the lead with a penalty two minutes before the interval, but it was a difficult one, as Jones opted to go for the posts but fell short with a testing 40-metre effort.
Their enterprise was not to go unrewarded, however, as they continued to press and stunned Ayr with a try on the stroke of half-time, moving the ball wide and No 8 Struan Dewar scrambling over in the left corner for an unconverted score that made it 15-12 to Heriot’s at the break.
Jones tried his luck from distance again seven minutes into the second half and this time put enough welly on it to see it sail between the posts and stretch the lead.
Heriot’s were very much in the ascendancy now and a delightful, teasing grubber pinned Ayr back deep inside their own 22 but the men from the west mauled well to get themselves out of trouble. A harum-scarum phase followed which saw Heriot’s back on the brink of the Ayr 22 with an attacking scrum.
What followed looked like a potentially decisive moment of the match as Heriot’s cut loose and a magical pass around his back from Simpson found wing Jack Blain, who cut his way through for a brilliant try, which was well converted by Jones to stretch the lead to 25-12. The match went into a period of lull, with Heriot’s happy to contain the opposition and protect that 13-point lead heading into the final quarter.
Ayr refused to be shut down though and breathed life back into the contest with a piercing attack which Climo finished off with a diving slide over the whitewash. He then converted to bring his side back to within six points.
Jones couldn’t make another penalty attempt from distance as the clock ticked into the last ten minutes, keeping the destiny of the cup very much in doubt.
Ayr responded with an excellent set of phases as they took a grip of possession and territory. The Heriot’s defence was stoic and disciplined but the pink tide eventually broke through, with Glasgow pro Stafford McDowall surging over in the left-hand corner to make it 24-25.
It left a devilish touchline conversion for the left-footed Climo. He gave it his best and for a second the vocal Ayr support were off their feet and cheering but the kick drifted across the face of the posts. Heriot’s won a crucial penalty in the 79th minute to regain some control but soon after there was a rare moment of indiscipline as the Edinburgh side desperately tried to hold on.
Ayr got back-to-back penalties to march up the field, the second of them 25 metres out and almost as wide as the missed conversion, but Climo bravely opted for a shot at glory.
The contact was good, it sailed high and handsome and, after a second of tension, the touch judges’ flags went up to spark an explosion of joyous jubilation from the pink army of Ayr supporters.