And then there was one. Ayr now sit atop the Tennent’s Premiership, after the opening five rounds, the only unbeaten side, following this deserved victory over the defending champions in a match which fizzed and crackled from start to finish.
Everyone accepts the Ayr back line can score from anywhere but here, again, it was the quality of their defence which carried the day, as they repeatedly repulsed Melrose thrusts which, against other opponents, would surely have been successful.
Ayr’s two late scores emphasised their victory but, until then, the outcome was in serious doubt as the visitors went down fighting.
“We had chances to win but, while we didn’t take ours, Ayr certainly took theirs,” said Melrose coach Rob Chrystie. “That was the difference, they were clinical.”
But Chrystie was far from downcast, citing the big effort his younger men put into the game, particularly Finlay Scott, who is dual-registered by Melrose and Jed, and who had a fine second half as a replacement for Russell Anderson, who, along with Ruaridh Knott, was one of two key visitors who had to leave the field injured.
Ayr’s Peter Murchie is certainly enjoying coaching. “We are in a good place,” he said. “We had spells under the cosh, but we took our tries well and I was very pleased with how our young pack played. This was another huge test for us but we came through to keep our great run going.”
While Murchie praised his youngsters, it was old-stager Frazier Climo, pictured, who again pulled the strings for Ayr. He scored 18 points, his line-kicking was again immense and he also brought his young backs into the game to good effect. Blair Macpherson had a successful first outing as captain, while Pat McArthur enjoyed his second Ayr debut off the bench – 14 years after his first.
Ayr led all the way. Grant Anderson and Climo scored first-half tries, with Climo goaling both and adding a penalty, while Jason Baggot scored an unconverted try for 17-5 at the break.
Melrose took advantage of Rory Hughes lying injured in midfield, making numbers count for a Patrick Anderson try, converted by Baggot, before Climo put Stafford McDowall through for a try which he converted to stretch the home lead to 12 points.
Then, with Ayr skipper Macpherson on the naughty step, a Bruce Colvine try pulled Melrose back to only seven behind, only to see the captain return and score the first of Ayr’s two late tries – Gregor Henry got the other – to emphasise their superiority.
There were also yellow cards for Hughes in the first half and Melrose’s Struan Hutchinson in the second.