Title win won't affect hunger to lift cup says Ayr coach

Ayr coach Calum Forrester is certain that the ecstasy of winning the league title will not lead to any drop in hunger to go again this Saturday and secure the double in the BT Cup final.

Finalists look ahead to BT Cup Finals Day at BT Murrayfield. Pictured, from left, are: Chris Britee-Steer (Portobello), Andrew McOuat (Blairgowrie), Heather Davis (Stirling County), Allana McWilliam (Stewartry), Pete McCallum (Ayr), Bruce Colvine (Melrose), Louise McMillan (Murrayfield Wanderers), Sarah Quick (Hillhead/Jordanhill), Lindsay McDermid (Garioch), Linda Morrison (Kirkcaldy), Murray Hastie (Murrayfield Wanderers) and Michael Kirk (Carrick)

The Millbrae men are still basking in the glow of a third championship after they edged Melrose 12-8 at the Greenyards at the weekend and will face the same opponents at the national stadium looking to repeat the league and cup success they achieved in 2013 when Forrester was captain.

“I don’t think it is an issue,” said Forrester, pictured, when asked if he felt winning the big one in the Borders might take a little edge off the motivation.

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“I’m very lucky with this group of players that I have. We’ve got young guys, we’ve got guys that have been there and won everything there is to win with Ayr over the last however many years now, since 2008.

“Scott Sutherland and Grant Anderson are two guys that really stepped up last week and let the other players know exactly what was happening. With Grant being able to guide Pete [McCallum] with his leadership as well this year, it’s been a good place, and a good transition for this group of players over the last year and a half.”

While Ayr were bucking history in Saturday’s BT Premiership final as they denied Melrose a tenth title as they collected their third, they have the edge on their rivals when it comes to the knockout competition, which was launched in 1995-96 – 22 years after Hawick won the first official league championship.

Ayr have won the cup three times to Melrose’s two, with the last one four years ago holding fond memories for Forrester, the former Glasgow flanker who was forced to retire aged just 26 after repeated knee injuries.

“When I came back in 2012, we won that double that season and I was captain,” said the coach, now 30. “The final that year [also against Melrose] was a hell of a day. It went to extra time and we won it [28-25] in the last play of the game. That was absolutely a highlight.

“This is a new chapter of my life, my coaching career at the moment, and I’m very lucky to have [assistant coaches] Scott Forrest and Glen Tippett, who have been through it all at Ayr, coaching and playing as well. We’ve all played together at the club, so it’s certainly something to look forward to, this 
weekend.”

Ayr will have centre Ross Curle back available from suspension this weekend and he is expected to return to the starting line-up but Forrester doesn’t anticipate many changes in personnel and approach, although he acknowledged that last Saturday was far from perfect and the win came courtesy of a desperate rearguard effort late on which, on another week, might not have held.

“I don’t think you can do anything drastically different – we’ve got a system that works. But there are a couple of 
areas after the weekend that we’ll need to freshen up a wee bit,” said the coach.

“Melrose had obviously done their homework at 
lineout time on us. We won a fair amount of our ball, but they got up and challenged for that, so we’re going to have to make sure that we’re sharper in certain areas of the pitch this weekend.

“The last couple of months now, this group of players have learned a lot, being able to back up two semi-finals. The next challenge is to go out and be more effective than we were last weekend.”

For Melrose, the pain of losing the league on their home ground after setting the pace all term and finishing top of regular season standings provides an obvious and burning source of motivation this weekend.

“We maybe went a bit cagey in that first half, let the size of the day get to us a wee bit,” said club captain Bruce 
Colvine. “We haven’t really done that before this year – we’ve always wanted to play, so we need to take a look at that during our review session tomorrow night and rectify it for Saturday.

“The guys have played a lot of rugby and they really put their body through the wringer on Saturday, we know that we’ll need to do it again this Saturday. There’s nothing major needs to happen – maybe a few small tweaks – for us to come out with the right result.

“It is never nice to get beaten, regardless of how it happens, but to lose it so narrowly right at the death does drive home that sense of disappointment.”