PREMIER GROUP A
FIONA SCOTT reports from the Greenyards
AYR may have brought a mass group of colourful supporters with them on Saturday, but it was Melrose who were in the pink at the end of 80 minutes when they were crowned Scottish club champions.
The word on the street prior to the game was that Ayr had found out how to stop Melrose playing when the two sides met the previous week in the cup final, and that the home side may struggle again this weekend.
Scott Wight and his men had obviously not read this script. In fact, they tore it up and completely rewrote it with a determined display of fine running rugby.
Before the kick-off the 1,850-strong crowd were entertained by some enthusiastic cheerleading from the Melrose Mini Hornets, who welcomed both teams onto the pitch – an enthusiasm that never wavered throughout the 80 or so minutes played.
The hosts got off to a nervy start with the ball going straight out from the kick-off and Ayr almost scoring from a charge-down in the Melrose 22 . And it wasn’t long before more pressure on the home line led to Damien Kelly wriggling his way through a pile of bodies to touch down. Ross Curle made the conversion.
A long, low penalty attempt from Scott Wight sailed through the posts minutes later and the nerves began to settle with Melrose beginning to press forward.
Some excellent work across the board to get the ball back downfield resulted in a second penalty and this time Wight’s effort hit the post before dropping through to bring the hosts to within a point. Three minutes later the home skipper notched a third and the Ayr supporters were silenced as Rose edged into the lead.
Almost a full 10 minutes passed before Wight slotted penalty number four and the next offence saw Greenock referee Graham Knox lose patience with the visitors. As a result, Ayr found themselves down to 14 men when sub Stuart Fraser was sent to the sin-bin. Wight missed the difficult place kick.
Curle did likewise at the other end after attempting a penalty from just inside his own half and the score at the break remained at 12-7 to Melrose.
Minutes after the restart, Ayr received another penalty and opted to run the ball. The home side defended well, but from a second charge to the line Damien Kelly crashed over to level the scores.
At the other end, however, a bit of backchat from the visitors saw Wight with a chance in front of the posts which saw him pop over his fifth penalty of the game. Then a sprint of brilliance from Jamie Murray saw Melrose back up to within metres of the Ayr line before the ball was recycled from a ruck and shipped out to Garry Elder, who went in at the posts for Wight to convert.
Ayr closed the gap with a Curle penalty and Melrose were forced to defend for a spell as the visitors tried to force their way through.
It was Melrose, though, who got the next score when Ross Miller cut through the Ayr defence to touch down and Wight added the conversion.
Ayr ended the game with a try from Curle in injury time, but the gap was too big to close and the men from the Greenyards ran out 2010/11 champions.
Melrose: F. Thomson; C. Anderson, J. Murray, C. Murray, A. Dodds; S. Wight, R. Chrystie; N. Beavon, W. Mitchell, G. Holborn, G. Elder, H. Mitchell, J. Dalziel, G. Runciman, G. Dodds. Subs: N. Little, G. Innes, R. Miller, B. Colvine and J. Helps.