Craig Chalmers bade an emotional farewell to his home club on Saturday after seeing a third RBS Cup title torn from their grasp.
Watching his team play in their seventh cup final Chalmers cut a lonely figure throughout the game, standing in the empty Murrayfield south stand. And speaking afterwards the 44-year-old former internationalist fought back the tears as he fulfilled his final official duties on behalf of his team.
“It’s tough,” he said. “These things happen, it’s sport. We’ve had a few more highs than lows at Melrose over the years, but three times (cup final defeats against Ayr).
“The players were outstanding and the effort both sides put in was phenomenal. It is a testament to the fitness and quality in club rugby.”
The Greenyards men had battled hard to keep in touch with the Scottish league champions throughout the 80 minutes of real time and were rewarded when a Richard Mill penalty brought the scores to 18 all.
But, in a cruel twist of fate, in the 19th minute of extra time, when Melrose were leading 25-23, Ayr substitute Cameron Taylor managed to slip up the touchline in the far corner to touch down a winning try. Many thought the Ayr scorer had put a foot in touch on his way but, after consulting with his assistant, referee Lloyd Linton raised his arm to signal the score that put an end to the dreams of the Melrose outfit and their large group of supporters.
“I feel that in the past we have been done up here by different decisions by different people and I feel that has happened today again as well,” added Chalmers.
“We didn’t have the best of the ball and it was disappointing. What can you do though. You just have to accept things and get on with it.”
Chalmers, who is moving to new club Chinnor in Oxfordshire this week, saved his last words however to praise the tremendous support he and the club have received over the years.
“The crowd were fantastic and they have always been fantastic,” he said.
“They are knowledgeable and passionate and like to win, as do the players. Everyone is disappointed but they will be back at the club to cheer us on and that means a great deal.”
It was Ayr, who complete the double after being crowned Premiership Champions earlier this month, however who had everything to celebrate on the day.
The Millbrae outfit won the try count 4-1 with Fraser Thomson scoring for Melrose, but the boots of Joe Helps (5 penalties), Mill (1 penalty) and Andrew Skeen (1 conversion) kept the black and yellows in touch. In stoppage time after two periods of extra time Taylor snatched the winning try.