Melrose 25 Ayr 28
RBS Cup Final
THERE was heartache for Melrose yesterday when a third National Cup title was torn from their grasp in the dying seconds of extra time.
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 the end to the dreams of the Melrose outfit and their large group of supporters.
Speaking after his last match in charge an emotional Melrose coach Craig Chalmers told The Southern: “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.
“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 saved his last words, however, to praise the tremendous turnout of supporters who had got behind his team during the game.
“The crowd were fantastic and they have always been fantastic,” he added.
“They are very knowledgeable and very passionate and they like to win, as do the players. Everyone is disappointed at the moment, but they will be back at the club tonight to give us a cheer and that means a great deal to everyone.”
Melrose weren’t helped in the early stages of the game by the sending off of influential player/coach John Dalziel who, after telling his players all week to stay calm, had a moment of madness himself and ended up in the sin bin for 10.
Peter Jericevich and Joe Helps swapped penalties before Richard Dalgleish crashed over in the corner to score the opening try. Jericevich added another penalty and with 20 minutes gone Ayr were 11-3 up.
With Dalziel back on Melrose rallied and two Helps penalties closed the gap to two points and that’s the way it stayed until the break. Half time score: Melrose 9 Ayr 11.
After the restart Melrose edged ahead for the first time in the game thanks to a fourth successful Helps penalty.
Five minutes later Ayr’s Scott Sutherland sent to the sin bin for a repeated infringement and Helps’ fifth went in off the upright.
Melrose managed to hold onto their four-point lead for a good 15 minutes before Ayr came back with a vengeance. Nick Cox went over, converted by Ross Curle.
With four minutes remaining Melrose pulled the match level through Mill’s penalty and a collective Melrose breath was held in the 79th when Curle lined one up for Ayr. The ball went wide and the relief from the Melrose section of the 7,000-strong crowd was palpable, leaving the score at 18 points apiece.
Moving into extra time, Ayr scored first through a Cox try but Melrose came straight back at them with a similar effort from Fraser Thomson which Andrew Skeen converted to put the Borderers ahead moving into the second half.
Ayr camped on the Melrose line for a good seven minutes as time ran down and just as the clock hit the 20-minute mark Taylor went over in the corner, breaking the hearts of the Greenyards men in the process.
More reaction and photographs in this week’s Southern Reporter plus exclusive video footage on this website.
Melrose: F. Thomson; C. Anderson, B. Dick, J. Helps, A. Dodds; R. Mill, B. Colvine; N. Little, W. Mitchell, G. Holborn, G. Dodds, P. Eccles, J. Dalziel, A. Nagle, G. Runciman. Subs: R. Ferguson, S. Lowe, R. Miller, R. Ovens, S. McCormack, A. Letham, A. Skeen.
Ayr: G. Anderson; R. Dalgleish, R. Fergusson, D. Kelbrick, C. Gossman; R. Curle, P. Jericevich; D. Mutuamangira, H. Wisnewski, G. Hunter, S. Sutherland, C. White, R. Doneghan, C. Forrester, A. Dunlop. Subs: S. Fenwick, N. Cox, D. Rae, P. McCallum, G. Fisken, M. McConnell, C. Taylor.