On a dismal day at the Greenyards, with persistent rain not helping the cause, neither of these sides produced the quality rugby they are capable of.
Melrose led 14-5 at the break after a dominant first-half performance, with the home forwards taking control of the game.
After the break, however, unforced errors from the Greenyards outfit allowed Ayr to get in front and once ahead the Millbrae men were determined to hold onto their lead.
Disappointed Melrose coach John Dalziel told TheSouthern: “From being so good in the first half, that was clearly our worst 40 minutes of the season and we missed a huge opportunity.
“We handed Ayr two of their tries from poor mistakes, which for me is unacceptable in these big games.
“Our heads seemed to go down. Credit to them that when they got in front they looked a different side. We know how good a side they are, but we should have been able to kick on in the second period and close the game out.”
It wasn’t the most encouraging of starts for the hosts. The opening try came after six minutes when a move involving most of the Ayr back line resulted in scrum-half Murray McConnell crossing in the corner. But Melrose regrouped and, with their forwards coming more into play, managed to take possession back up to the Ayr 22. A penalty kick to the corner was taken securely before the ball was returned to hooker Todd Pearce who was driven over for the try. Joe Helps converted for Melrose to move into the lead.
Helps proceeded to miss a penalty and then have one bounce back off the post before referee Rob Dickson lost patience with the repeated Ayr infringements and sent replacement lock Scott Sutherland to the sin bin. Melrose capitalised with a pushover try, Andrew Nagle coming up with the ball, and Helps converting.
Ayr spent the remainder of the half pushing towards the Melrose line, but to no avail, and the period finished Melrose 14 Ayr 5.
The west coast side continued their assault after the restart with a number of handling errors from the hosts helping the cause. A try from Robbie Fergusson was quickly followed by a superb solo effort from James Eddie, with Ross Curle converting both –and all of a sudden the game was turned on its head.
Helps kicked a penalty to close the gap to two points and Melrose defended their own 22 well for the next 10 minutes as a more positive looking Ayr side pressed to stretch their advantage once more. Inevitably they did so, Curle kicking a penalty before adding a final try to clinch the bonus point.
Melrose: F. Thomson; D. Hoyland, A. Skeen, J. Helps, A. Lockington; R. Mill, B. Colvine; N. Little, T. Pearce, G. Holborn, G. Dodds, R. Ovens, P. Eccles, G. Runciman, A. Nagle. R. Ferguson, C. Keen, R. Miller, A. Dodds, C. Anderson.