The new-look Melrose squad “found themselves” at half-time in this terrific Millbrae match, before kicking on to go top of the BT Premership table.
That is the view of coach John Dalziel, who praised the “calmness” in the visiting dressing room at the end of a first half which had seen Ayr take a 12-3 lead and Melrose repeatedly fall foul of referee Sam Grove-White.
Things got worse as Ayr stretched their lead with a fantastic team try, but Melrose calmly went about their business to win the game in the final quarter.
Full credit must go to Melrose, for turning a 19-3 deficit, three minutes into the second half, into a deserved 23-19 victory.
Tries for Frazier Climo, Ali Price and Robbie Fergusson put the Millbrae side in the driving seat but two Joe Helps penalties and tries by Graham Dodds, Fraser Thomson and Sam Pecquer saw Melrose snatch victory right at the death.
Frazier Climo marked his return to Ayr with an eighth-minute unconverted solo try. Joe Helps cut the deficit with a penalty after Ayr’s Andrew Dunlop was yellow-carded in 26 minutes. But at the end of a half punctuated by penalties, Ali Price blasted through a huge gap, Climo converted and Ayr led 12-3.
Ayr caught the restart and worked through several phases and nine or ten pairs of hands for Robbie Fergusson to drive over, Climo converted, and the home side were 19-3 ahead.
Helps’ second penalty cut the deficit but, as the game moved into the final quarter, Ayr looked safe. All game, however, the home team had struggled to contain the Melrose maul and, with 12 minutes left, Graham Dodds blasted off the back of a maul to make it 19-11.
Then a slack Ayr clearing kick was run back by Sam Pecquer, who put Fraser Thomson over. Pecquer then won the game for the visitors in 76 minutes with a magnificent solo try. Melrose certainly deserved to triumph but missing seemingly easy kicks, plus wrong options, saw Ayr leave a possible 20 points out there. Crisis time at Alloway.
Melrose: F Thomson; N Godsmark, B Dick, J Helps, S Pecquer; J Baggott, M McAndrew; J Bhatti, R Ferguson, N Beavon, J Head, A Grieve, N Irvine-Hess, G Runciman, G Dodds. Substitutes: R McLeod, D Elkington, A Nagel, T Galbraith, R Taylor.