RBS PREMIER LEAGUE
Fiona Scott reports from the Greenyards
FOR the second consecutive week, Borders rugby was blessed with some late, and very well received, autumn sunshine – and the Greenyards was no exception for this much-anticipated top-of-the-table clash.
Unfortunately the game failed to match the hype with neither team looking particularly impressive and Galashiels referee Andrew McMenemy kept busy throughout.
The opening 15 minutes were slightly shambolic. Glasgow pro player Ruaridh Jackson missed an early penalty kick before Craig Gossman was judged to have put a foot in touch as he swept over the try line, ball in hand. Melrose responded well and were awarded a penalty of their own, but Andrew Skeen’s attempt also sailed wide.
Jackson missed another in front of the posts five minutes later but at the other end, Skeen managed to slot his to put the first points on the board for the hosts.
Minutes later Ayr notched the first try when Grant Anderson kicked ahead. The ball bounced unkindly for Melrose’s Sam Chalmers and the Ayr full back gathered up his kick to score. Jackson converted.
Melrose went down to 14 men when Greg White was sent to the sin-bin after numerous warnings to the home pack, but as the game moved into first half injury time, Melrose got themselves back into a scoring position and Skeen notched another penalty to close the gap.
Just as White was due to return to play, the visitors lost Andy Dunlop to the bin for a high tackle, but play continued and just before the half-time whistle, Ayr’s Scott Sutherland scored under most bizarre circumstances.
A drop goal attempt from Jackson rebounded off the posts and landed in the arms of lock Sutherland who was taking a breather out by the touchline. Needless to say, he found enough puff to crash over and Jackson’s conversion made the score 14-6 to Ayr at the break.
Skeen slotted his third penalty just after the restart but Ayr responded with another try, this time Grant Anderson doing the honours.
Once again the responsibility of closing the gap fell to Skeen and once again he stepped up to the plate, slotting a fourth penalty and closing the gap to seven points.
An injury time score proved conclusive, however, as Peter Jericevich slotted the penalty that put even the losing bonus point out of sight.
Melrose: S. Chalmers; G. White, N. McGrath, R. Mill, J. Helps; A. Skeen, S. McCormick; N. Little, R. Ferguson, G. Holborn, P. Eccles, R. Miller, J. Dalziel, G. Runciman, A. Nagle. Subs A. Walker, C. Keen, R. Ovens, B. Colvine, J. Murray.