Ayr held on despite a second half fightback from Melrose to lift the BT Premiership title at The Greenyards on Saturday.
Heading into the last few minutes the game was in the balance with the Millbrae men leading 12-8.
Melrose had a lineout near the opposition line, but Ayr second-row Scott Sutherland stole it and then, a few phases later, they cleared the ball to touch and were celebrating their victory.
In the second minute Ayr almost got off to a flying start when skipper Pete McCallum picked up the ball from the base of a scrum 30 metres out. He ran some 25 metres, but just could not convert the chance.
Ayr’s early possession continued and their forwards carried well, but in the ‘22’ full-back Grant Anderson lost the ball in contact.
Melrose then got a foothold in things thanks to a booming kick by stand-off Jason Baggott which got them into Ayr territory.
In the 15th minute he kicked a penalty to put the home side 3-0 up.
Eight minutes later the visitors were level at 3-3 thanks to a penalty by stand-off Frazier Climo.
Melrose were then dealt a blow when winger Austin Lockington was forced off injured to be replaced by George Taylor.
At the same time they rotated their props, Nick Beavon replacing Ruairi McLeod at tighthead.
Just before the half hour mark Ayr then went 6-3 ahead thanks to a second Climo penalty and this game was really warming up.
With five minutes to go before the interval Climo then made a good break through the Melrose defence. The final pass just did not go to hand, but the visitors were in the ascendancy.
Beavon then hit Climo late, it may have warranted a yellow, but only a penalty was given. Climo kept his composure to make it 9-3.
That was the way it stayed at half-time.
The second half started off with a lot of intent from both sides, but silly handling errors from both sides meant the score remained unaltered.
A period of Ayr pressure, including a lovely chip and catch by Climo, tested the Melrose defence and in the 54th minute Climo’s fourth penalty put them 12-3 up.
From the resultant kick-off, Climo’s clearance kick was blocked by Melrose skipper Grant Runciman, but the visiting 10 just got back to touch the ball down in the dead ball area.
In the 57th minute Baggott then missed a penalty attempt and Ayr were still nine points off.
Melrose the brought Ally Grieve and Bruce Colvine on for second-row James Head and scrum-half Murdo McAndrew as the game entered the last 20 minutes.
With 14 minutes to go Melrose laid an assault on the Ayr line and knew they had to come back with points to stay in the game.
They did just that when second-row Ruaridh Knott got the ball out wide and managed to barge his way over for the first try of the day.
Baggott missed the conversion, but it was certainly game on as Dan Elkington and Gregor Henry came on for their respective sides.
With eight minutes to go Melrose full-back Fraser Thomson then picked up a great inside ball and chipped ahead, but the danger was just averted.
Then with three minutes to go, loosehead prop Elkington won a penalty at scrum time and from the resultant lineout five metres out Melrose kept pounding at the Ayr line.
The visitors repelled them, but then ‘Rose were awarded a five metre scrum and the game was still in the balance.
Melrose were then held up and a few handbags were thrown as the home side went for a lineout.
No.8 Iain Moody took the lineout and ‘Rose earned another penalty, Ayr No.8 McCallum being yellow carded.
We were into the last minute by now and the crowd were on the edge of their seats until Sutherland’s lineout steal.
Scorers: Melrose: Try: Knott. Pen: Baggott. Ayr: Pens: Climo (4).
Melrose: Fraser Thomson; Austin Lockington, Nyle Godsmark, Craig Jackson, Sam Pecqueur; Jason Baggott, Murdo McAndrew; Jamie Bhatti, Russell Anderson, Ruairi McLeod, James Head, Ruaridh Knott, Neil Irvine-Hess, Grant Runciman (C), Iain Moody. Subs: Cammy McKay, Dan Elkington, Nick Beavon, Ali Grieve, Peter Eccles, Bruce Colvine, George Taylor.
Ayr: Grant Anderson; Danny McCluskey, Archie Russell, Stafford McDowall, Craig Gossman; Frazier Climo, David Armstrong; George Hunter, Lewis Anderson, Steven Longwell, Rob McAlpine, Scott Sutherland, Blair Macpherson, Will Bordill, Pete McCallum (C). Subs: David Young, Djustice Sears-Duru, Gregor Henry, Adam Prentice, Harry Warr, Jamie Bova, Richard Dalgleish.
Referee: Mike Adamson.
SCRUM Man of the Match: Blair Macpherson (Ayr).
Thanks to David Gibson/FOTOSPORT Scottish Rugby/SNS for the photos
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