Ayr 15

Melrose 12

David O'Leary

at Millbrae

IT wasn't the way Melrose wanted to wave goodbye to the Tennent's Premiership.

Having fought hard for their slender lead, Rob Chrystie's team defended as though their lives depended on it.

But in one final - you could say cruel - twist the defending champions conceded a penalty try five minutes into added on time.

Chrystie was full of praise for his players at the final whistle, and voiced his doubts over the referee's decision.

He said: "Our boys deserved better - they laid it all on the line today.

"Credit to Ayr for coming back at us and taking their chance, but I thought the lineout which led to the awarding of the penalty try was messy at best.

"I’m bitterly disappointed for the players.”

It was always going to be an arm-wrestle of a semi-final as both teams know each other only too well.

Ayr started best.

Frazer Climo slotted a second-minute penalty before some enterprise sent Grant Anderson on his way to the line, only for play to be called back for a forward pass.

Climo narrowly failed to double the advantage with another penalty.

Melrose worked their way into the game with a few determined drives up the middle.

And in their first sustained attack of the half, only a loose pass prevented Grant Runciman from racing away for a try.

As half time approached Craig Jackson made it 3-3 with a well-struck penalty.

The Greenyards full back slotted the visitors in front with another penalty at the start of the second half.

While neither team was able to exert any real pressure, it was Ayr who were conceding the penalties.

Approaching the hour Jackson made it 3-9 with another score.

The home team scored their first try just five minutes later after a penalty to the corner. Ayr controlled play well with some yard-making phases before the ball was spun wide for Grant Anderson to capitalise on space.

At 10-9 it was all becoming rather nervy in both camps.

Jackson restored the Melrose lead as time ticked away with his fourth penalty from distance.

It was Ayr who finished strongest and only some desperate defending prevented Steve Longwell grounding after he crashed across the line.

Ross Curle was pushed into touch just a few feet from the line as the home team continued to search for the winning score.

With three minutes of added time already played there was an expectation for the final whistle to be blown.

But, instead, Melrose were ordered to take the throw in, which Tommy Spinks stole.

The visitors conceded a penalty in their efforts to prevent Ayr going over in the corner.

Rather than go for the posts from out wide, Ayr kicked for the corner.

And from the resultant line out, Ayr were awarded their penalty try as the assembling maul was collapsed.

Melrose: C Jackson, G Wood, P Anderson, G Taylor, I Sim, J Baggott, M McAndrew, G Shiells, R Anderson, C Crookshanks, J Head, C Young, R Knott, G Runciman & I Moody.