THERE have been big games where Ayr got the better of their opponents only to be undone by indiscipline, and Saturday’s BT Premiership final against Melrose came perilously close to falling into that category.
Deservedly ahead but deep in their own half with time running out, the visitors conceded a penalty, one of which saw captain Pete McCallum sinbinned for collapsing a maul. That could have been costly, and one or two more offences could have easily have resulted in a penalty try, but when it mattered most, Ayr responded magnificently.
Moments later the match was over, and the first half of the double was in the bag. The same clubs now meet in Saturday’s BT Cup final at Murrayfield, and McCallum for one believes his team can rise to the occasion again.
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“As we said at the end, good teams win leagues, great teams go out and win doubles,” the No 8 stated. “That’s what we’re planning to do – we’ve got a pretty good support coming through, hopefully a few more buses to fill this week, and make Murrayfield pink and black.
“Melrose, credit to them, put us under some pressure at the end – they were relentless. Throughout the second half they cranked it up a notch and we were just holding out and holding out.”
As well as celebrating, McCallum was mightily relieved – having also been sinbinned in last year’s final, when a late penalty try gave the title to Heriot’s. “I couldn’t quite believe it – it was déjà vu all over again,” he added. “I was just about in tears on the sideline, and I didn’t actually see it when Queenie [Sutherland] got up there and stole that line-out. But the guys did brilliantly to hold on to it under pressure.”
Melrose stand-off Jason Baggott opened the scoring, but his opposite number Frazier Climo soon pulled Ayr level, and two more penalties from the No 10 gave the visitors a 9-3 lead at half-time.
Melrose fell further behind 15 minutes into the second half, but they slowly got on top after that. But Ayr held on, leaving home coach Robert Chrystie to rue the chances his team had spurned.