STUART BATHGATE @ Myreside
THOSE heavy early-season defeats by Melrose and Currie feel a long way off now for Watsonians, who are now the ones handing out the heavy beatings. From being at the wrong end of the table in those opening weeks, they are closing in on the play-off places, and, while there are tougher battles to come than this one-sided contest, they are an increasingly confident and well-balanced team who need fear no-one.
The smart money might still be against Stevie Lawrie’s side’s being able to break into the top four, and the greater experience of the quartet above them could be telling. But with their games to come being against Heriot’s next week, then Hawick, Hawks, Boroughmuir (who they also play in the cup) and Ayr, they can relish the run-in to the season.
“First-class from the guys, really,” was Lawrie’s verdict after his team out-powered Marr to score 10 tries. “It was good, it was good. In the first half we were disappointed and we probably left a couple of tries out there, but I thought the application was excellent, so I was pleased.
“We just need to focus on ourselves in the run-in. That’s the focus, game to game. But we have had a bit of time off, and to make that the first performance back was pleasing. But we know here’s going to be a hell of a war at Goldenacre, so we’re excited about that.”
Watsonians took an early lead with a simple try after Marr had over-committed to the breakdown. That left extra men on the right, and allowed Mark Bertram plenty space to score from Andrew Chalmers’ pass. Ali Harris converted.
Rory McGee was wide with a penalty as Marr tried to fight back, then Kaleem Barreto was just held up short of the line after a clever chip ahead from half-back partner Craig Kolarik. That was as close as the visitors would come to breaking their duck in a first half increasingly dominated by Watsonians, who went on to claim the try bonus before the break.
They had to wait until the half-hour mark for their second try, eventually scored by Michael Fedo several phases after Harris ran a penalty from the edge of the Marr 22. The scrum-half failed to add the two points on that occasion, but did get on target from his team’s other two tries before half-time. Edinburgh professional Jason Harries got the third, powering his way through a Marr defence that was more and more coming off second best in the physical battle. Then Harris himself scored the fourth, getting on the end of an excellent passing move in which the ball went through half a dozen pairs of hands.
Both teams had been guilty at times of trying to force an opening a phase or two too soon, with the main difference being that Watsonians at other times remained composed. Marr, losing ground at the majority of phases, could not afford to be similarly patient. In winger Tom Steven they had a powerful attacker, but Watsonians could afford to put two or even three men on him, with their defence in general having the line speed to snuff out less potent threats,
The home team carried on where they left off, with their fifth try coming a few minutes after the restart. The same combination of power and pace proved too much for Marr to withstand, and Fedo finished off in the left corner for his second unconverted score.
To their credit, Marr refused to fold, and came close to breaking their duck when they mounted a sustained assault. On that occasion they were knocked back in tackle after tackle, and eventually lost possession and position by conceding a free-kick, but they were soon back on the attack and got off the mark when Scott Bickerstaff squeezed in at the right corner for an unconverted try.
Spurred back into offensive action by that reminder that Marr were not quite a spent force, Watsonians delivered a swift response, with Harries getting his second try from a scoring pass by Craig Borthwick. Harris converted both that try and the one scored minutes later by Chalmers from a fine solo run, and with quarter of an hour to play the home side were in sight of their half-century.
It did not take them long to get there. With space opening up, Harries spied a gap and sliced through what was left of the defence to complete his hat-trick, with Harries again converting.
Inside the closing five minutes, James Miller got his team’s ninth try from a pushover by the pack. Then Bertram made it 10 in the last minute to round off a very satisfactory day’s work for the home team.
Watsonians: A Chalmers; M Bertram, M Allen, D Innes, J Harries; R Hutton, A Harris; F Hobbis, R Graham, N Borel, J Hodgson, C Borthwick, M Fedo, G Nelson, E Dods. Subs: D Miller, M Christie, J Miller, M Scott, J Harrison.
Marr: R McGee; S Bickerstaff, R Dalgleish, C Bickerstaff, T Steven; C Kolarik, K Barreto; G Jackson, O Rossi, W Farquhar, E Bulger, R Miller, M Pearce , R Jackson, B Johnston. Subs: S Adair, K Vallance, K Hatherell, G Paxton, D Steele.
Scorers: Watsonians: Tries: Bertram 2, Fedo 2, Harries 3, Harris, Chalmers, J Miller. Cons: Harris 7.
Marr: Try: S Bickerstaff.
Scoring sequence: 5-0, 7-0, 12-0, 17-0, 19-0, 24-0, 26-0 half-time, 31-0, 31-5, 36-5, 38-5, 43-5, 45-5, 50-5, 52-5, 57-5, 62-5, 64-5.
Referee: D Sutherland.
Man of the match: Captain and second-row Craig Borthwick set the tone for a commanding display by a Watsonians team who were simply too physically strong and mentally astute for their opponents.
Talking point: Can Watsonians force their way into the top four? This victory sets them up for a fascinating showdown with rivals Heriot’s next week, and if they win that one they will be right in the mix.