IAIN HAY @ Braidholm
AFTER yet another slow start by last season’s National One champions, Marr’s superiority eventually told, but not after another spirited display from the home side, which keeps them optimistic despite a brutal opening three rounds of fixtures.
GHA caught Marr on the hop when young Jackson Baillie went over in the left corner with barely a minute on the clock. A highly contestable kick-off from first-XV debutant Jack Anderson caused chaos in the Marr backline, and Baillie, who nearly grabbed himself a second try later and defended bravely throughout, was on hand for the simple finish.
Marr thought that they had levelled matters through flanker Mackenzie Pearce, but after consulting with her nearside touch-judge, referee Hollie Davidson penalised the Marr man instead for a double movement.
Centre Gregor Paxton did pull Marr level shortly afterwards after a midfield break and perfectly weighted pass from stand-off Colin Sturgeon, who himself crossed the whitewash shortly afterwards for the visitors’ second try.
GHA, who coach Trevor Carmichael revealed have already used 30 players this season, came storming back, and it’s not a series of events which Fraser Grant will look back on too fondly.
After being forced to pass back into his own 22 to Sturgeon, his pass landed between two players. Scott Bickerstaff cleared, but not realising he could not kick directly into touch, GHA were awarded the lineout only five metres from the Marr line.
Scott Carson was stopped just short of the line, but referee Davidson had decided Grant had brought the mall down illegally, so a penalty try was awarded with Grant going to the bin. With half-time approaching, though, Ness finished brilliantly in the left-hand corner again, bouncing off the tackle off Mollison to mean the half ended 12-19.
If GHA thought they got out the blocks quickly in the first half, Marr came out looking like Usain Bolt on amphetamines. Sturgeon’s kick-off was deflected back off a GHA hand, centre Gregor Paxton picked up the loose ball, side-stepped and cantered in under the sticks with only 11 seconds showing on GHA’s shiny new scoreboard.
But, again the home side came back. Milan Marinkovic stole the ball from a Marr ruck inside their 22, charged towards the line and fed Andy Cornwell for an easy finish for the loose-head.
Further GHA pressure, involving some hard carrying by late No 8 replacement Luke McCutcheon, caused an offside infringement by last week’s man of the match Ewan Hamilton-Bulger. Anderson stroked the straightforward penalty between the sticks to bring the scores to 22-26.
Marr’s set-piece superiority and off-loading skills then came to the rescue. Centurion William Farquhar, assisted by fellow prop replacement Cody Cunningham, managed to rip the ball in the tackle, and although a forward pass stopped Marr’s attack, they won a penalty against the head at the resultant scrum. Linepout secured, they spun the ball right to left, and Gregor Ness finished yet again for his hat-trick.
Scott Bickerstaff put the game beyond doubt with a quick double, then Jack Scott added a further try, which had it been converted would have brought up the 50 points and been a fitting gift for coach Craig Redpath, who was also marking his 50th birthday.
GHA did earn themselves a bonus-point when replacement scrum-half George Baird squeezed over from close range for their fourth try, but Marr had too much firepower and physicality when it really mattered. Despite seeing his side beaten again, home coach Carmichael took the result with good grace.
“We have to be realistic, the three teams we’ve played, we’ve not had the easiest of starts,” he said. “Two home games in a row next, we can take a lot of positives from that.”
Despite being caught out early doors, Redpath was far more pleased with his side’s display than last week. “Another bonus point, we played some good stuff. We maybe gave away three of the tries, but fair play to GHA for taking them. All in all though, very happy, much better performance than last week. Once we got into our stride we were the better team.”
GHA: G Mollison; A Purewal, C Lonergan, C King, J Baillie; J Anderson, A Gillman; A Cornwell, H Clark, S Fisher, A Barnett, A Kerr, M Marinkovic, D Ewing, L McCutcheon. Subs: S Carson, F Faulds, M Conroy, G Baird, R O’Keefe.
Marr: G Ness; S Bickerstaff, G Paxton, C Bickerstaff©, R Dalgleish; C Sturgeon, G Montgomery; B Sweet, O Rossi, C Henderson, E Hamilton-Bulger, F Grant, M Pearce, R Brown, B Grant. Subs: C McMillan, W Farquhar, C Cunningham, J Scott, I Turaga.
Referee: H Davidson.
GHA: Tries: J Baillie, penalty try, A Cornwell, G Baird; Cons: J Anderson 2; Pen: J Anderson.
Marr: Tries: G Paxton 2, G Ness 2, C Sturgeon, S Bickerstaff 2, J Scott. Cons: C Sturgeon 4.
Scoring sequence: 5-0, 5-7, 5-14, 12-14, 12-19 half-time, 12-26, 19-26, 22-26, 22-31, 22-43, 22-48, 29-48.
Yellow card: GHA: A Kerr.
Man of the match: Sturgeon was pulling the strings for the victors, but Gregor Ness bags it with two well taken tries in the left-hand corner.
Talking Point: With Currie’s thumping victory over Hawick, Marr’s hosting of them next week will be a test of where the Troon side stand. Both teams have been at Braidholm over the last month, and won well, but both found it tougher than expected. Should be a cracker.