Stephen Brunsdon @ Braidholm
MARR continued their strong start to the Premiership season by securing a bonus-point victory over a lacklustre GHA at Braidholm. Tries from Blair Jardine, Conor Bickerstaff, Harry Murray and Cody Cunningham ensured a first away win of the campaign for Craig Redpath’s men to put them top of the table, albeit having played a game more than Currie Chieftains.
For GHA, it was a case of what could have been. The hosts had their chances in the first half, but indiscipline and a malfunctioning line-out at key moments left them scoreless for the second weekend in succession.
Although far from a perfect performance, Marr head coach Redpath contented himself with a hard-fought win on the road. “GHA did what we expected them to do, and we had an okay game from our perspective,” he said.
“They got stuck in, but we did what we needed to do and, if you win 22-0 every game, that is positive. We didn’t let them in, they never got a kick at goal so I am happy with that. Beyond that, it was a bit of a scrappy game but we look forward to Jed next week.”
The opening half an hour was tight with neither GHA nor Marr managing to find a way through their opponents’ strong defensive structures.
Having been starved of munitions in their previous game against Currie, GHA had started brightly, and dominated possession during the opening two minutes.
The home defence was also on point as Marr initially struggled to fire their attack into action, with GHA’s effective rush defence preventing out-half Colin Sturgeon releasing his elusive backline.
Despite this, GHA could not make the most of their time with ball in hand and coughed up a handful major chances to score in the opening half. Scrum-half George Baird kicked his side deep into Marr’s 22 after the visitors were penalised for holding on, but a misfiring line-out cost the hosts dearly and Marr cleared. Trevor Carmichael’s side then had another opportunity before the end of the first quarter, but again conceded a penalty as prop Michael Fox was pinged for not releasing.
Eventually, the deadlock was broken after 30 minutes through Marr hooker Blair Jardine, who plunged over from a driving maul which hd rumbled in from 22m line-out. Colin Sturgeon converted and Marr held an early 7-0 advantage.
Marr, lethargic and wasteful in the early going, now appeared to have found momentum to push on, and the visitors looked far more dangerous in attack for the remainder of the half.
Indeed, it wasn’t long after Jardine’s score that they bagged their second, albeit in rather fortuitous fashion following a Scott Bickerstaff up-and-under which was left un-fielded by GHA and duly snapped up by Jardine, who then sent Callum Inglis bursting up-field. The full-back then sent Conor Bickerstaff strolling in at a canter to touch down. Sturgeon was off target with the boot and Marr’s half-time lead stood at 12-0.
If Marr had anticipated a retaliation from GHA at the start of the second half, they made sure they got their own in from the off, which was a stark contrast to how they started the opening 40 minutes. With their set-piece now on top, the visitors orchestrated their way into the GHA 22, to crated the platform for their third try, courtesy of Harry Murray. The second row sensationally gathered a Sturgeon cross-field kick, which for all money looked as though it was heading out of play, before crossing over in the corner.
Sturgeon, for all that he was accurate out of hand, was again off the mark from the tee, but Marr now looked destined for the bonus-point fourth score.
GHA’s cause was not helped by a yellow card for Walker Graham just after the 50-minute marker for a late hit, but head coach Carmichael was quick to admit that the game had already turned decisively against his squad.
“The game was probably done by then,” he said. “Then it was just a case of focusing on what we needed to do after that. There were positives to take from the match, of course, we stuck in with them for half an hour in the first half, but they just had enough throughout.”
The bonus-point was sealed on 55 minutes after Cody Cunningham dived over from close-range to give Marr an insurmountable lead, with the conversion again straying wide of the uprights.
From then on, it was a scrappy, turgid affair in which inaccuracies and indiscipline crept into both side’s games, making for difficult viewing in the final quarter.
For Marr, it mattered little as Redpath’s side took its third win from four games in this season’s Premiership.
“We got the job done, GHA always play hard against us, it was tough,” the coach concluded. “For us, we’re just a bit disappointed in our execution overall and not delivering the pieces that we should have done. We’re happy with the win, but every week is going to be tough if you don’t turn up, so we’re happy with the away win today.”
GHA: G Mollison; R O’Keefe; C Lonergan, M MacFarlane, S Derrick; J Crilly, G Baird; T Brogan, E Cavan, M Fox, A Kerr, J McCarthy, M Marinkovic, W Graham, L McCutcheon. Subs: G Hiddleston, J McIntaggert, R Hay, S Simpson, S Carden.
Marr: C Inglis; S Bickerstaff, J Shedden, C Bickerstaff, I Turaga; C Sturgeon, S Broad; G Reid, B Jardine, W Farquhar, H Murray, F Grant, M Pearce, C Cunningham, B Johnston. Subs: S Adair, B Sweet, R Brown, S McDonald, G Montgomery.
Referee: R Campbell
Marr: Tries: Jardine, C Bickerstaff, Murray, Cunningham Cons: Sturgeon
Scoring Sequence (GHA first): 0-5; 0-7; 0-12 (h-t); 0-17; 0-22
Yellow cards –
GHA: W Graham
Man-of-the-Match: He wasn’t as accurate from the tee as he would have liked, but Marr fly-half Colin Sturgeon was an intrinsic element of what made Marr tick. The visitors took their time to get on the front foot in attack, but when they did, Sturgeon was able to get runners off him with ease. The variety in his game always kept GHA chasing.
Talking point: It’s important to remember that not all games can be eight-try thrillers, and this certainly wasn’t one of those matches. Despite the largely comfortable score-line, this match was won by small margins. Little decisions here and there shaped the game and Marr edged those throughout. The awareness and support running involved to create Conor Bickerstaff’s try before the break was key to the momentum of the second half, and a piece of absolute brilliance from Murray for the third try effectively killed the game off. On the other hand, if GHA had converted any of their chances deep in the Marrr 22, the whole complexion of the game could have turned.