ALAN LORIMER @ Riverside Park
MARR posted Premiership promise with en eventually sumptuous win over Jed-Forest in a bizarre match that had a pendulum swing of dramatic proportions.
Jed, with a bonus point in the bag, were leading 28-10 five minutes into the second half, yet in the next 35 minutes the Riverside men conceded seven tries to confirm prematch fears that their understrength pack would be unable to cope with the power of their opponents’ big men.
After losing two key forwards in last weekend’s game against Gala, Jed were forced to recall veterans Michael Weekley and Donald Grieve to operate alongside a number of inexperienced young players.
“The second half was difficult to watch for the coaching team,” admitted the Jed forwards mentor, Gavin Kerr. “In the first half we did everything we’d worked on and we looked pretty good. In the second half we didn’t front up in the set piece. We gave away penalties and we couldn’t defend the scrum. Our lineouts went to pot a bit. As players they’ve got to have a look at themselves as well. That second-half performance is not acceptable.”
Marr could point to failings in the first half, but once they began to dominate the forward battle the final result was always inevitable. “With half an hour to go I was not thinking about a win. We tried to play too much rugby early on,” conceded Craig Redpath, the Marr coach.
He continued: “Their [Jed’s] backline is electric. They had two or three opportunities in the first half and they took them. They have a number of players missing. I know that and the team knows that. Once Jed get these players back it will be a different proposition.
“I was delighted with the way we played the second half. We were strong in the scrum and in the line-out drive and we put pressure on them.”
It was Marr who set the scoreboard turning after a penalty from their stand-off Colin Sturgeon. But Jed quickly replied by showing their sharp handling skills that ended with Callum Young crossing in the corner and Robbie Yourston converting. Then when Gary Munro used turnover ball to attack, it was Yourston who was in support to take the winger’s inside pass for a try under the posts, leaving the scorer with an easy conversion.
Another handling error by Marr sparked another turnover attack, and again some deft handling that put Rory Marshall in the clear, the centre showing real pace in out-sprinting the cover defence for try and conversion number three and a 21-3 lead.
Could Jed be reeled in after this dynamic start? Well, yes, actually. The Marr fightback began just before half-time when after a driving maul was halted illegally Jed’s hooker Karl Lamont was sent to the sin bin. Marr then kicked to the corner and after a series of short-range drives had been blocked, the ball was spread wide to give Conor Bickerstaff an easy score, converted by Sturgeon.
Jed, however, showed that they still had hunger and five minutes into the second half again they profited from turnover ball , this time Callum Young angling his run perfectly to slice through the Marr defence, Yourston again adding the extras. But that was to be the end of the Jed scoring as Marr’s pack took over matters in the frontal struggle, pressuring the home side with driving lineouts, powerful scrummaging and close range tries that turned the game in a short period.
Premiership Match Reports 07/09/19:
Conor Bickerstaff grabbed his second try, then scrum-half Jack Preston squeezed over before Sturgeon put his side into the lead with a simple try, adding the conversion of his own score to the previous two.
Then when Jed lost their own line-out Marr put the ball wide for Scott Bickerstaff to score in the corner. With the Jed pack under an increasingly heavy cosh Marr had time to add a further 21 points with two more touchdowns from Conor Bickerstaff and final try from Fijian winger Ioseso Uraga, all converted by Sturgeon to complete a comprehensive win.
Jed-Forest: L Young; C Young, R Marshall, R Yourston, G Munro; M Mitchell, N Stingl; G Paxton, K Lamont, A Keeler, G Young, M Weekley, D Grieve, J Howe, D Buckley. Subs: C Lothian, J Bowie, J Hynd, E Lauder, S Paxton.
Marr: G Ness; S Bickerstaff, R Dalgleish, C Bickerstaff, I Uraga; C Sturgeon, J Preston; B Sweet, O Rossi, W Farquhar, E Hamilton-Bulger, C Cunningham, M Pearce, R Brown, B Grant. Subs: J Drummond, C McMillan, F Grant, F Hazel, G Paxton.
Referee: Ben Blain.
Jed-Forest: Tries: C Young 2, Yourston, Marshall; Cons: Yourston 4.
Marr: Tries: C Bickerstaff 4, S Bickerstaff, Sturgeon, Uraga, Preston; Cons: Sturgeon 7; Pen: Sturgeon.
Scoring sequence (Jed first): 0-3, 5-3, 7-3, 12-3, 14-3, 19-3, 21-3, 21-8, 21-10 (h-t) 26-10, 28-10, 28-15, 28-17, 28-22, 28-14, 28-29, 28-31, 28-36, 28-41, 28-43, 28-48, 28-50, 28-55, 28-57.
Yellow card –
Man-of-the-Match: In a Marr pack that became increasingly dominant the power of New Zealander Benedict Grant was significant. The Kiwi frequently made the hard yards in broken play and in the driving mauls Grant made sure that his side were always the winners
Talking point: The Premiership has always required teams to have big forward packs able to secure a good share of possession from the set-piece. Marr appear to have this component and allied to a dynamic back line their prospects look good this season. Jed suffered simply because they did not have the grunt up front. Their situation may become better with the return of a number of high-profile performers. But until then Jed will have to ask more and more of the resources that they currently have at their disposal.