MATT VALLANCE @ Fullarton Park
MARR survived their stiffest examination of the season to maintain their record of scoring bonus-point wins in every match played so far, to retain top spot in the Tennent’s Premiership.
“I’m happy with the result, but disappointed by our performa; this was a wake-up call for us,” said Marr coach Craig Redpath, who also praised the Selkirk defence, and bemoaned how his side made things difficult for themselves by butchering several good chances.
The visitors went in front via an Aaron McColm penalty in ten minutes, by which time it was already clear, this was going to be something of an arm-wrestle. Marr suffered a blow when Gregor Paxton was helped off with a hamstring injury in 15 minutes, but recovered to take the lead in 25 when a series of intense phases created space out wide and Richard Dalgleish went in for an unconverted try.
The home side stretched their lead on the half hour, when, following a series of pick and go thrusts off a five-metre line-out, Robert Brown finally barged his way over and Colin Sturgeon added the extras.
But, Selkirk were still in the game, as they showed in 37 minutes when Sturgeon dropped the ball on the edge of the Marr 22 and Josh Welsh accepted the gift to pick-up and gallop home for a try which was converted by McColm.
Marr missed a chance to stretch away in the final move of the half, when Fijian Iosefo Turaga sprinted 45 metres before he was nailed by the cover. He offloaded but referee Todd blew for a knock-on.
The third quarter was a tense affair, with defences on top, however, as time went on, the Marr pack began to dominate and off an advancing maul, Sturgeon’s grubber kick to the in-goal area was touched down by Gregor Ness, with Sturgeon converted.
Marr’s Calvin Henderson then picked-up a yellow card for a high tackle in 63 minutes and McColm took advantage with the penalty to make it a six-point game at 19-13. The visitors looked to make their extra man count, but Marr upped their game and dominated forward possession, before releasing the backs and skipper Conor Bickerstaff came in on a great line for the bonus-point try, converted by Sturgeon.
The home side wer unwilling to allow Selkir back at them and in 77 minutes they added a fifth try when a planned line-out move saw hooker Olli Rossi sprint home up the tramlines.
In injury time, the hosts completed the win with try number six, scored by replacement Jamie Drummond, and Sturgeon goaling his fourth conversion to complete the scoring. This took the points scored in the game to 51, exactly the total The Offside Line’s correspondent had forecast in the pre-match accumulator – the prize-money was put to good use – Cheers Marr, and thanks.
Marr: G Montgomery, R Dalgleish, G Paxton, C Bickerstaff, I Turaga; C Sturgeon, J Preston; B Sweet, O Rossi, C Henderson, E Hamilton-Bulger, F Grant, M Pearce, B Grant, R Brown. Replacements: J Drummond, W Farquhar, J Harvey, C Cunningham, G Ness.
Selkirk: H Bithray, F Anderson, J Wlesh, C Anderson, R Cottrell; A McColm, L Merolie; L Pettie, J Bett, B Riddell, A Mackay, P Forrest, D Nichol, E MacDougall, S McClymont. Replacements: D Alexander, M Waldron, S Rankin, H Borthwick, L Berte.
Referee: Michael Todd.
Marr: Tries: R Dalgleish, R Brown, G Ness, C Bickerstaff, O Rossi, J Drummond; Cons: C Sturgeon 4.
Selkirk: Try: J Welsh; Cons: A McColm; Pens: McColm 2.
Scoring sequence (Marr first): 0-3; 5-3; 10-3; 12-3; 12-8; 12-10 (h-t) 17-10; 19-10; 19-13; 24-13; 26-13; 31-13; 36-13; 38-13.
Man of the Match: Marr captain Conor Bickerstaff led from the front with a genuine captain’s performance in both attack and defence.
Talking Point: Can anyone halt the Marr juggernaut? Selkirk put up stern resistance, they had done their homework in stopping Marr from getting on a roll, but, in the final quarter, the home side just kept going to pull away to a somewhat flattering win. Winning when less than 100 percent is a good habit to get into and Marr did this here.