ALAN LORIMER @ Philiphaugh
MARR delivered their twelfth win of this Premiership season after defeating Selkirk with a performance that was characterised by tight defence and a self belief built on a stream of success this season.
Both sides regard themselves as exponents of running rugby but on a heavy Philiphaugh pitch each had to accept that the conditions dictated bottom, rather than top, of the ground rugby.
Marr’s coach, Craig Redpath, returning to his native Borders, savoured this win. “Selkirk are a very good side and they’re well organised,” he said. “They stick to their game-plan and keep plugging away.
Premiership Match Reports:
“For 25 minutes they were never in the game [in the first half] and we were 9-0 up. They get one chance and they take it. The big turning point in the game was them missing a penalty kick. I’m delighted with our effort and with our spirit. It’s important we keep winning.”
Marr’s ‘effort’ was a blend of tight defence, excellent phase play and classy finishing from the outside backs. But while Marr took the honours at Philiphaugh, Selkirk deserve a huge amount of credit for producing what was at times thrilling rugby against opponents who were adept at keeping the ball for long periods of time.
Selkirk were kept out of the game for the first quarter as Marr showed skilful ball retention even in the face of committed home tackling. The result for Marr was a trio of penalties, all of them in front of the posts, making the task of converting kicks into points relatively easy for centre Gregor Paxton.
Then, five minutes before the break, Selkirk were awarded a penalty and opted to kick to the corner. The ensuing line-out yielded only another penalty but instead of repeating the ball-to-the-corner exercise, stand-off Aaron McColm took a quick tap. Sean Rankin did the hard work and when the ball was released Ewan MacDougall crashed over to score under the posts leaving McColm with a simple conversion kick.
Selkirk continued their resurgence at the beginning of the second half and were rewarded for constant pressure with a try by Scott McClymont after a surges by Rankin and Luke Pettie, McColm’s conversion putting the Borderers 14-9 ahead.
With momentum firmly with them, Selkirk were awarded a penalty, only for McColm to miscue his kick at goal. It was a precious chance gone because had the kick gone over the home side would have led 17-9.
Marr, appreciating that they had to get back into the game, responded immediately with a slick passing move that ended with Conor Bickerstaff putting his brother Scott in for a try to level the scores at 14-14. Then when 17-year old replacement Calum Inglis added the conversion, Marr were back in front.
It was the score that seemed to infuse Marr with extra energy and a second try, again scored by Scott Bickerstaff from a clever cross-field kick by No 8 Benedict Grant.
There was still time for another Marr try, and this time it came from a penalty-created line-out, with hooker Curran McMillan completing a winning performance.
Selkirk: H Bithray; R Cottrell, J Welsh ,R Nixon, L Berte; A McColm, L Merolle; L Pettie, J Bett, B Riddell, P Forrest, S Rankin, A Mackay, S McClymont, E MacDougall Subs: Andrew McColm, H Borthwick, M Haldane, C McNeill, C Anderson.
Marr: G Montgomery; S Bickerstaff, G Paxton, C Bickerstaff, J Scott; C Sturgeon, J Preston; W Farquhar, O Rossi, C Henderson, E Hamilton-Bulger, F Grant, M Pearce, R Brown, B Grant. Subs: C McMillan, B Sweet, C Cunningham, C Inglis, T Steven.
Referee: N Munro
Selkirk: Tries MacDougall, McClymont; Cons: McColm 2.
Marr: Tries S Bickerstaff 2, McMillan; Con: Inglis; Pens: Paxton 3.
Scoring Sequence (Selkirk first): 0-3; 0-6; 0-9; 5-9; 7-9 (h-t) 12-9; 14-9; 14-14; 14-16; 14-21; 14-26.
Man-of-the-Match: Throughout the match, Conor Bickerstaff showed his quality as an inside centre and notably the speed at which he took and gave the pass which released his brother en route to the try line.
Talking point: Marr steadied their ship with an all-round performance, and having regained their poise it will be difficult for the chasing group to dislodge the Premiership leaders.