Currie Chieftains 27
MATT VALLANCE @ Fullarton Park
MARR cruised clear at the top of the Tennent’s Premiership – and claimed the Bill McLaren Shield – with this emphatic seven-tries-to-four win over a Currie Chieftains side which never recovered from the loss of playmaker Gregor Hunter after only four minutes.
“Losing Gregor so early certainly impacted on our attack, but in the end it was our poor work in defence which cost us,” said a disappointed Chieftains coach Mark Cairns. “The youth of our team and their lack of physicality was a major factor in the loss, but, in what was a poor performance, there was a glimmer of hope in the way they came back to salvage a try bonus point.”
Craig Redpath of Marr was naturally cock-a-hoop, after an excellent display. “That’s the best second-half performance I’ve seen from us, but we’re taking nothing for granted,” the home head coach said. “Yes, losing Gregor hurt them, but, for us, Colin Sturgeon was immense, and our defence in the first hour or so was terrific.
“However, we dropped off in the final quarter and, if we do that at Mansfield next week, we will get punished, so, we have plenty to still work on.”
Hunter’s injury came when he got his head in the wrong place in making a tackle and it was immediately obvious that he would play no further part. Strangely, Currie replaced him with lock Grant Williamson, who immediately went to first receiver.
This weekend’s Premiership results:
However, the visitors were still reeling when a superb kick-chase to a Sturgeon clearance was followed up and snaffled by skipper Conor Bickerstaff, to put lock Fraser Grant over for the first, unconverted, try.
In 14 minutes Marr increased their lead when full-back Grant Montgomery touched down following good continuity rugby involving, among others, hooker Ollie Rossi and No 8 Robert Brown, with Sturgeon converting.
Steve Hamilton then pulled back three points for the visitors with a penalty in 21 minutes, before, on the half-hour, the Currie pack went through a good number of phases for Mike Vernel to go over. But Marr had the last word of the first half, their pack working through the phases for prop Willie Farquhar to get the touch down. Sturgeon converted and it was 19-8 at the break.
Marr opened the second half powerfully and in 44 minutes, a switch of play saw Conor Bickerstaff run a great line onto a popped pass to go over for the bonus-point try. Four tries quickly became five as Sturgeon glided through the Currie ranks on a show and go move off a scrum, before converting. And, with Currie floundering, another series of phases engineered a huge overlap for winger Jack Scott to score a try which Sturgeon converted from wide out.
Marr then lost Scott Bickerstaff to injury, but, it made little difference as Sturgeon reprised his first try for a second gliding solo effort which he conveted and going into the final quarter, Marr led 45-8.
Maybe they lifted their feet off the gas at that point, or perhaps Redpath’s taking advantage of the big lead to get some of his youngsters on didn’t really work. Whatever, Currie, who never gave up, finished the stronger. Charlie Brett reduced the leeway when he won the foot race to a Cammy Scott kick to the in-goal area, before scoring a second try when he found a chink in the Marr defence as Currie pressed.
Steven Hamilton converted that try, and was on target again with the conversion after skipper Fergus Scott charged over to complete a good spell of phases from the visitors to complete the scoring.
Marr: G Montgomery; S Bickerstaff, R Dalgleish, C Bickerstaff (captain), J Scott; C Sturgeon, J Preston; B Sweet, O Rossi, C Henderson, E Hamilton-Bulger, F Grant, M Pearce, B Grant, R Brown. Substitutes: J Drummond, W Farquhar, C Cunningham, J Barvey, I Turaga.
Currie Chieftains: C Brett; S Hamilton, A Hall, C Scott, A Maclean; G Hunter, G Christie; G Carson, F Scott (captain), M Argiro, M Vernal, M Poole, H Ferguson, W Nelson, J O’Brian. Substitutes: B Slessor, C Ramsay, G Williamson, M O’Neil, T Clark.
Referee: Ian Kenny.
Marr: Tries: F Grant, G Montgomery, W Farquhar, C Bickerstaff, C Sturgeon 2, J Scott. Cons: Sturgeon 5.
Currie Chieftains: Tries: M Vernel, C Brett 2, F Scott. Cons: S Hamilton 2. Pen: Hamilton.
Scoring sequence (Marr first): 5-0, 10-0, 12-0, 12-3, 12-8, 17-8, 19-8 half-time, 24-8, 29-8, 31-8, 36-8, 38-8, 43-8, 45-8, 45-13, 45-18, 45-20, 45-25, 45-27.
Man of the Match: With his two brilliant solo tries and his astute use of the boot, the honour has to go to Marr stand-off Colin Sturgeon.
Talking point: How crucial was the Hunter injury? With the wind behind them in the second half, you might have expected Hunter to kick Currie into dangerous territory, but the question then is would he have made a big enough difference in unlocking a very good Marr defence?