IAIN HAY @ Fullarton Park
THE home side, who were strong favourites going into the match, did run out comprehensive winners in the end, but only after making heavy weather of seeing off a spirited Musselburgh side, in a wind affected contest down on the Ayrshire coast.
Musselburgh, shorn of the services of the Owenson brothers, and outside backs Tom Foley and James Ferguson, were on the back foot from the off, but just when Marr wing Richard Dalgleish looked set to score, splendid defensive work by Sandy Watt and Rory Smith forced him to spill in the tackle, and full-back Nathan Sweeney launched a howitzer downfield to release the pressure.
The away team then even had the gall to open the scoring with a 40-metre effort from the boot of Paul Cunningham, ably assisted by the wind, in the seventh minute after Marr were penalised for offside, which was to become somewhat of a recurring theme.
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The home side won a penalty of their own when Musselburgh loose-head Euan Bonthron was adjudged to have brought down a scrum from around the same distance which Musselburgh had opened the scoring. Playing into the wind, stand-off Colin Sturgeon kicked to the corner rather than take the shot at goal, and having secured their own line-out, the hosts easily mauled their way over the try-line with Mackenzie Pearce the man in possession.
The same tactic paid dividends again to double Marr’s total. Although Musselburgh initially repelled their opponents’ advances, Conor Bickerstaff was on hand a few phases later to squeeze his way over for his fifth try of the two-game old season.
Musselburgh then had themselves a good spell of pressure. Cunningham missed with one shot at goal, and a line-out in the Marr 22 was pinched by Robert Brown, but after Rory Smith and Rory Watt had combined to break the Marr line, another offside call gave Cunningham a far easier kick to reduce the deficit to 14-6 with nearly half an hour played.
With the half drawing to a close, Musselburgh saw stand-off Cunningham sent to the bin for a deliberate knock-on as Marr closed in down the right-hand side. Captain Michael Maltman had been warned earlier by the referee about the number of infringements his side were conceding.
The man advantage instantly paid off, Dalgleish finding himself in acres of space to go in at the left-hand corner.
There was still time for Musselburgh to take the restart though, and from that they scored in remarkably similar fashion to the last Marr try, with stand-off Sturgeon being shown a ‘team yellow’ and Musselburgh full-back Sweeney, who is a Stage 3 academy player and dual registered with Super 6’s Southern Knights, going over in the right corner. The conversion was missed so it was 19-11 at half-time.
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As with the first-half, Musselburgh struggled to contain Marr’s powerful mauling, and home scrum-half Jack Preston took advantage to nip round the side and over the line, which captain Conor Bickerstaff converted while Sturgeon was waiting to reappear from the sin-bin.
When Sturgeon came back on he promptly added a penalty to stretch the lead to 18 points, before more Musselburgh line-out woes occurred put Marr back on the attack, with Gregor Paxton putting the match well beyond doubt after a sustained period of pressure.
Musselburgh got themselves a consolation score when Gregor Tait picked off Gregor Ness’ pass and raced over from inside his own half, but the final say was for Marr. Sturgeon picked up a spilled off-load from Colin Arthur to Paddy Brown, broke into the Musselburgh 22 and it was finished off by Iosefo Turaga on the left.
Despite picking up the five-points, Marr head coach Craig Redpath was a little disappointed with his side’s performance. “Average,” he sated. “A lot of things to work on. Fair play to Musselburgh, they did a lot of different things, gave us a different challenge. Tough game against GHA next week, local derby, then we get right into the meat of the league.”
Although missing a few key players, Musselburgh gaffer Graeme Paterson saw reasons to be optimistic “No excuses for guys being missing. I thought the 20 guys who played played reasonably well, but our biggest thing that’s killing us at the minute is our discipline,” he said. “We’ll have a look at the video and see. We’re happy to work with the referees and feedback to them and say ‘What’s your opinion about that?’ so we’re better prepared for the next one.”
Marr: G Montgomery; S Bickerstaff, G Paxton, C Bickerstaff©, R Dalgleish; C Sturgeon, J Preston; B Sweet, O Rossi, C Henderson, E Hamilton-Bulger, F Grant, M Pearce, R Brown, B Grant. Subs: J Drummond, W Farquhar, C Cunningham, G Ness, I Turaga.
Musselburgh: N Sweeney; S Watt, R Smith, R Watt, G Tait; P Cunningham, A Reddick; E Bonthron, J Crane, C Arthur, E O’Brien, J Haynes, M Maltman ©, C Pryde, L Hutson. Subs: R Stott, P Brown, G McKinstrey, C Champion, K McGhie.
Referee: Tom French
Marr: Tries: Pearce, C Bickerstaff, Dalgleish, Preston, Paxton, Turaga; Cons: Sturgeon 4, C Bickerstaff; Pens: Sturgeon.
Musselburgh: Tries: Sweeney, Tait; Pens: Cunningham 2,
Scoring sequence (Marr first): 0-3, 7-3, 14-3, 14-6, 19-6, 19-11 (h-t) 26-11, 29-11, 36-11, 36-16, 43-16
Yellow Cards –
Man-of-the-Match: On a day that needed more grunt than guile, the engine room of Marr were very impressive. Ewan Hamilton-Bulger gets the nod, for his hard-carrying, line-out disruption and one sumptuous, Nakarawa-esque offload which nearly set up a score.
Talking Point: Both coaches said after the match that they’ll be reviewing the videos, given the large number of penalties awarded. Despite it being high-scoring, the stop-start nature of the match made it a bit of a slog.