Premiership: Marr book home play-off with hard-nosed win over indisciplined Currie Chieftains

Visitors survive early onslaught to silence noisy Malleny crowd

Marr players celebrate their comeback win versus Currie Chieftains at Malleny Park. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Marr players celebrate their comeback win versus Currie Chieftains at Malleny Park. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

Currie Chieftains 17

Marr 27

DAVID BARNES @ Malley Park

THE Netflix cameras were at Malleny, filming former Chieftains Colts skipper and current Scotland flanker Luke Crosbie as part of their ‘Full Contact’ series following the 2024 Six Nations. Both sides were clearly fired up to put on a show, although it is possible that the valuable league points needed to secure home advantage when the second and third placed sides in the league meet again in the play-off semi-finals in a fortnight’s time was a bigger motivating factor.

At the end of the week when we learned that Super Series was being scrapped, both teams made the case that the top of the Premiership can be a match for their ‘part-time professional’ counterparts in terms of physicality, even if it got a bit loose and ragged at times.

Ultimately, it came down to Marr managing to stay in the fight during a whirlwind first quarter, their ability to keep their head under pressure and their decisiveness in taking chances when they came along. The Troon men will start the play-off at Fullarton as big favourites, although coach Kenny Diffenthal – who was celebrating his birthday – was sensibly circumspect as he looked ahead to the rematch.


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“We knew what they were going to bring tonight, we spoke about it all week, so it was a bit disappointing that we didn’t hit our straps in the first 15-20 minutes,” he said. “But credit to Currie because they came out and stopped what we were trying to do.

“What we were looking for was controlled aggression because we knew we were going to come into this arena where there was going to be a lot of noise from their home supporters, so we knew it was going to be loud and tough, and we spoke about staying in the fight. In the second half, after a good chat at half-time, it started to come good so we’re delighted.

“The semi-final at Fullarton will be noisy, too, but they’ll bring it again because they’ll be hurting after this. They’ll be like a wounded animal so we can’t let our focus and intensity drop at all. In fact, we’re going to have to build it further.”

Chieftains started like men possessed. Charlie Brett, Sam Cardosi and Ian Sim all made inroads with powerful carries, and Jamie Forbes lost the ball in the act of scoring, before the pressure eventually paid off when Ryan Daley crashed over for the opening try on eight minutes.

And the hosts doubled their account just five minutes later – even allowing for a pause while the referee lectured Marr following the third scuffle so far of this feisty contest – with James McCaig diving over win the corner following a lovely one-handed take and well timed pass from Brett.

The Currie Chieftains ultras were out in force and full voice, with their boys on the pitch giving them plenty to cheer about during this stirring opening salvo, but perhaps all that excitement had a detrimental effect on the home team’s focus, because they started giving away cheap penalties, which eventually allowed Colin Sturgeon to get his team off the mark with an easy three points from right in front of the posts.

Another penalty, awarded against Cardosi for slowing the ball down, allowed Sturgeon to narrow the gap to four points with just under half an hour gone, and after scarcely touching the ball during that opening quarter of an hour, the visitors now looked the more composed of the two teams.

Currie  came back hard, setting up camp on the Marr line, with Sturgeon picking up a yellow-card for a late tackle. However, it looked like the hosts had blown their chance of try number three when they lost an attacking line-out five-yards out and Marr cleared to halfway, but Brett scattered Marr’s chasers with two mesmerising dummies, and then Daley provided the link for DJ Innes to bustle past the last defender and scoot home from 35 yards.

Marr bounced back when Conor Bickerstaff collected Forbes’ chip over the tap and ran it back with gusto, prompting a period of pressure which culminated in Alex Apthorpe burrowing over from close range, with Bickerstaff – in the absence of the still sin-binned Sturgeon – adding the extras from directly in front of the posts.

Sim thought he’d had the last say of the first half when he sliced over for what would have been the bonus-point try, bu the powerful centret was called back for a forward pass.

 

 

The scoring slowed down after the break but the intensity and niggle persisted, and it wasn’t helping Currie at all, who at times seemed more intent on playing up to their ringside fans than winning the contest. From a position of real control near the Marr line they step-by-step conceded the length of the pitch through a series of penalties and wild missed tackles. And at the end of that passage of play the Malleny faithful roared like they’d won the league at a Marr knock-on as they pushed for the visitors’ second try. The reality was that the momentum of this game had just shifted inexorably away from their team.

It certainly got a bit quieter a few minutes later when Marr bumped and battled through several phases to find their way over for a Blair Jardine try, which edged the Troon side into the lead for the first time in the contest just after the hour mark. Sturgeon’s conversion gave his team a three-point advantage.

The visitors took control of possession and territory, playing ruthless rugby, and a senseless no arms tackle by Rhys Davies summed up how Chieftains had lost their way. Marr took the tap from 15 metres out and punched their way over for a William Farquhar try.

A late tackle by Farquhar allowed Brett to kick to the corner as Chieftains desperately tried to salvage a game which had been theirs for the taking at the start of the second half, and they then had two tap penalties five yards from the Marr line, but they couldn’t find a way through and a few of their number still seemed more intent on winning personal battles rather than the war their team was in, before a careless knock-on eventually signalled an end to a gripping contest which was high in aggression even if slightly lacking in finesse.

“We probably just didn’t capitalise on the momentum we had,” reflected Chieftains captain Forbes afterwards. “They are a good side, really physical, scored some good tries and got themselves on the right side of the momentum battle.

“We back ourselves here at Malleny, so it is a tough one to take,” he added. “Somebody said afterwards that we gave away nine penalties in a row and when you are giving away that many the pressure is going to build. I don’t know if it was necessarily ‘red-mist’ because they were all for different infringements.

“But we do have to be better at keeping our discipline because it has been a theme for us all year and, to be honest, we’ve not executed it all year. It is something we’ve got to change in two weeks’ time because if we don’t we are going to struggle.

“We’ve now got to do it the hard way, through at Marr which is a tough place to go, but if we don’t believe we can do it then we are not at the right club because that’s not the way we look at things here.”

 

Teams –

Currie Chieftains: C Brett; J McCaig, D Innes (C Beckett 38), I Sim (DJ Innes 41), R Daley; J Forbes, G Christie (P Boyer 29); T Jeffrey (O Blyth-Lafferty 41), R Stewart, G Carson (J Ramsay 51), A Bain (52), C West, R Davies, A Fletcher, S Cardosi (A Bain 67).

Marr: G Montgomery; L Jarvie, C Bickerstaff, N Calder, J Scott (R Baird 51); C Sturgeon, G Baird; A Rogers, B Sweet (C McMillan 58), W Farquhar (C Young 31), D Andrew, F Grant (E Hamilton-Bulger 58), A Anthorpe (W Farquhar 68), B Johnston, B Jardine (F Grant  72).

 

Scorers –

Currie Chieftains: Tries: Daley, McCaig, Innes; Con: Brett.

Marr: Tries; Apthorpe, Jardine, Farquhar; Con: Bickerstaff, Sturgeon 2; Pen: Sturgeon 2

Scoring sequence (Currie Chieftains first): 5-0; 10-0; 10-3; 10-6; 15-6; 17-6; 17-11; 17-13; (h-t) 17-18; 17-20; 17-25; 17-27.

 

Yellow card –

Marr: Sturgeon (31mins)

 

Man-of-the-Match: Gregor Montgomery was a colossus at the full-back and Conor Bickerstaff provided a focal point in attack and important belligerence as Currie looked to impose themselves physically. But this battle was one up-front and Ben Johnston edges out Blair Jardine to get the award.

Talking point: Two of the dominant Premiership teams in recent years went toe-to-toe for 80 compelling minutes. Was the SRU performance department taking notes and are they really interested in this tier of the game playing role in developing the next generation of professionals? There is surely something to be said for exposing players to games which are not all about developing technical excellence, but about sheer bloody-minded determination to win by any means necessary?


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About David Barnes 3911 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

12 Comments

  1. Sounds like Currie completely imploded like they did at Kelso. Too many boys getting coaxed into niggle/faux hardmanship is a real sign of mental weakness.

    Top 2 inches lads. Top 2 inches.

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      • McNeil will be off if somebody is getting more money than him.

        Don’t think Douglas would leave Hawick for Kelso …Maybe Hogg ?
        But money talks .
        The Rumours have to turn into facts though .
        Ps
        Rumours at Malleny last night that Currie bottled it .
        Is that true

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  2. Took the chance to head across to watch this game and although quality dipped at times, the intensity and sheer will to win stood out. Interesting few weeks to come in the premiership. I doubt Hawick will be too concerned but will need to get over the Kelso hurdle first. Rumours floating around malleny last night of unrest at the Greens and new coaches imminent?

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    • With The position Hawick are in at the moment why would there be any unrest ?.
      Think you’re just casting your fishing rod for a bite Coco .
      Ps
      more to the point
      Think of the unrest at those now soon to be defunct Super 6 clubs
      trying to sort out the mess that’s been left by Dodson folly .
      And it is a REAL mess

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      • Mouse .
        Don’t think the Boroughmuir members will be happy being in Nat 3 .
        But that’s the reality .theyll find it hard to get out of that league .
        Any players with ambition won’t stay there they’ll move on

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      • They won’t have any problems getting out of it Tex. They will be automatically moved upwards.

        The damage caused by S6 will continue.

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      • Joe Smith .
        Won’t be as easy as that just placing them into Prem 1.
        Take the Southern Knights .it supposedly represented the Borders area
        it had nothing to do with the current Melrose team in Nat 1 .
        So Melrose have no right to be moved up .
        Why should they be .
        These so called elite teams didn’t care a toss about other clubs situation when they jumped into the S6 .
        Why should the current Prem 1 clubs worry about them now .
        You reap what you sow
        Can of worms

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      • Joe Smith.
        Southern Knights were a made up franchise .
        It had nothing to do with Melrose rfc .
        So there’s a problem right away .
        As Tex said why should current prem1 clubs worry about former S6 clubs woes
        They didn’t give a damn about them when they joined Mr Dodson

      • I don’t disagree with either of you Tex and Daffy and am not suggesting Boroughmuir or anyone else should be moved to higher divisions but what should happen and what the SRU actually do are often two vastly different matters!

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