Currie Chieftains 19
COLIN RENTON @ Malleny Park
CURRIE CHIEFTAINS set up a repeat of last season’s Tennent’s Premiership play-off semi final against Edinburgh Accies when they got the better of defending champions Marr. The home side dominated possession and territory, but a ferocious defensive effort from the visitors limited the scoring and ensured the game was still in the balance until the closing stages.
It was the final game of the regular season for Marr, whose fate now lies beyond their control, with a possible play-off berth hinging on the outcome of Selkirk’s two remaining fixtures.
Chieftains coach Mark Cairns was delighted with aspects of the performance, but not yet fully satisfied. “The intent was awesome, the effort was great, the accuracy and being clinical let us down. It shows how far you can go with intent and effort,” he said.
“Full credit to Marr, they must have been in their own 22 for about 60 percent of the match and they didn’t have 15 players on the field for a lot of that. They have done really well with 14 players – we can learn from that.”
But, confirming that he wants more from his men, he added: “We’ve got a point to prove since we were down at Mansfield Park (defeat against Hawick), and we won’t be satisfied until we’ve done that.”
His Marr counterpart, Craig Redpath, commented on the positive aspects, saying: “We dug into the game – it was still 13-7 with 15 minutes to go. All it needs is a breakout score and you can sneak something. They were better physically and we didn’t keep a hold of the ball.”,
However, he also pinpointed the crucial failings, adding: “We are happy with the defensive effort but when we did have opportunities we either kicked the ball, didn’t win our line-out or didn’t secure the breakdown. Whatever happens now is out of our hands, but that’s life.”
Chieftains struck first when a penalty inside the Marr 22 presented Jamie Forbes with a straightforward kick which he steered between the sticks.
Marr responded with an extended spell of pressure that produced a penalty that was booted into touch deep into home territory and a multi-phase assault ended with Calum Inglis providing a scoring pass for Jake Jacobson to dot down in the corner. Colin Sturgeon banged over the conversion.
Chieftains were stung into action but found it difficult to breach a solid Marr defence and there were 25 minutes on the clock when the hosts finally found a way through. The speed and accuracy of Gregor Christie’s service was crucial in sparking the move which saw the ball fired along the line to James McCaig, who appeared on the wrong wing to bag an unconverted score.
The momentum was now with Chieftains and they received a boost when Sturgeon was shown a yellow card six minutes before the break for a deliberate knock-on.
They capitalised on the numerical advantage with the final play of the half when the ball was slung out to the right where Charlie Brett provided the scoring pass for Kody McGovern to skirt round the final defender and claim an unconverted try.
The home side restarted in the same vein, but a lost line-out followed by a squint throw meant they had failed to add to their tally by the time Sturgeon returned. However, the Marr playmaker was replaced almost immediately in the sin-bin by David Andrew who strayed offside to foil a Chieftains attack just shy of the line.
Perhaps inspired by an earlier surge from Chieftains prop Jacob Ramsay, Gordon Reid relieved some of the pressure on the Marr defence when he thundered clear then booted the ball into the Chieftains half. But the respite was temporary, and soon the Marr rearguard was again being stretched.
Further resolute defence kept Chieftains at bay. The home side’s next points came from a 40 metre penalty by Forbes that scraped over the bar to extend the lead to nine points, and the home stand-off completed the win when he stroked over another three-pointer from in front of the posts with a couple of minutes to play.
Marr finished the game strongly and Chieftains replacement Kyle Steel became the latest player to be yellow-carded when he prevented Marr from taking a quick penalty. However, the visitors were unable to add to their points tally and their fate now depends on Selkirk’s results.
Currie Chieftains: C Brett; J McCaig, DJ Innes, A Hall, K McGovern; J Forbes, G Christie; C Anderson, R Stewart, C Ramsay, W Inglis, J Rutherford, G Nelson, R Davies. Subs: G Williamson, J Ramsay, K Steel, I Sim, P Boyer.
Marr: C Inglis; J Jacobsen, S Bickerstaff, C Bickerstaff, J Scott; C Sturgeon, G Baird; G Reid, C McMillan, C Miller, D Andrew, C Folan, B Jardine, C Young, B Johnston. Subs: C Steele, A Acton, F Grant, R Brown, A Ramage.
Referee: Calum Worsley
Currie Chieftains: Tries: McCaig, McGovern; Pens: Forbes 3
Marr: Try: Jacobson; Con: Sturgeon.
Scoring sequence (Currie Chieftains first): 3-0; 3-5; 3-7; 8-7; 13-7 (h-t) 16-7; 19-7.
Yellows cards –
Marr: Sturgeon, Andrew
Currie Chieftains: Steel
Man-of-the-Match: James McCaig and Gregor Christie made big contributions to the Chieftains effort, but skipper Rhys Davies earns the nod for the way he led by example and never took a backward step.
Talking point: Having bounced back from a shaky start to the campaign, Marr’s title defence is now out of their control, but they should not yet be ruled out.