Premiership: Marr burst Currie Chieftains’ bubble

Controversial late scrum a major talking point

Struan Reekie on the ball for Marr versus Currie Chieftains. Image: Vicky Fletcher
Struan Reekie on the ball for Marr versus Currie Chieftains. Image: Vicky Fletcher

Marr 24

Currie Chieftains 17

IAIN HAY @ Fullarton Park

MARR held on for victory in nail-biting and somewhat contentious circumstances to hand Currie Chieftains their first defeat of the season, on a drama filled day in Troon, where the weather matched the see-saw nature of the game.

Kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes due to Currie’s bus breaking down, and Marr were forced into a late change in the back-row with the inexperienced Cameron Young coming off the bench to replace centurion Angus Johnston, but he stepped up to the plate with an impressive performance.

The heavens opened just as the game kicked off and the opening quarter saw both sides looking for territory, with a few handling errors thrown in as last season’s top-two went at each other hammer and tongs.


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Marr eventually gained the upper hand, good hands from Ben Johnston to scoop the ball up from a back-pedalling scrum saw him send Grant Baird down the short side, and although they worked the ball into space on the opposite flank, Jack Scott couldn’t take Scott Bickerstaff’s pass in his stride with the coastal wind gusting at just the wrong time for the home side.

Johnston opened the scoring eventually in the 20th minute, diving on to a loose ball from the back of Currie’s scrum, and it wasn’t the last time scrums were pivotal in the outcome of the match. Not by a long shot.

Robert Brown saw yellow for infringing with Currie close to the Marr line for the first time, and although the hosts sacked the maul, the ball was recycled and James McCaig squeezed over in the right-corner.

McCaig spilled Colin Sturgeon’s restart to hand possession back to Marr, and when Currie were penalised at the breakdown he bisected the posts to nudge his team further ahead.

Marr finished the first-half in the ascendancy, a thumping tackle by Greg Cannie on Scott killed the momentum of one promising possession, before Currie were reduced to 14 for a spell when McCaig went to the bin for a high tackle.

Marr fumbled the line-out, but when recovering possession Currie took the ball back over their own line, so the fumble fortuitously turned into a five-metre scrum for the hosts, which Scott Clelland eventually turned into another five-pointer, leaving the score at a comforting 17-5 at half-time for the home side.

 

Currie brought Patrick Boyer on for the second half, and with his introduction, things started moving a little better in the away back-line, with the dangerous DJ Innes getting on the ball more often.

Between Boyer and Innes, Jamie Forbes had been launching some bombs with his right-boot which had gotten Currie out of one or two sticky situations, and when he sent a penalty to the corner, Cody Roman got the first points on the board of the second half.

Forbes then used his feet for stepping rather than thumping, returning what had been a decent clearance by Callum Inglis with the kind of interest usually reserved for payday loans, gliding through the midfield before sending Kody McGovern racing away. Forbes converted to make the score 17-17.

There were some decent kicking exchanges throughout the 80, and after a Baird howitzer found grass in the 22, Adam Hall sliced his clearance which allowed the hosts back in until they were penalised for using some hands on the floor at a ruck, but they were soon given another chance.

The accurate boot of Scott Bickerstaff found touch, the maul was halted illegally, but with penalty advantage, his brother Conor showed the power which one now Super6 player said made him the toughest opponent he’d tackled in the Premiership.

The clock at Fullarton had decided to start acting up, but given the actual time of day there was somewhere between five and 10 mins  to play, fraying the nerves of the Fullarton faithful as Currie looked to strike back.

The visitors had been largely dominant in the scrum all afternoon, which had helped them stay in the game at the beginning and was now an attacking weapon. They won another set-piece with surely only two minutes to go which Forbes thumped to the corner.

Another penalty was awarded five-metres  out, but rather than tap and go they went to the corner again. As had also happened on a few occasions throughout the afternoon, but possession wasn’t clean and Marr now had the put-in at the scrum. Fullarton gasped in relief.

But Currie marched the hosts back, referee Tom French’s arm signalled penalty to Currie. Fullarton gasped in horror.

This time, Currie opted for another scrum, which surged towards the try-line and the distinct likelihood of salvaging a draw to keep the Edinburgh side’s unbeaten record alive. Rhys Davies seemed to have it under control, then, all of a sudden, the ball was out and fair game, or at least to the eyes of referee French. Marr dived to retrieve, recycled, and Baird gleefully hoofed over the sidelines. Fullarton roared in approval.

Speaking of the incident, Currie’s head coach Mark Cairns said: “I’ve not seen a scrum moving that fast towards a try-line without some kind of penalty advantage. I felt there should have been penalty advantage and we could reset, but it’s one of these things the referee will likely review and wonder if he’s got it right.

“It’s obviously a difficult decision to give in front of the fans down in that corner, but we must have gone at least five metres forward, and then the ball’s spun out the back of it.

“The issues with the bus shouldn’t have impacted us at all, I was disappointed with the way we started,” he added. “We gifted them a lot of points – we’ve done that the last four games, so we’re consistent at least – and then we worked ourselves back into a position to win the match but we let ourselves down with managing territory.”

On the other side, Craig Redpath was hoping this scalp could kick-start their season: “We missed two or three opportunities to put the game away at 17-5, and fair play, they came back into it. {Whether the call at the end is} controversial or not, there’s a number of issues out there which need to be looked at. We got lucky, yes I would say that, a wee bit, but the ball came out the back, the referee didn’t give the penalty and we did stay in the scrum.

“I’m just delighted with the win, it gives us a bit of a foothold to try and get better, it was a far from perfect performance from us and we’ve got a tough game away next week against Hawick. We’ll enjoy this one tonight, it’s tough to beat Currie, but there’s a heck of a lot of work to do with this team.”

 

Teams –

Marr: C Inglis; A Ramage, S Bickerstaff, C Bickerstaff, J Scott; C Sturgeon©, G Baird; A Acton, S Clelland, C Miller, D Andrew, F Grant, C Young, R Brown, B Johnston. Subs: S Reekie, C Folan, A McGowan, M O’Sullivan.

Currie Chieftains: C Brett; J McCaig, G Cannie, DJ Innes, K McGovern; J Forbes, C Lessels; C Anderson, R Stewart, C Ramsay, E Stewart, C Roman, J Duncan, A McCallum, R Davies©. Subs: J Halliday, J Ramsay, W Inglis, P Boyer, A Hall.

Referee: Tom French

 

Scorers –

Marr: Tries: Johnston, Clelland, C Bickerstaff; Cons: Sturgeon 3; Pens: Sturgeon.

Currie Chieftains: Tries: McCaig, Roman, McGovern; Cons: Forbes.

Scoring sequence (Marr first): 5-0;  7-0; 7-5; 10-5; 17-5 (h-t) 17-10; 17-15; 17-17; 22-17; 24-17.

 

Yellow Cards –

Marr: Brown

Currie: McCaig

 

Player-of-the-Match: Although blighting his report card with a yellow, Robert Brown, making his first appearance since last season’s victorious final, was a buzzbomb around the park, fetching, carrying and being a nuisance. Also hit a volleyed pass that Andrea Pirlo would be proud of from a stray Currie line-out, right into the breadbasket of Scott Bickerstaff.

Talking Point: Scrums and needle. With the match evenly poised and Currie asserting their dominance at that section of the game, Mark Cairns tried to make a glib remark ,something along the lines of not winning too many penalties or they’d go uncontested, which Craig Redpath did not take kindly to at all. The post-match handshake was aggressively brief.


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About Iain Hay 54 Articles
New to the freelancing journalistic world as of August 2019, Iain has previously written for The Scottish Rugby Blog since 2017, covering matches for Glasgow Warriors, Scotland and opinion pieces. Can also often be heard on their podcast flapping his gums about the oval-ball (technically, it’s ellipsoidal) game and being pedantic. Is rumoured to believe that Finn Russell is The Messiah. Does the Twitter thing, but doesn’t like it.