Edinburgh Accies 13
LEWIS STUART @ Fullarton Park
MARR cemented their spot in the top group of the Premiership leaderboard with a hard-fought win over Edinburgh Accies in horrible playing conditions that was achieved despite their losing the set-piece battle and the penalty count.
Those disadvantages meant that the home team were under the cosh for most of the game, but Accies couldn’t make the pressure count, failing to cross the home line at all – their points coming from two Ben Appleson penalties and a penalty try from the final move of the game.
It wasn’t much reward for their dominance, and visiting coach Iain Berthinussen had a point in complaining about how little reward his side got with Marr receiving only one yellow card despite giving away about twice as many penalties as the visitors.
“I felt we certainly didn’t get the rub of the green on that front,” was his diplomatic response. “Our boys did really well at the end there to get a point out of it. We probably gave them a couple of scores from our errors and we were maybe trying to play a bit too much inside our own 40. The flip of that was that was the part of the game where we really put them under pressure.”
What was really encouraging for Berthinussen was that despite the conditions and despite being behind from early on, his players were determined to keep the ball alive rather than just stick it up their jumper and grind it out.
“If you go attritional against Marr, you’re not going to get anywhere,” he added. “They’ll just eat you up. They had six front-row players in their squad so it was obvious how they wanted to play. We scrummed them off the park, though – we did really well in that area but we probably tried to play a bit too much at times, maybe a bit too lateral.
“I’m delighted with the effort and endeavour considering the conditions. We had a game-plan to try and put them under pressure and we did that though we weren’t clinical enough.”
Predictably, Marr coach Kenny Diffenthal had a different take on the game, not least because he had a win to celebrate.
“You’ve got to give us some credit,” he said. “They’ve got a really good set-piece, they have some big lads in there who know what they’re doing. You have got to give them the accolades for that but we defended really well.
“It was not that great a match for the spectators but I was delighted with how the boys turned up for the game, especially after the last game being so close. We always knew it was going to be a tight game, we had to stick in and work hard and we did that.
“Defence is something that we’ve been working hard on – and staying in the fight. We still pride ourselves on being an attacking team, we still want to play a good brand of rugby, even in these conditions, so it was good to see the guys still trying to do that.”
To be fair, Diffenthal’s side did have an element of luck in the way they took the lead after conceding an early penalty to Appleson. Wing Jake Jacobson started it with a half break down the left, carried on by Ben Johnson, the flanker. Quick ball – for the conditions – found Colin Sturgeon in space on the right. His inch-perfect cross-kick landed well for wing Scott Bickerstaff, who booted it over the line and won the race to ground it.
Crucially, Sturgeon added the tricky conversion, so that Appleson’s second penalty was not enough to give his team the lead as Accies pummelled the home line but got nowhere.
Instead, Marr took a grip on the game soon after the break. Scott Bickerstaff started it with a break on the right, the forwards recycled in midfield and when the ball came out, the hosts exploited an overlap to put full-back Jack Scott over for the try. Sturgeon’s conversion gave his team that crucial two-score cushion.
Almost all the rest of the game saw Marr under pressure but resisting as ferociously. A rare breakout did give Sturgeon the opportunity to add a penalty but it was hard for both teams to run the ball as conditions worsened.
Marr even saw off being down to 14 men as centre Gregor Paxton was the unlucky one to be binned after a run of penalties on their own line. Accies never gave up but couldn’t get that vital break until it was too late, being awarded a penalty try after a home player come in from the side of their driving maul.
That was time up though, and Accies had to settle for the losing bonus point, with Marr marching on in the table.
Marr: J Scott; S Bickerstaff, G Paxton, C Bickerstaff, J Jacobson; C Sturgeon, G Baird; B Sweet, S Reekie, A Rogers, D Andrew, F Grant, A Apthorpe, B Johnston, B Jardine. Substitutes: W Farquhar, K Vallance, C Young, R Baird, C Inglis.
Edinburgh Accies: R Chalmers; M Wallace, N Armstrong, G Woods, F MacNeill; B Appleson, P Ritchie; R Dunbar, F McAslan, C Crookshanks, C Bain, R Thompson, A Inwood, D McGrath, T Drennan. Substitutes: C Davies, C Imrie, T Jones, B Grainger, R Kent.
Referee: R McDowell.
Marr: Tries: S Bickerstaff, Scott; Cons: Sturgeon 2; Pen: Sturgeon.
Edinburgh Accies: Try: Penalty Try; Pens: Appleson 2.
Scoring sequence (Marr first): 0-3; 5-3; 7-3; 7-6 (h-t) 12-6; 14-6; 17-6; 17-13.
Yellow card –
Marr: Paxton (55 mins)
Player-of-the-Match: Tough one to call with Accies dominating huge chunks of the game but failing to make it count, but the Marr defence was first rate across the board, with lock Fraser Grant getting the award for some big tackles and a couple of turnovers.
Talking point: Full marks to both teams for playing at all and it says a lot about the ambition at this level that they both did all they could to keep the ball alive. Inevitably it was scrappy, but the effort was there.