DAVID McADAM @ Braidholm
A FAST start provided the perfect platform for Marr to return to winning ways with a five-try bonus-point victory over GHA.
With the Johnston brothers making their first appearances of the season, Marr were significantly stronger than the side which had lost heavily at Raeburn Place two weeks ago, with Angus proving a dominant source of line-out ball, and Ben carrying powerfully from the base of the scrum.
The two muscular Bickerstaff boys were marauding menacingly on the wings and eventually the combined power overwhelmed GHA.
The Glasgow side were still without orchestrator Andrew Goudie due to injury and his absence was telling in their inability to exit well, or to hold on to the ball for long periods of time. His return next week will be timely with Currie lying in wait.
The first half was a stop-start affair with neither side managing to string more than a couple of phases together without a handling error.
Integrating new players takes time for any side, and the cancellation of fixtures last Saturday only added to the sense of early season rustiness for both sides.
Marr opened the scoring after 18 minutes, Scott Bickerstaff expertly kicking a penalty from hand out for a 5m line-out, which as is the way in the modern game, almost inevitably resulted in a mauled try for the Marr hooker, Curran McMillan.
Their second try came 18 minutes later when, following another Bickerstaff penalty to the touch line, forwards and backs combined in the first real multi-phase play of the game, before Colin Sturgeon stepped back inside and danced under the posts then added the simple conversion.
GHA had defended well for much of the first half, but despite the box of tricks that young Aminio Bogidrau displayed at stand off – no-look passes, kick-passes and dummies all in his repertoire – they showed little fluidity in attack, until right on the stroke of half time, when late call-up Sean Callaghan slipped a pass to Archie Falconer which put him in space.
His perfectly-timed pass invited Luca Bardelli on to it at pace, before he glided between two defenders and scored under the posts. George Baird converted.
The second half was one-way traffic. Marr dominated up front, with half-time substitute Scott Clelland, Blair Jardine and Craig Miller all offering themselves repeatedly to run at pace on to the ball.
The Johnston brothers began to demonstrate their handling skills, and Gordon Reid gradually got the better of Michael Fox at scrum time.
Shortly after Andrew Barnett had received a yellow card for persistent offending – referee Mr Stephen did give GHA a hard time in the second half – it was Reid who jumped over a ruck to score Marr’s third try after they had chosen to run a penalty in front of the posts.
GHA did well to keep Marr out for the rest of the time they were short-handed, but try number four arrived for Marr on 67 minutes with Fraser Grant this time powering over after Scott Bickerstaff had ran strongly at the defence from a tap penalty. Sturgeon added his fourth successful conversion.
Marr’s fifth and final try followed a familiar pattern, with Bickerstaff kicking for touch, before a line-out maul, led to Ben Johnston scoring in the corner. For the only time in the game Sturgeon missed the conversion.
GHA hadn’t fired a shot in the second half, and had barely been out of their own 22, but in the last minute they managed to secure line out ball of their own, following a penalty kick to the corner, and Charlie Lonergan scored a fine try.
Craig Redpath, Marr’s seasoned coach, was content at full time: “Winning 33-12, if you’d said to me that before the game we would have taken that, although we left a lot out there, so that’s a good positive. We’re happy with the result; performance wise, half marks I would say.”
GHA’s Trevor Carmichael cut a frustrated figure. He said: “Marr are a good side, they know how to throttle teams, but we didn’t turn up today. The game was very stop-start for whatever reason. We will take it on the chin, but our second half performance wasn’t good enough.”
GHA: C Hyde; L Bardelli, C Lonergan, M MacFarlane, A Caqusau; A Bogidrau, George Baird; E Cavan, A Falconer, M Fox, S Callaghan, A Barnett, J McEntegart, D Ewing, L McCutcheon. Subs used: J Low, F Faulds, A Flynn, R MacFarlane, A Spowart.
Marr: J Scott; C Bickerstaff, N Calder, C Sturgeon, S Bickerstaff; C Inglis, Grant Baird; G Reid, C McMillan, C Miller, D Andrew, F Grant, B Jardine, A Johnston, B Johnston. Subs used: S Clelland, C Folan, C Young, G Beckwith, A Ramage
Referee: Mr G Stephen
GHA: Tries: Bardelli (40), Lonergan (80); Con: Baird
Marr: Tries: McMillan (18), Sturgeon (36), Reid (53), Grant (67), Johnston B (73): Cons: Sturgeon (4)
Scoring sequence (GHA first): 0-5, 0-7, 0-12, 0-14, 5-14, 7-14 (HT) 7-19, 7-21, 7-26, 7-28, 7-33, 12-33 (FT)
Yellow cards –
GHA: Barnett (46-56mins)
Man-of-the-Match: The Marr pack dominated, and four of their tries were scored by forwards, so my man-of-the match goes to Blair Jardine, who time after time offered himself up for ball and made yards every time.
Talking point: With the exception of Colin Sturgeon, every one of the Marr backline (including subs) has come off the Marr College conveyor belt. Sturgeon is now responsible for that production line, and it shows no sign of slowing down.