IAIN HAY @ Fullarton
MARR eventually took control of proceedings on an increasingly dreich day in Ayrshire to swat aside the challenge of Bruce McNeil’s Kelso and make it four wins on the bounce.
“We were competitive in spells but that doesn’t cut it when you come to teams like this,” the visitor’s player-coach said after the match. “You need to be in the game for 80 minutes or a team like Marr will punish you, and they did.
“They were clinical and they controlled the game, whereas we didn’t. When you come to places like this you’ve got to have 20 guys on it, I’m not questioning their want, but you need to have want and control at the same time. We need to be able to focus and apply the things we work on during the week on the Saturday.”
Marr opened the scoring on five minutes through a penalty try, Jake Jacobson’s grubber fumbled by Dwain Patterson whose half-back partner Andy Tait hauled down his direct opposite, Grant Baird, as the Marr scrum-half looked to finish off. 7-0 and 10 minutes for Tait to take a breather.
Colin Sturgeon added to Marr’s lead with a penalty, but Kelso worked their way back into the game and after being awarded a penalty for a high tackle – of which there were a few, none that merited card sanctions, however – they went to the corner and Terry Logan burrowed his way over the line.
Marr restored their double-digit advantage when Scott Bickerstaff finished off a short-range tap and go penalty drive, and then Alex Apthorpe became tight-head try-scorer two of the day when he crashed over another, but with half-time approaching the home side saw one of their own go to the sin-bin when Callum Folan took one for the team with Kelso deep in their territory. Kelso, however, did not take advantage as they were held up over the line with the final play of the half.
Marr dominated the opening exchanges of the second half and Sturgeon’s boot nudged them back to a 20-point lead, only for McNeil to reply almost instantly from close range.
The rain had been so relentless since kick-off that even Andie McDowell would have noticed, so utilisation of the boot and waiting for errors became a key facet of the game, and, as McNeil had alluded to in his post-match comments, Kelso were the ones who lacked the control the conditions dictated.
Calum Smith scored another tap and go drive for Marr on his 1st XV debut, and when McNeil’s charge upfield led to a forward pass call, which Kelso then won against the head, only to then be penalised for not releasing on the Marr try-line, there seemed no way back to even losing bonus-point territory for the visitors.
Marr added further gloss to the scoreline when Conor Bickerstaff barrelled through the last man from 15 metre out, and he then sent brother Scott through a hole in the Kelso defence off a set-piece move.
“In the first half we didn’t execute the things we were looking to do but, in the end, bringing the subs on actually seemed to solidify our boys and we really pushed on. I’m very happy with that scoreline and there’s little for me to say negatively, which is great,” said a pleased, yet soggy, Marr coach Kenny Diffenthal.
“We’d spoken through the week about how they [Kelso] would bring a real aggressive forward pack so we had to match that. We were standing off a little bit at times which allowed them to get into the game, but then we would up our line-speed to put pressure on them and caused them to cough up the pill a few times so it was good to see the guys putting in what we had practiced in the week.”
Marr: J MacKinnon; G Montgomery, S Bickerstaff, C Bickerstaff©, J Jacobson; C Sturgeon, G Baird; A Rogers, S Reekie, A Apthorpe, D Andrew, C Folan, F Grant, C Young, B Jardine. Subs: G Dick, C Smith, M Blair, R Baird, J Scott.
Kelso: A Barbour; H Tweedie, J Thompson, F Robson©, N Stingl; D Patterson, A Tait; A Mcgregor, E Knox, T Logan, E Thompson, K Melbourne, L Tait, C Brown, B McNeil. Subs: C Marshall, A Asante, A Sweenie, M Woodcock, M Hastie.
Referee: David Young
Marr: Tries: Penalty, S Bickerstaff 2, Apthorpe, Smith, C Bickerstaff; Cons: Sturgeon 5; Pens: Sturgeon 2.
Kelso: Tries: Logan, McNeil; Cons: Patterson 2.
Scoring sequence (Marr first): 5-0; 7-0; 10-0; 10-5; 10-7; 15-7; 17-7; 22-7; 24-7 (h-t) 27-7; 27-12; 27-14; 32-14; 34-14; 39-14; 41-14; 45-14; 48-14.
Player-of-the-Match: A number of the Marr pack put their hands up, but days like this need a cool head and to keep that scoreboard ticking over as well, so Colin Sturgeon’s cultured boot collects the award.
Talking Point: On a few occasions, Kelso’s backs tried to put boot to ball when it was on the floor but made poor contact, which gave Marr possession back far too high up the field. They’ll either need to practice or trust in their teammates to protect them if they gather on the floor.