STEPHEN BRUNSDON @Fullarton
HAVING not played since early December, Marr could be forgiven for being a little rusty as Selkirk made the trip west to Fullarton. The hosts were indeed not quite firing on all cylinders but still managed to score a valuable bonus point victory as they search for home play-off spot.
That there even was a match to be play must be commended, given that both camps were depleted due to Covid isolations. And while scrappy and a bit disjointed throughout, Marr head coach Redpath was left satisfied that his side secured the maximum five points from the fixture.
“I’m delighted with the win and the five points, we had 10 players missing this weekend so that was a challenge in itself, as well as the six-week layoff,” he said. “As for the performance and some of the stuff in that game, I’m frustrated by it because we allowed them back into it with silly mistakes, and we’re better than that.”
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Selkirk had the brighter start to the match with early possession translating into a lead on the scoreboard as Marr conceded a penalty at the opening scrum. Visiting out-half Scott Clark kicked what would prove to be his only points of the game as a badly misfiring boot cost the Border side dearly.
In total, Selkirk left 12 points on the field as Clark missed two penalties and three conversions, while Marr made up for similarly inaccuracy by scoring four tries.
Despite going down an early score, Marr hit back in typical fashion through hooker Blair Jardine after 11 minutes, peeling off the back of a line-out maul and batting away would-be defenders on his way to the line.
Fly-half Colin Sturgeon missed the conversion, but Marr held the advantage on the scoreboard and the pitch following a yellow card for Selkirk’s centre Andrew Grant-Suttie for a dangerous tackle.
Marr nearly had a second try soon after, as centre Jamie Shedden did his best John Kirwan impression by slewing in and out of Selkirk players from his own 22. He was eventually dragged down at the opposite 22, but Marr didn’t have to wait long before winger Jack Scott doubled the home side’s score after 24 minutes.
The visitors, with a re-jigged backline, remained a potent threat in attack and made inroads into Marr’s lead when full back Ryan Cottrell crossed on the right wing following several attempts via the forwards.
It was just rewards for Selkirk, who had missed a golden opportunity to take another three points in front of the posts five minutes earlier.
Sturgeon nudged Marr five points clear at the break, as Selkirk’s indiscipline, particularly at the set-piece, began to cause problems for referee Ruairidh Campbell.
That trend continued into the second half, as Sturgeon kicked Marr to within five yards of the Selkirk line, with the resulting line-out producing the inevitable third try of the match, through prop William Farquhar. That gave Marr a break on the scoreboard, extended by Sturgeon’s pin-point conversion.
But, although they were now 20-8 to the good, head coach Redpath was left to rue his side not using this momentum to bury the match.
“We are going to have to be 100 percent better than we were today if we’re going to compete at the business end of this Premiership,” he said. “We didn’t kick the ball today, there was space in behind them and we never kicked it. When we were 20-8 up, we didn’t carry on from that and finish the match.”
Proof of that came through Selkirk’s second try, somewhat against the run of play, as a loose Sturgeon pass to Scott was hacked on by Calum Anderson, who then showed superb footballing skills before diving in for the try.
If this didn’t bring the visitors back into the match, then a third try barely five minutes later certainly did. Winger Callum McNeill got close on the blindside and was slightly unlucky not to have been awarded a penalty try as Marr’s Jardine was yellow-carded for a shirt pull.
Nevertheless, quick thinking from Selkirk scrum-half Jack Hamilton gave McNeill a second go at the line, and a neat pirouette did the job.
The missed conversion kept the deficit at just two points, with Selkirk head coach Scott Wight left frustrated – if not a little bemused – at the fact that his side would almost certainly have entered the final 10 minutes of the match with the lead had the kicks gone over.
As it was, Marr made sure of the bonus point with eight minutes left on the clock, with replacement prop Brandon Sweet crashing over from short range.
Selkirk never got close to scoring after that, and Marr eventually ground out a hard-fought eleventh victory of the season.
“Let’s be honest, Currie have done the best job this season and they’re probably that step ahead of everyone else, but we’re looking at a few things now to improve for next week,” Redpath said. “In a one-off game, for the play-offs, there’s always a chance. But we’re better than the performance we showed today.”
On the other side of the result, Wight was proud of his squad, despite missing a chance of victory. “Key inaccuracies at key moments cost us a lot today, we weren’t clinical enough, but I’m really happy with the performance the boys put in, especially after not playing much rugby recently,” Wigheht said.
“We deserved more out of the game but in the context of the league, a [losing bonus] point might turn out to be really important for us.”
Marr: D Steele; G Montgomery, J Shedden, S Bickerstaff, J Scott; C Sturgeon, S Broad; C Miller, B Jardine, W Farquhar, J McLean, K Kirk, J Evans, R Brown, F Grant©. Subs: B Nichol, S Adair, B Sweet, C Inglis, N Calder.
Selkirk: R Cottrell; C McNeill, C Anderson, A Grant-Suttie, A Penman; S Clark, J Hamilton; L Pettie, B Riddell, M Haldane, T Brown, A McColm, R Cook, S McClymont, E MacDougall©. Subs: A Cochrane, J Anderson, R McFadzen, C Young, L Davidson.
Referee: R Campbell
Marr: Tries: Jardine, Scott, Farquhar, Sweet; Cons: Sturgeon; Pens: Sturgeon
Selkirk: Tries: Cottrell, Anderson, McNeill; Pens: Clark
Scoring Sequence (Marr first): 0-3; 5-3; 10-3; 10-8; 13-8 (h-t) 18-8; 20-8; 20-13; 20-18; 25-18.
Yellow cards –
Man-of-the-Match: You could have given this award to the entire Marr pack for their efforts in the second half, but Jamie Shedden’s performance in the loose was breath-taking at times. He nearly went the full distance in the first half to score what would have been one of the tries of the season. His impact around the Marr attack was crucial to getting his side on the front foot.
Talking point: You can’t help but feel sorry for Selkirk out-half Scott Clark. In the warm-up, he slotted every single kick but come game time, the boot was off target. But that’s not the whole story; Selkirk had a real chance to take a scalp only for costly handling errors and indiscipline equally hurt their chances. Conversely, Marr were far more accurate at key moments and, more importantly, were far less wayward off the kicking tee.
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