Glasgow Hawks 12
LEWIS STUART @ Fullarton Park
A CASE of ‘job done’ for Marr as they moved six points clear of Selkirk in the race for the final play-off place. They travel to Currie next week knowing their fate is in their own hands. A bonus point win would make their spot in the play-offs arithmetically certain and even if they don’t get the extra point, a simple victory would leave their rivals needing a near miracle to overhaul them.
Even defeat would not end their hopes but could leave Craig Redpath, the head coach, and his colleagues facing a long and anxious wait. Next week will be their final game of the league part of the season but Selkirk have that vital game in hand on 25th February (against Chieftains) and won’t give up until the numbers force them to.
Redpath knows how important next week’s game is and, though he was broadly satisfied with the way his team weathered the Glasgow Hawks storm, he knows they will probably need to step up a level to win at Malleny Park.
This weekend’s other Premiership match reports:
Premiership: Musselburgh beat Jed-Forest to take survival fight to the wire
Premiership: Hawick too strong for Heriot’s Blues
Premiership: Currie Chieftains win leaves GHA staring down a barrel
Premiership: Edinburgh Accies secure play-off spot with win over ill-disciplined Selkirk
“It is massive that we control our own fate,” he said, “Currie is a tough, tough place to go. We have given ourselves a chance and that is the most important thing if we can build on it. First and foremost we need to win the game and take it from there.
“In this game, we knew Hawks would come at us and they worked really hard in a physical match. We were not as clinical as we should have been but we got the job done in the end. We keep putting pressure on ourselves instead of exiting cleanly. We made some silly errors but that’s life.
“When we get going we are tough to play. We carried well and defended well but all credit to Hawks, they made a lot of changes and still came here with a side that was tough to beat.”
His praise for the visitors was well justified as they start to look to building for next season with this campaign just about finished for them. They demonstrated the depth of their group and, with four players in the Scotland under-20s squad announced this week they are developing young talent that could serve them well in future seasons.
“The Marr game plan is pretty basic, it is easy to see what they are trying to do but they are very good at it,” said Andy Hill, their head coach. “They keep ball, recycle well and apply pressure – pressure is always going to result in scores sooner or later.
“We just coughed up too much ball. In the first half, they made five handling errors but we made 10 and that is costly. Add some silly penalties and a man rightly in the sin-bin after three high tackles and we put ourselves in a position where we had to keep defending.”
He knows that the result of these mistakes was that Hawks never really got the reward for some near-miracle handling and offloading with tries coming against them at key points in the game.
The first arrived after 12 minutes when David Andrew, the lock, made the extra man in the backs to trundle over after an extended period of pressure on the visitors line sparked by some clever handling between Colin Sturgeon, the fly half, and the Bickerstaff brothers , Conor and Scott, in the centre.
It was a game where the tackling was ferocious and mostly impressively low, but there was always the scope for the odd clumsy challenge and after a flurry of those, Max Crumlish, the Hawks lock, found himself in the sin-bin watching as Scott Clelland, the Marr hooker, was driven over in a rolling maul.
Hawks had by far their best spell of the game just after the break as they managed to cut out the unforced errors and, with the home side down to 14 men after another clumsy tackle from Cameron Young, the Marr flanker, they took full advantage. The forwards battered the home line and Charlie Kennedy, the wing, had acres of space to cross.
For a little while it looked as though Hawks might sustain their recovery but it turned out to be a false dawn as Marr re-established control and powered their way upfield as the scrum started to get on top. Eventually, second-row Calum Folan was on hand to take advantage of a smart offload from prop Gordon Reid.
Both teams struggled to get their rhythm back after a lengthy delay while Hawks full-back Henry Lapslie was carried off on a stretcher – he was soon back on his feet and watched the end of the game with his team-mates on the touchline – but it was Marr who rediscovered their form first
Ben Johnston almost made the line on a barnstorming run before the ball switched to the other side of the field where Conor Bickerstaff had the space to cross for that vital bonus point try.
Hawks did have time to show their resilience and grab the final word with Oscar Baird, the No 8, barging his sway over but it was far too late to make the slightest difference to result.
Marr seem to be hitting form at just the right time and the truth is that none of their rivals will fancy taking them on if they do make the play-offs.
“I am just delighted to be in this position considering where we were at the end of October,” Redpath added. “We see to have turned a corner and after starting three wins and seven defeats, we are now 10 from 17.
“We generally get better after Christmas, we have done every year I have been here. Let’s see what happens now.”
Marr: C Inglis; J Jacobsen, S Bickerstaff, C Bickerstaff, J Scott; C Sturgeon(C), G Baird; G Reid, S Clelland, C Miller, D Andrew, C Folan, C Young (sin bin: 41-51), B Jardine, B Johnston. Subs: C McMillan, A Acton, C Steele, G Beckwith, A Ramage.
Glasgow Hawks: H Lapslie; C Kennedy, J Pinkerton, C Ferrie, R Darroch; C Harrison, E McAra; G Strain, P Cairncross, E Cairns, M Crumlish (sin bin: 23-33), R Burke, A Syme, S Leckey (C), O Baird. Subs: I Totic, K Shanahan, V Carlsson, E Davey, R Flett.
Referee: S O’Neil
Marr: Tries: Andrews, Clelland, Folan, C Bickerstaff; Cons: Sturgeon 3.
Glasgow Hawks: Tries: Kennedy, Baird; Cons: Harrison.
Player-of-the-Match: Another great defensive effort from Marr led by the big tackling forwards with David Andrew getting the nod at lock after scoring the opening try and showing his big tackling work rate around the pitch.
Talking point: Tackle height is a live issue all round the sport but in this game, the five penalties for high tackles didn’t really represent the game as a whole. Yet again, these teams showed hitting low can still mean hitting hard.