Premiership: ruthless Marr harness the wind to blow GHA away

Hosts pick up a bonus-point win in tricky conditions at Fullarton Park to ensure they are second in table heading into the Christmas break

Marr's Jamie Shedden gets the ball away under pressure from GHA. Image: Jon Pearce
Marr's Jamie Shedden gets the ball away under pressure from GHA. Image: Jon Pearce

Marr 31

GHA 6

IAIN HAY @ Fullarton Park

TORRENTIAL rain prior to and during the first half of this match threatened to turn Fullarton into the same state as Rubislaw last week, but once the it stopped, Marr found their feet to see off a spirited GHA side and claim the maximum five points at the bitter end.

“GHA always play well against us [notably stopping Marr’s near two-year unbeaten run at home in season 2019-20], they get up for the game, but I thought we dominated and our pack did pretty well,” said a physically damp, but not in spirit, Craig Redpath.

“Once we started to play they couldn’t live with us. First half they’ve maybe had one opportunity, but we gave away a couple of cheap penalties which kept them in the game. We had ascendancy in the scrum, and then we got down there and started to play a wee bit of rugby and it got us going a bit.


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“We scored four tries, and in these conditions – although not half as bad as they were in Aberdeen last week – that can be very tricky, I thought we defended pretty well, so delighted to go into Christmas in second with this win.”

The rain had considered stopping just as the sides took to the field, but within two minutes it was back with a sideways-vengeance, the wind at GHA’s back helping them to an early 3-0 lead through a George Baird penalty. It also allowed the visitors to in launch clearance kicks which would carry, forcing Marr to trudge back and deal with them from deep, or in the case of Colin Sturgeon, dot down on the line thinking it will mean a 22 drop-out, until you realise the law has changed and you’ll now be kicking from your goal-line.

Scott Bickerstaff’s restart from Baird’s effort was both sclaffed and taken by the wind, so the Marr vice-captain decided against his own shot at goal soon after and went for the sidelines, Blair Jardine bagging himself a try from close range once the maul had been stopped.

With the ball proving slippier than a Tory being asked about Christmas parties, it was mainly close quarter, physical stuff, but the only thing possibly slippier than the ball was Grant Mollison.

The exciting full-back skinned Rory Jackson, and left Matthew O’Sullivan in his wake, before sending outside-back partner Chris Hyde into the Marr 22, but that soap-like ball was spilled at a breakdown with the try-line just feet away.

On the cusp of half-time, Baird stroked over another penalty to reduce the gap to a solitary point following a high tackle by William Farquhar, and in the early stages of the second half it looked like GHA might take the lead.

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There was an excellent break and offload from towering captain Jamie McCarthy to Jack Bruce. Mollison, along with centres Andrew Stirrat and Charlie Lonergan, were finding holes, and with nearly an hour played a penalty was awarded which gave Tom Lonergan a go from distance, into the wind.

His effort was nothing to write home about, but its distinct lack of accuracy seemed to remind Marr: we have the wind in this half; let’s use it!

They cleared the failed kick up to half-way, and soon took control, first of possession, then of the scoreboard.

The previously quiet Jamie Shedden and Greg Montgomery found space on the left to take the ball far into GHA territory, Charlie Lonergan produced a thumping tackle to stop Bickerstaff less than 10 metres from the line, but by then the space had been created for replacement Calum Inglis to breeze over on the right.

With the wind now in their sails, Sturgeon thumped over a penalty for Marr from near the halfway line, then Bickerstaff found an excellent touch to the right corner before finishing off on the left, once the forwards had secured the maul and made some holes.

Another Bickerstaff boot to touch set the scene for the bonus point try, as although Marr didn’t score from the line-out, GHA could only stop them illegally. Marr – now featuring Gordon Reid in the second row for the second half – opted for the scrum, and Ben Johnson became the second Marr replacement to score, when he picked up from the base five-metres out and skelped over the line.

Having seen his side test but not the best the division’s top two in the last week, GHA’s Trevor Carmichael cited Marr’s ability to use the conditions better as a major factor to his side’s defeat.

“We probably didn’t use the wind as best we could have in the first half, and our decision making in the 22 was pretty poor at times,” he said. “Marr controlled us in the first half with the high balls which got them up the park off our mistakes, and in the second half, on their home ground, Marr just know how to control that game.

“Can’t fault the effort of the boys,” he added. “W just need to learn from it, move forward, and realise to get to this level at the top of the table you have to be ruthless.”

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Teams –

Marr: D Steele; S Bickerstaff, J Shedden, M O’Sullivan, G Montgomery; C Sturgeon, S Broad; B Sweet, B Jardine, W Farquhar, J McLean, F Grant, R Jackson, R Brown, M Pearce©. Subs: C McMillan, C Miller, G Reid, B Johnston, C Inglis

GHA: G Mollison; C Hyde, C Lonergan, A Stirrat, R O’Keefe; T Lonergan, G Baird; D Hunter, G Hiddleston, M Fox, J Campbell, J McCarthy©, W Graham, D Ewing, J Bruce. Subs: L Villon, J Low, M Marinkovic, M Johnstone, M MacFarlane

Referee: Jonny Perriman

 

Scorers –

Marr: Tries: Jardine, Inglis, S Bickerstaff, Johnson; Cons: Sturgeon 4; Pens: Sturgeon.

GHA: Pens: Baird 2.

Scoring sequence (Marr first): 0-3; 5-3; 7-3; 7-6 (h-t) 12-6; 14-6; 17-6; 22-6; 24-6; 29-6; 31-6.

 

Man-of-the-Match: I’d been keeping a closer eye than usual on the packs seeing as it seemed like the kind of day a forward would take the honours. However, for his telling second half contributions which won the match Scott Bickerstaff steals it away.

Talking Point: Very close to claiming the Man-of-the-Match award, Fraser Grant makes off with the “Sportsmanlike-Conduct-of-the-Match” trophy for stopping to check on Andrew Stirratt’s condition when the GHA centre hurt himself in a tackle, with Marr on the attack.


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About Iain Hay 74 Articles
New to the freelancing journalistic world as of August 2019, Iain has previously written for The Scottish Rugby Blog since 2017, covering matches for Glasgow Warriors, Scotland and opinion pieces. Can also often be heard on their podcast flapping his gums about the oval-ball (technically, it’s ellipsoidal) game and being pedantic. Is rumoured to believe that Finn Russell is The Messiah. Does the Twitter thing, but doesn’t like it.