MARR booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup with a comfortable 26-45 win away to their nearest and fiercest rivals Ayr, but head coach Craig Redpath is a difficult man to please. Given that his team currently sit top of the Premiership, and this particular incarnation of the Millbrae machine is made up predominantly of recent youth players who are still finding their feet in the senior game whilst playing National League One, he was frustrated by his side’s lack of ruthlessness when conceding two late tries instead of finishing in style.
“We’re in the next round of the cup and that’s all that matters, I suppose,” he said. “I always knew they would come out and give us a game, and all credit to them for sticking to their task and not giving in. But, from our perspective, we have to look at why go from doing the right things and looking like we can score all the time to then dropping off and getting a bit lazy. We need to get that malaise out of our team and be more of a collective unit.
“It is disappointing to let them score two tries at the end when we should have gone on and won by a bit more, but I suppose it is not a bad thing when you are winning and still think you can play better.
“We get a week off now and I think we need it – so we’ll stay away from each other for seven days because sometimes you get fed up with listening to the same old voices – then we’ll come back with our batteries recharged to play six huge games in the league and we’re looking forward to that.
“We just need to look at ourselves and get that energy and intensity, and if we do then somebody will be on the wrong end of a few points, I would suggest,” he concluded.
The hosts got off to a flyer when Johnny McCorkindale broke clear to score with just one minute on the clock, with Jamie Bova adding the conversion, but the visitors quickly rallied to take control of the match through their powerful pack. Prop Will Farquhar and second-row Ewan Hamilton-Bulger rumbling over, before their back-line got in on the act with further tries for centre Richard Dalgliesh and full-back Greg Montgomery, with three Colin Sturgeon conversions making it 7-26 at the break.
Ayr drew first blood in the second half when Morgan Leatherbarrow eventually got over the line after a 10 minute period of pressure, but Marr once again responded in the right way by reasserting themselves through a Robert Brown try. Hero turned to villain when Brown then picked up a yellow-card for a high tackle, and that slowed his team’s progress until visiting captain Conor Bickerstaff scored two quick-fire tries as the game entered its final 10 minutes, to take Marr to within five points of the half-century.
However, the host side went down fighting, claiming two late tries through James Baird and McCorkindale, to create the peculiar situation where the beaten coach seemed to take more satisfaction from the encounter than the victorious one.
“We’ve set ourselves a goal this year that we always want to be better than we were the week before and that’s what we achieved here,” said Ayr’s Stuart Fenwick. “We’ve benchmarked ourselves against the top side in the country at the moment and given a good account ourselves.”
“We spoke a lot during the build up to the game about winning as many small battles as we could. We knew things were going to go wrong and how we reacted to that was going to be really important. The boys did that – when things went against them they picked themselves up and got on with the next job.
“The entire pack are under the age of 20 bar one and they fronted up. They learnt lessons from a tough day at Cartha last week and came up against an equally or even more physical pack today and dug in to give a good account of themselves. Its encouraging for us that this squad of guys is going to be the Ayr ‘Club XV’ for the next few years and they are only going to get better.”
Gala win Border derby
Meanwhile, a strong first half performance by Gala was enough to give the Maroons a comfortable 35-12 win over Kelso at Netherdale, but the visitors gained some consolation by winning the second period of play by 12-8.
Gala’s first half points came from tries by wing Fergus Johnston, hooker Jack Easson and wing Ross Cooke, who kicked two penalty goals and two conversions to give his side a 25-0 interval advantage.
Kelso looked much positive in the second half and were rewarded with a tries by props Fergus Common and Craig Sweenie and a conversion by Craig Dods. Gala regrouped and added points with a Cooke penalty and the winger’s conversion of a late try by full-back Ruairi Howarth.
Highland win an all Caley contest
Highland earned the right to represent Caledonia in the last eight with a convincing five tries to two win at home to a generally young Stirling Wolves side, who will have learned from their exposure to the cold Inverness area against an organised home side.
The two National League One sides had the distinction of having the Caley stage to themselves on a day when there were no other senior games played north of the Tay.
”What we would like now is to have a tie against a Premiership side here at Canal Park. Bring it on! We harnessed the wind well in the first half, and got our rewards in the second spell when we added three tries to our two in the first,” said winning head coach Dave Carson.
His opposite number Chris Faill was happy with his side’s performance if not the outcome. ”We stuck to the task right to the end, scoring two good tries,” he said. “We are always learning and will build on this experience. It was good to give so many youngsters game time.”
The home side had to come from behind after surrendering an early try through hooker Andrew Orr and converted by centre Mikey Heron, only for the Canal Park to tie up the scores with one of theirs scored by winger Steven Rutledge and converted by stand off Scott Fraser, before Heron eased the homesters in to a 10-7 lead.
Highland centre Seumus Ross then put the visitors in the driving seat with the first of his three touchdowns of the afternoon and after the try was converted by Fraser, it looked like a rout would be on the cards, but the Wolves rallied to go into the break only one point in arrears at 14-13.
The second half belonged to Highland, who took full advantage of the strengthening breeze to score three more tries, through Ross and lock Grant Jamieson, all converted by the excellent Fraser who also dropped a goal.
A late rally from the Bridgehaugh side led to winger Keir Singleton getting on the end of a cross kick for an unconverted try, but the day belonged to Highland.
Heriot’s were comfortable 48-12 winners – having led 38-0 at half-time – against GHA at Goldenacre with the winning team’s points coming from a hat-trick from John Rae , a brace from Frenchman Louis Meynier, and singles from Craig Robertson, Graham Wilson and Ross Hutchison, plus four Wilson conversions. GHA’s points came via a Sean Fisher touch-down and a penalty try.
Hawick were 7-10 behind at half-time of their home tie versus Cartha Queens Park but bounced back after the break to score 35 unanswered points for a 42-10 victory. Jed-Forest picked up a 12-23 win away to Boroughmuir, Currie Chieftains were also successful on the road with a 21-44 scoreline at Selkirk and Edinburgh Accies defeated Musselburgh 32-24.