Scottish Cup semi-final: 14-man Marr defeat Ayr with powerful second half surge

Troon men bounce back from red-carding just before the break to book Final showdown against Hawick

Marr were worthy winners in a pulsating derby clash against Ayr. Image: George McMillan
Marr were worthy winners in a pulsating derby clash against Ayr. Image: George McMillan.

Ayr 10

Marr 25

DAVID BARNES @ Millbrae

IT was fun – of the ferociously competitive variety –  in the sun at Millbrae, as Marr recovered from a nervy first half which featured the harsh red-carding of No 8 Ben Johnston, to book their place in the Scottish Cup Final at Murrayfield on 6th May, with the final scoreline perhaps not reflecting how much Ayr contributed to the contest.

In the end, squad depth, ruthlessness up-front and a masterclass in game management from Marr stand-off Colin Sturgeon were the key factors in deciding the winner of this pulsating contest.

“We were able to use the whole bench and everyone made an impact today, but I think the forwards won that for us,” was Marr assistant coach Stephen Adair‘s take. “We were great in the scrum, good driving line-outs and to go down to seven in the pack against any team is tough, so I thought we fronted up really well.


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“We knew that Ayr would come at us for the first 40 minutes, but we managed to stick to our game-plan, showed a bit of patience and luckily we managed to execute a bit better in the second half. It was feisty, but good fun. That’s a young Ayr squad who are up-and-coming so you can tell they are going to go places.

“It was a good day for Scottish rugby,” he ventured. “We talk about Super6, but you look at today and the number of people here to watch a good showcase of the club game.”

This will be the first ever Scottish Cup Final Marr have appeared in, and they will be up against a Hawick side who have twice before lifted the trophy, and who beat them three times in the league this season, including in the Premiership play-off final last month.

“Hawick are the form squad in Scottish club rugby just now but its a one-off match at Murrayfield so we’ll just go there with the pressure off an hopefully give a good account of ourselves,” added Adair.

Meanwhile, Ayr coach Stuart Fenwick drew comfort from his belief that this game can serve as a stepping stone through being a learning experience, rather than being an end in itself.

“It was a great game of rugby and I can’t fault our players’ effort, which was phenomenal in the first half,” he said. “There was points in the game when we were in control and there was opportunities which we didn’t take so we’ll look back at that and learn from it.

“We are gutted with the result, but fair play to Marr, they were the better side in the second half. They controlled things well and sometimes playing against 14 men can be more dangerous.

“Our boys will come back better and stronger,” he promised. “This group is very driven and they didn’t manage what they hoped to achieve this season [after also missing out on promotion from National One to the Premiership], but there is a lot of belief there and, with a few more good guys coming through the under-18s, the future is bright.”

 

Gordie Reid was quick to show that he was in the mood for some fun against the club which launched him on his rugby journey, breaking from a ruck straight after kick-off and carrying 20-yards to halfway, throwing dummies and pulling faces as he went. After eventually being brought down and providing a quick recycle, the former Scotland prop dragged himself back to his feet and gestured to the bench that he needed replaced. He was probably joking.

As anticipated, it was a real harum-scarum Ayrshire derby, and tempers boiled over on 12 minutes, when Ayr centre Jamie Bova and Johnston ended up being sent for 10 minutes in the cooler after their central roles in a 25 man scrap. The PA system operator had a great time, blasting out a medley which included the Rocky theme tune as fists flew, the Star Wars theme tune as Bova and Johnston made their way from the field, and ‘Sit Down’ by James when they reached their respective technical areas.

A short time later, a game of rugby threatened to break out, and after a period of Marr possession, they took the lead when Colin Sturgeon fired home a 30-yard ruck penalty. Bova, just back on the park, had a chance to cancel out that score from Marr’s 10-metre line and close to the left touchline, but he misconnected and pulled his effort to the left of the sticks.

In the final minute of the first half, Johnston was given his marching orders for an early tackle on Ross McCorkindale after the scrum-half took a quick tap-penalty. It was one of those infuriating decisions which is all about slavishly adhering to the letter of the law and not at all about applying some common sense.

While Marr were still coming to terms with the set-back, Ayr took advantage, kicking to the corner and collecting clean line-out ball from which Rohan Pottie scooted over.

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Half-time came at just the right time for Marr, and they started the second half in forceful fashion, capitalising on a Bova clanger on halfway by hacking ahead then mounting a period of pressure which eventually yielded another ruck penalty which Sturgeon sent home to restore his team’s lead.

A brilliant 70-yard rocket downfield from Marr full-back Callum Inglis and a fine chase forced a holding on penalty from Johnny McCorkindale, providing the platform from which Sturgeon collected a looping pass and zipped over for the try which gave the men from Troon some breathing space. The stand-off landed the tricky conversion for good measure.

Marr stretched further ahead through an Andrew Acton try following some strong running by Murray Blair and Jake Jacobson, with Sturgeon again converting.

Slick hands straight from a scrum saw Conor Bickerstaff release the looping Jacobson for try number three with 10 minutes to go, but Ayr wouldn’t give up the ghost and kicked a a high tackle penalty to the corner then rumbled the maul over the line for Stuart Collier to score.

That’s as close as they got, although both teams continued to compete ferociously to the end, with one wild late passage of play featuring man-of-the-match Sturgeon expertly collecting his own chip ahead to open up acres of space, but then offloading blindly to an opposition player. Ayr looked to capitalise from deep and Bova thought he had been given a clear to the line, but Harry Murray tackled him just as he gathered the ball, prompting another bout of handbags  and rendition of ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ from the PA system  followed yellow-card for the Marr second-row for taking his opponent out early.

‘Another one bites the dust’ and ‘These boots were made for walking’ blasted across Millbrae as he Murray made his way from the field of play.

 

Teams –

Ayr: J McCorkindale; H Lynch, R Anderson, J Bova, Z Howard; J Anderson, R McCorkindale; S Rae, D Young, R Sayce, M Leatherbarrow, C Lynch, M Kirk, R Pottie, C Reece. Sub used: S Collier, C Rae, B Cree, C Brown, E Bulloch, F Thomson, J Craig.

Marr Rugby: C Inglis; J Jacobsen, S Bickerstaff, C Bickerstaff, A Ramage; C Sturgeon, J Scott; G Reid, C McMillan, A Acton, D Andrew, H Murray, F Grant, C Young, B Johnston. Subs used: B Nicholl, L Morrison, C Folan, A Johnston, M Blair, J Evans, G Paxton.

Referee: Ciaran Stark

 

Scorers –

Ayr: Try: Pottie, Collier.

Marr: Try: Sturgeon, Acton, Jacobson; Con: Sturgeon 2; Pen: Sturgeon 2.

Scoring sequence (Ayr first): 0-3; 5-3 (h-t) 5-6; 5-11; 5-13; 5-18; 5-20; 5-25; 10-25.

 

Yellow cards –

Ayr: Bova (12mins)

Marr: Johnston (12mins), Murray (39mins).

 

Red cards –

Ayr:  Johnston (39mins)

 

Player-of-the-Match: Marr stand-off Colin Sturgeon delivered a maestro performance with ball in hand and through his pin-point accurate boot, but his willingness to put his body on the line through making tackles and getting over the man on the ground was also crucial, especially during the nervy first half.

Talking point: The red-carding of Ben Johnston just before half-time didn’t cost Marr – in fact, it perhaps spurred them on – but do we really want to see games being reduced to 15 versus 14 in such circumstances?


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About David Barnes 3956 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

5 Comments

  1. In 1st cup final there were 50 + Hawick coaches. So hopefully it be last one out put the lights off again. We waited a long time for this. Good to see so many local boys playing.

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  2. Marr deserved their win & good luck to them in the final. I would imagine the supporters buses will be filled.

    • Buses Maybe in short supply as 32 of them were hired last time Hawick were at Murrayfield .
      Expect a Green wave up there

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