Scottish Cup semi-final: Edinburgh Accies versus Marr clash will mark end of an era regardless of result

Hosts have recent momentum and continuity in selection on their side, but visitors have more big match experience

Marr captain Conor Bickerstaff carries the ball against Edinburgh Accies. Image: Jonathan Pearce
Marr captain Conor Bickerstaff against Edinburgh Accies. Image: Jonathan Pearce

WIN or lose, tomorrow’s Scottish Cup semi-final clash between Edinburgh Accies and Marr at Raeburn Place will mark the end of the road for one of the great club rugby playing careers of recent history, with visiting skipper Conor Bickerstaff hanging up his boots at full-time of what will be his 239th appearance for the Troon club.

Ideally, the final run-out would be in the Scottish Cup Final at Murrayfield next Saturday. However, with one of Bickerstaff’s best friends, former Fullarton flanker Kyle Vallance, getting married that day, the centre will be one of a number of front-line players who will unavailable for Silver Saturday should Marr make it that far.

The ominous challenge of facing reigning champions Hawick in next weekend final will be the reward for the winner of this game, with the hosts coming into the game battle-hardened and high on confidence after their home quarter-final success over Heriot’s Blues last weekend and have a settled squad. Ross Dunbar coming back in as prop cover is the only change to the match-day squad for this game.


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“It has been an enjoyable week, the players have responded well to entering semi-final week and have learnt a lot of lessons from last weekend’s game, although we under no illusions of how confrontational this Marr team will be,” said Accies head coach Iain Berthinussen.

Marr have not played since beating Watsonians in their quarter-final back on 21st March, and have a number of key players missing through injury or other unavailabilities, including their huge influential stand-off Colin Sturgeon.

“So far this season we have had two very close and hard  matches against Accies,” said forwards coach Stephen Adair. “In both a single score separated the sides and we are certain Iain Berthinussen will have his squad fired up with the message to set the record straight and gain success.

“While home advantage will count in Accies favour, our squad knows well what is on offer and having prepared well this week I am certain they will rise to the challenge.  Accies have some key players who will have to be kept in check, so our defence will be as tight as we can make it and we need to convert any chances we get.”

 

 

Meanwhile, Bickerstaff was in reflective mood as he contemplated the end of his quarter of a century playing history at Fullarton.

“All good things come to an end is what they say, so I guess that time has come for me to hang up the boots and play my last game in the purple and gold jersey with Marr on Saturday,” he said.

“It’s been a tough decision to make but it is one that I feel is right to make at this time. I’m turning 32 next month and with my wife, Caroline, being pregnant with our first baby, a wee boy, due in August, I know I’ll have my hands full and need to put my focus on family and work. It may be amateur sport but you dedicate 11 months of the year to it, three nights per week and 20-30 Saturdays for games, so it is a lot to juggle on top of family life and work.

“Another reason to hang up the boots at 32 years old is because I’ve had my fair share of serious knee injuries. With three knee reconstructions in the past nine years, it has made it tougher to keep on top of my sharpness and fitness, and is only getting tougher year by year. I think it’s time to step away and look after the body to be able to give the best version of myself to my family and not be in crutches again!

“Reflecting on the rugby career, if I can call it that, I’ve been extremely lucky to have played for my local club Marr since a seven-year-old at the minis and then go on to be part of the club’s rise through the many league promotions from National Three (the old sixth division) all the way up to the Premiership. To captain the side to our first Premiership title at the top of the amateur game was special to say the least. When you step back and look at it, it’s amazing really that we lifted six league trophies, a National Shield and have cemented ourselves as a known club in Scotland.

“I’ve been a captain at the club for six seasons now, which is the longest serving captain in the club’s history. That has been special, the backing and support the coaches and players have given me has been incredible. I’ll forever be grateful for that.

“I’ve also been lucky to have been involved and selected as a vice-captain for the Scotland Club XV in 2020 and captain the Glasgow & West district team for the past two seasons. Two great honours that I’ll again forever be grateful for and loved being a part of.

I need to thank the coaches who’ve given me the opportunity at Marr, representative and sevens invitational selections. The physios who’ve got me back on my feet after the serious injuries, the Marr committee and wider management team for their support over the years, the Marr supporters for their immense support everywhere we go, and the most importantly the players past and present who made this journey special.

“I do need to thank a few people personally… my Mum, Gillian, who ran my brother and I back and forth to training/games as kids and even to this day supports on the sideline at pretty much every single game. My wife  for her patience and support, even when I was stuck on crutches! And finally my brother, Scott, who’s been a teammate since 2010 and always pushed me to better myself on and off the pitch, but more importantly he has always been there for me as a brother.

“It’s been some journey and one I’ll look back on with great memories”

 

Edinburgh Accies (versus Marr in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup at Raeburn Place, kick-off 3pm): R Chalmers; G Welsh, R Kent, N Armstrong ©, M Wallace; B Appleson, P Ritchie; C Imrie, C Davies, C Crookshanks, J Mills, S Whittaker, G Napier, A Wood, J Sole. Replacements: F McAslan, A Hain, T Drennan, K Slingsby, R Cadzow, C Allan, F MacNeill.

Marr: J Jacobson; J Scott, G Paxton, C Bickerstaff ©, S Bickerstaff; C Inglis, G Baird; B Sweet, C McMillan, A Rogers, F Grant, C Young, A Apthorpe, C Smith, B Johnston. Replacements: B Wallace, C Steel, K McCulloch, M Blair, G Beckwith, R Baird, A Ramage.

Key battle: Neil Armstrong versus Conor Bickerstaff

Verdict: Recent matches, continuity in selection and home advantage all favours Accies, but big match experience to squeeze Marr through.


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About David Barnes 3957 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The 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.

3 Comments

  1. What a great servant to Marr,and a role model in the amateur game,hope Mr Bickerstaff has a good result and both teams give him a rousing send off at full time,it’s hat’s off to you.

  2. What a great servant to Marr,and a role model in the amateur game,hope Mr Bickerstaff has a good result and both teams give him a rousing send off at full time,it’s off to you.

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