ALAN LORIMER @ Philiphaugh
MARR maintained their Tennent’s Premiership title challenge with victory over an injury-weakened Selkirk side at Philiphaugh, but while the visitors took the honours Selkirk can be satisfied with a gritty performance that prevented what might have been an avalanche of points against them.
On moral grounds Selkirk probably deserved a losing bonus point especially given the high number of players on the injury list, and it says much for their team spirit that they managed to frustrate high-flying Marr. That they did hold Marr for much of the game was undoubtedly down to nuggety defence and trenchant tackling that kept Marr’s dangerous backline runners in check.
“Euan MacDougall coming back into the squad [after returning from Covid isolation] had a massive bearing on the squad’s performance. We had a bit of energy. We had to change our half-backs [because of injuries], but I thought they managed the game pretty well” said Scott Wight, the Selkirk coach.
This weekend’s other Premiership match reports:
He added: “Calum McNeill was back in for his first game of the season and he too did well. We wanted a bit of dog and restore some pride, because our performance last week was not acceptable. We were frustrated today at not getting a bonus point for our effort.
“We had opportunities today but we just didn’t look after the ball. We tended to turn the ball over after two or three phases and they then put us under pressure. We simply weren’t able to get a real foothold in the game. As regards our extensive injury list it’s difficult. We picked up three injuries on Thursday night and that didn’t help but that means young boys in the seconds will get opportunities” suggested Wight.
For the league leaders’ coach, Craig Redpath, his side’s inability to stamp their authority on the game was disappointing. He said: “We got four points and that’s the important thing, but I was disappointed in the number of opportunities that we missed. We’re not firing at the moment. We’re not playing how we can play but we’re winning, which is a good thing.
“Selkirk are always very tough. They’ve got a lot of pride and they’ve got quite a few missing. If you don’t take your chances against them they’ll fight to the very end as they did today. We blew the chance to get a bonus point nine minutes from the end and they then came back to score a try at the death. So all credit to them. I’m just disappointed with our performance. We’re just not getting to the levels we’re capable of.”
Against the odds it was Selkirk who claimed the first points of the game with a penalty from stand-off Scott Clark. Both sides had opportunities to score tries but it was not until ten minutes before half-time that the line was crossed.
From a line-out Marr set up a maul and when the ball was shipped to the blind side, Conor Bickerstaff cut through the Selkirk defence for an unconverted try to give the Troon team a 5-3 interval advantage.
Then late in the third quarter Marr struck again after repeated close-range drives at the Selkirk line that ended with second row David Andrew scoring this side’s second try, this time successfully converted by stand-off Calum Inglis.
Marr quickly extended their lead and again it was the Scotland amateur international centre Conor Bickerstaff who did the damage with a slicing run through midfield for a try converted by Inglis.
The visitors should have claimed the bonus point but were held up over the line. Having survived a sustained assault on their line Selkirk then worked their way downfield and from a series of drives in the five-metre zone, skipper Euan MacDougall forced his way over for a morale-lifting try, Clark’s conversion providing the final points of the game.
Selkirk: C Anderson; F Anderson, B Pickles, R Nixon, C McNeil; S Clark, J Hamilton; L Pettie, J Bett, B Riddell, D Nicol, T Brown, A McColm, S McClymont, E MacDougall©. Subs: K Thomson, J Anderson, C Turnbull, A Cochrane, C Young.
Marr: G Montgomery; S Bickerstaff, J Shedden, C Bickerstaff©, J Scott; C Inglis, S Broad; B Sweet, C McMillan, W Farquhar, D Andrew, H Murray, F Grant, R Brown, B Johnston. Subs: S Adair, G Reid, K McCulloch, S McDonald, I Turaga.
Referee: S O’Neil.
Selkirk: Try: MacDougall. Con: Clark. Pen: Clark.
Marr: Tries: C Bickerstaff 2, Andrew. Cons: Inglis 2.
Scoring sequence (Selkirk first): 3-0; 3-5 (h-t) 3-10; 3-12; 3-17; 3-19; 8-19; 10-19.
Yellow card –
Man of the Match: Marr at times look irresistible in attack while Selkirk excelled in defensive chores. But what mattered was winning and in this respect Conor Bickerstaff’s two-try contribution was crucial.
Talking point: Marr know that they should have come away with five points and clearly they will want to know what went wrong. It is fixable and it is likely that their next match will reveal this. For Selkirk their problems are all to do with an extensive injury list that will make their next few games a test of character.