CRAIG REDPATH has been round the block a couple of times – and he has made full use of that experience coaching Marr this season. Nothing fancy – strong set piece – good ball retention – very direct behind – aggressive and hard working in defence.
A convincing win away to GHA on 21st September took them to the top of the Premiership table – and they stuck there imperiously until 20TH March when coronavirus eventually forced Scottish Rugby to draw stumps.
Mathematically they could still perhaps have fallen short of the three points needed from their two outstanding fixtures against Accies (away) and Hawick (home) to clinch the title, but realistically that was never going to happen – and having beaten nearest challengers Chieftains home and away and Hawick at Mansfield – and having clocked up a remarkable average of 5.25 tries per game during the campaign – they deserve to have their name engraved on the trophy!
- Claiming the Bill McLaren Shield and firmly establishing their championship credentials with a Colin Sturgeon inspired bonus point win over Chieftains at Fullarton in September.
- Sticking to the basics at Mansfield in October for a no-nonsense bonus point win.
- Fourth successful defence of the Bill McLaren Shield against Jed in November to become only the sixth club to have their name engraved on it – joining Ayr (Nov -12 and Sep-18), Heriots (Jan-17), Melrose (Sep-17), Watsonians (Jan-19) and Chieftains (Nov-19).
- Resolute win against Chieftains in the crunch game at Malleny in December – struggling for ball and constantly forced onto the back foot – but defending heroically and avidly taking the two chances that came their way – ‘rope-a-dope’ was how Iain Morrison reported it.
- Scott Bickerstaff, Conor Bickerstaff, Sturgeon, William Farquhar and Calvin Henderson all making the Scotland Club XV squad.
- PC Brown selecting his older brother (and former Marr captain) John B Brown in his best ever uncapped Scotland XV – and reminding us that Bill Cuthbertson, himself and his younger brother Gordon all started their playing careers with Marr. Something in the Troon air?
- Nothing significant but they did fall foul of a couple of banana skins – blowing a 17 point lead to scrape a draw at home to Accies, who at one stage had been reduced to thirteen men – and failing to turn total control into points against GHA and so suffering their first home defeat in two years.
- A hint of controversy over the scrum going uncontested in the crunch game at Malleny in December.
- Colin Sturgeon was the main man – tactically astute – always dictating terms convincingly – a constant threat ball-in-hand – and kicking his goals.
- Conor Bickerstaff – is a class act – great hands and a killer break – always dangerous – particularly in tandem with his brother Scott whenever the latter was released by the Scotland Sevens squad.
- Benedict Grant was a great recruit. A typical raw boned Kiwi back rower who consistently made the hard yards – supported by the irrepressible Kilmarnock boy Mackenzie Pearce and the unsung Fraser Grant in the engine room – all three of whom made the TOL Dream Team.
- “We are taking nothing for granted but that is the best second-half performance I have seen from us. Colin Sturgeon was immense, and our defence in the first hour or so was terrific” – Craig Redpath after the vital win over Chieftains at Fullarton in September.
- “We know that every game in this league is tough” – Craig Redpath before the Musselburgh game in December.
- “This was a definite wake-up call, but we remain unbeaten”– Craig Redpath after the draw with Accies.
- “We need to keep focused and if we don’t any team in this league can beat us” – Craig Redpath prophetically before the GHA game.
“Marr Rugby is a community club providing access to high quality and high performance or social rugby opportunities for players, coaches and spectators from Troon and its surrounding area.” That is what it says on the tin – but it was not always so.
Many years ago, when Marr were languishing in the regional leagues, one of their number, a man called Allan Mackintosh, spoke enthusiastically at the Paisley RFC Annual Dinner about what it took to turn a rugby club around: a winning first team whatever the level, visual change (a lick of paint!), project groups rather than a big committee, social rather than fund-raising events, bringing back the ‘oldies’ to promote the club ethos. Maybe it was hot air – maybe it never happened – but it sounded good at the time – and the romantic would hope that it was maybe in some way symptomatic of the success that the club now enjoys.
Be that as it may, having stepped gingerly into the space vacated locally and nationally by Ayr in the top echelon of Scottish club rugby, Marr like King Louie in Jungle Book have ‘got to the top’ and in their case ‘they want to stop’ – and few would bet against them doing just that.