GHA 5 Marr 8
Table topping Marr Rugby arrived at Braidholm on a rain lashed and windy day. An overcast sky and difficult underfoot conditions did not suggest that either side would find it easy to play their natural running attacking rugby. The fact that both sides combined to produce a thriller is testament to the quality of player on the field. As always Marr brought with them a large travelling support to swell the attendance at this match,the first of four matches which will determine the final league position for this season. Both sides braved the dreadful weather to complete their preparations working briskly in the driving rain and cold wind.
Marr kicked off and the ball was gathered by GHA but very soon a penalty was awarded to Marr on halfway. The resulting touch kick from Liam McLoughlin took play up to the home side’s twenty two metre area. The visitors attacked the GHA defensive line using a number of drives by Mackenzie Pearce and Ross Miller to try and make territory. Marr were awarded another penalty inside the home side’s twenty two metre area. The visitors elected to kick for goal and narrowly failed to take the lead. Both sides were mixing their approach to the game sometimes forward driving and recycling, shifting the ball through the backs and trying to turn defences with long kicks . The home side were awarded a penalty from halfway after four minutes and play moved up to the Marr twenty two area.
Both sides were keeping the ball moving in dreadful conditions but both defences negated the possibility of progress with resolute tackling. In seven minutes a long searching kick by Cameron King forced Liam McLoughlin to carry the ball over his goal line as Cameron closed him down. The GHA forwards attacked in force against a purple wall with inroads by messrs Scott, McCarthy Kerr and Carson, all inching the home side forward in the face of determined resistance from the visitors. In a change of direction the ball was quickly passed out to Ben Addison whose sprint for the line was only just stopped by the Marr defence.
As we reached the tenth minute the tightness of the match and the ascendency of both defences tended to ensure that play crabbed across the half way line. A sudden breakout by the excellent Ross Miller took play up to the GHA twenty two metre area. The home side cleared the danger and were once again forcing Marr back perhaps due to the conditions the ball was spilled by the home side and Marr exploited a gap to break into the GHA half. A superb tackle by Andrew Gillman just inside his ten metre area stopped the momentum that Marr had begun to build.After fifteen minutes GHA produced a lovely move begun by Ross Findlay and supported by Andrew Gillman took play up to the Marr ten metre area. However as we reached the twentieth minute Marr were awarded a penalty as GHA were adjudged to have strayed offside. An excellent kick by Liam McLoughlin from the GHA ten metre area was successful and gave the visitors the lead. GHA 0 MARR RUGBY 3.
Almost from the restart Marr were awarded another penalty and play moved to the home side ten metre area. As the rain became even heavier the visitors looked to establish dominance using a variety of feints and moves to try and disrupt the home defence. In one particular break, Ross Miller made great progress only to knock the ball on. The home side adjusted quickly and a kick through by Andrew Gillman had the Marr full back rushing to collect the ball before the onrushing GHA backs engaged. Just as LIam McLoughlin went to pick up the ball he slipped on the treacherous conditions and could only watch as Charlie Lonergan controlled the ball and went over to score to the delight of the home crowd. The conversion failed and the score after twenty eight minutes was now: GHA 5 MARR RUGBY 3.
Marr came straight back at GHA but the home defence dealt with the restart and play centred on half way as we passed the half hour. In a flurry of midfield attack and counter attack, Fraser Grant was yellow carded for an illegal tackle. As we moved to the interval both defences ensured that there would be little space to exploit and both sides exchanged rather fruitless kicks searching for a way through. The ball was becoming increasingly difficult to work with but both sides continued with their desire to play attacking rugby.Marr made a huge effort to break down the GHA resistance and only a huge kick by Grant Mollison brought some respite to the home defence. There was no further scoring before the interval.
Despite the very difficult conditions both sides had given their all in the attempt to establish dominance. It had been a keenly contested half with both defences on top. It seemed a very tight match could be decided by a a break of the ball or perhaps a mistake resulting from the conditions. The second half began with the home side placing a deep kick into the Marr half. GHA won the ball back on halfway and Charlie Lonergan made a clever break only to be stopped by determined visitor defence. For several minutes play again tended to crab across the pitch before Cameron King put in a huge kick which took play down to the Marr five metre area. However the steady Marr defence cleared the danger. GHA put in a tremendous amount of work constantly driving at the Marr defence in an attempt to find a way through. The GHA backs ably marshalled by Cameron KIng were making very good running lines but just could not quite break through the purple wall. Again Ben Addison broke through but the Marr cover defence alert to the danger pose by messrs Gillman, King Lonergan Addison and Purewal and Mollison held firm. The home side were given a supposed advantage when Fraser Grant received a red card for foul play. As GHA continued to apply themselves to retaining the ball and patiently looking for a way through their opponents defence.
As often happens in such situations, this setback seemed to fill the visitors with an even greater determination to turn this match in their favour. The home side continued to apply themselves working incredibly hard in the monsoon conditions to retain the ball and make progress. Marr kicked through as the ball went loose and to the roar of their support charged after the ball as it landed in the GHA five metre area. Marr seized the opportunity to try and force a way through and only diligent and brave defending inside their five metre are allowed GHA to emerge unscathed.
As the half wore on the tension became heightened as both sides knew that one mistake or piece of brilliance could carry the day. Players on both sides threw themselves into the tackle and as the crowd began to check watches it seemed GHA had just about won the day. However as we reached the last minute a kick behiind the Marr defence was superbly scooped up by Liam McLoughlin and he linked with his teammates to cut through the GHA defence. As the crowd in the stand rose to their feet GHA made desperate attempts to stop the on rushing Marr players and seemed to have stopped the danger until Marr recycled the ball and spun it out to allow Richard Dalgleish to score in the corner. The Marr support and their players roared with joy at snatching victory in such a manner. The conversion was missed and the score was now: GHA 5 MARR RUGBY 8.
The final whistle blew moments later and the contrast between ecstatic Marr and shattered GHA could not have been more marked. Despite dreadful weather both sides produced a thriller of a match. Every single player on both sides gave everything and despite the conditions both sides played some exciting rugby. Whilst shell shocked at the end GHA can take great pride in an excellent performance and really must maintain this incredible level of commitment in the remaining matches. Marr refused to give up in this match even when reduced to fourteen players and showed that when there is a will there is a way.
GHA: G.MOLLISON A.PUREWALL C.LONERGAN R.FINDLAY B.ADDISON C.KING A. GILLMAN S.CARSON M.SCOTT M.FOX J.McCARTHY A.KERR R. ANGUS J.SUTHERLAND – REPLACEMENTS: S.FISHER A.BARNETT S.PLUMRIDGE G.BAIRD A.SPOWART
SCORERS: T – LONERGAN
MARR: L. McLOUGHLIN, J. SCOTT, G. PAXTON, C. BICKERSTAFF, R. DALGLEISH, C. STURGEON, F. HAZEL, W. FARQUHAR, O. ROSSI, C. HENDERSON, E. HAMILTON -BULGER F. GRANT, M. PEARCE, D. LAW, R. MILLER – REPLACEMENTS: S. ADAIR, G. DICK, K. VALLANCE, A. MILL, G. NESS
SCOERS: T – DALGLEISH P – MCLOUGHLIN
REFEREE: Mr G ORMISTON
ASSISTANT REFEREES: MR K McGHEE & MR J RYDE