GHA 29 Marr 48
Saturday saw the arrival of Marr for this Premiership match. The contrast between the fortunes of the two sides to this juncture could not be more marked. The Troon club have won both their opening matches whilst GHA have lost twice. A sun kissed Braidholm enjoying the luxury of glorious weather welcomed a good crowd. Further evidence of the drive to improve the environs of the club are noted in the new layout of the car park and the very impressive scoreboard. Our man with the microphone Dave Barnett has already added the phrase “playing towards the scoreboard end” to his matchday lexicon.
Both sides perhaps conscious of the strength sapping heat concentrated on ploys and moves in their preparation.
GHA kicked off and whilst Marr attempted to cope with the kick the GHA forwards regained possession and to the delight of the home crowd passed the ball through hands inside the Marr half to allow Jackson Baillie to score in the corner within the first minute. The score was GHA 5 MARR 0. The conversion was missed and a shocked Marr quickly reformed to cope with this incredible early breech of their defences.
Clearly GHA were attempting to avoid the slow start in their two previous matches which had led to opponents gaining the initiative. Marr however were determined to recover from this early blow and set about laying out their attacking strategies. Visiting trio, Sturgeon, Paxton and Bickerstaff interchanged position and approach to attempt to create gaps in the GHA rearguard. These three players individually and collectively were to cause problems for the home defence all afternoon. Despite this GHA were showing considerable spirit and ability in the early stages meeting Marr probes and feints with resolute defence and then turning ball into their opponents territory. However after twelve minutes Colin Sturgeon ran a superb line to cut through the home defence and move deep into GHA territory before releasing Gregor Paxton to go over in the corner. The score was now GHA 5 MARR 5. A superb conversion made the score: GHA 5 MARR 7.
Marr gathered from the restart and worked the ball through hands to stun the home side with another score with Richard Dalgleish scoring in the corner. The conversion was successful and after twenty minutes the score was GHA 5 MARR 14.
Both sides were attacking and attempting to run the ball wide with the result that play tended to move from end to end. In the twenty fifth minute after great driving by the GHA forwards, Marr found themselves defending desperately inside their five metre area. As the home side tried to work the ball through the forwards Marr infringed and a penalty try was awarded to GHA with Robert brown being yellow carded. The score was now GHA 12 MARR 14.
This was a critical moment in the match. The visitors were continually changing their approach from swift incursions into the GHA half by their forwards especially, messrs Hamilton -Bulger and Henderson to incisive running by the Marr backs which was forcing the GHA defence on to the backfoot. Marr were clinically exploiting and building on quick progress into GHA territory. This forced the home side to commit men to the tackle area and continually turn. As we reached the half hour mark Marr began to control events with messrs Sweet, Rossi and Henderson taking the ball into contact and crucially enabling it to be recycled to force the home side backwards .Despite this pressure, GHA on meagre possession were prepared to break out into the Marr half and Jackson Baillie made a great break from his own half which required a good tackle to stop him inside the Marr half. Despite the efforts of Barrett Marinkovic and Adam Kerr, Marr regained possession and moved over the halfway line putting the ball through hands. From inside the GHA ten metre area the recipient of a splendid pass, Gregor Ness managed to break through two tackles to run in for a score. Thus after thirty three minutes the score was : GHA 12 MARR 19.
An excellent long conversion attempt by Colin Sturgeon just failed. GHA attempted to steady the ship and from the restart moved towards the Marr midfield. Following a knock on on halfway the home side moved the ball well but inside their own ten metre area Marr turned the ball over and spent the minutes before halftime thrusting at the GHA defence. The score at half time was: GHA 12 MARR 19.
It had been an interesting first period with some good rugby played by both sides. GHA were working very hard to stay in the match and to counter Marr initiatives. There was an experience and clinical ability evident in all Marr’s efforts which tended to give them the ascendency at crucial periods in the half.
Astonishingly, on the restart Marr within eleven seconds went further into the lead. Marr seemed to steal a loose ball inside the GHA twenty two and Gregor Paxton galloped over the line to make the score within one minute of the second half: GHA 12 MARR 24. The conversion added two more points to put Marr 26-12 in the lead.
To the credit of the home side, GHA refused to buckle under this huge blow so soon into the half. In fact a concerted effort by forwards and backs pushed GHA deep into the visitors half. In some excellent ball retention work, Andy Cornwell who had worked tirelessly throughout the match burst over to score under the posts to raise Braidholm spirits. The try was converted and the score after three minutes of the half was GHA 19 MARR 26.
The home side made tremendous efforts to further reduce the deficit with penetrating and accurate work by messrs Marinkovic, Barnett and Carson taking the home side into the Marr half. However GHA were awarded a penalty and its conversion made the score GHA 22 MARR 26.
This riposte from GHA clearly shook Marr if only for a brief period. Under the excellent direction of Colin Sturgeon Marr began to drive the GHA side deep into their own half with a series of accurate kicks. The visitors began driving two or three players into contact before recycling the ball to allow the backs to continue the momentum inside the GHA half. Benedict Grant and and Alexander Fraser-Grant made inroads into GHA territory in one such drive, sucking in the home forwards before releasing the ball to allow Gregor Ness to score in the corner. The conversion attempt failed and the score after twelve minutes was: GHA 22 MARR 31.
The visitors continued to press and the home side found themselves under pressure with relentless forward work by messrs Cunningham and Hamilton-Burger. Marr released the ball inside the GHA twenty two metre area and the talented Scott Bickerstaff who had been involved in so much of the clever ploys of Marr, went over to score in the fourteenth minute. The conversion failed and the score was now : GHA 22 MARR 36.
This double blow gave Marr a very effective position from which to dominate the match. The home side bravely attempted to stem the onslaught from an increasingly confident visiting side who began to throw the ball about with elan. In the twenty third minute after desperate defence by the home side, Marr struck again with a neat running move finished by Scott Bickerstaff who galloped through the stretched home defence to score. The try was converted and the score was now GHA 22 MARR 43.
The pattern was set for the remaining part of the match with GHA stubborn defence attempting to prevent further scoring by the visitors. However a scintillating break by Colin Sturgeon carried him through the home defence before passing to Jack Scott who scored. The conversion was missed and the score after thirty six minutes was: GHA 22 MARR 48.
In a final show of defiance, GHA took play up into the Marr twenty two metre area and after further good work by the home forwards George Baird found a way through to score. The conversion was successful and the final score was: GHA 29 Marr 48. There were signs during this match that GHA are learning to cope with playing at this level. However the need to be accurate in possession and clinical in execution were clearly demonstrated by Marr on the day.
GHA: G.MOLLISON, J.BAILLIE, C.LONERGAN, C.KING, A.PUREWAL, J.ANDERSON, A.GILLMAN, A.CORNWELL, H.CLARK, S.FISHER, A.BARNETT, A.KERR, M.MARINKOVIC, D.EWING, L.McCUTCHEON – REPLACEMENTS: S.CARSON, F.FAULDS, M.CONROY, G.BAIRD, R.O’KEEFE
SCORERS: T – BAILLIE, BAIRD, CORNWELL, PENALTY C – ANDERSON (2), PENALTY P – ANDERSON
MARR: G.NESS, S.BICKERSTAFF, G.PAXTON, C.BICKERSTAFF, R.DALGLEISH, C.STURGEON, G.MONTGOMERY, B.SWEET, O.ROSSI, C.HENDERSON, E.HAMILTON-BURGER, A.FRASER-GRANT, M.PEARCE, R.BROWN, B.GRANT – REPLACEMENTS: C.McMILLAN, W.FARQUHAR, C. CUNNINGHAM, J.SCOTT, I.TURAGA
SCORERS: T – S. BICKERSTAFF (2), NESS (2), PAXTON (2), SCOTT, STURGEON C – STURGEON (4)
REFEREE: MS H DAVIDSON
ASSISTANT REFEREES: MR J PERRIAM & MR B McGUFF