Marr 36 GHA 10
GHA arrived at Fullarton determined to play their own brand of attacking rugby against high flying Marr who have also shown a penchant this season for fast flowing rugby. Conditions were ideal with no wind and a firm footing for the players. Preparations showed the home side working on short interchanges between forwards and backs particularly off shortened line outs. This particular move was to feature in the match. The visitors went through a number of drills and it was particularly noticeable that the pack brought an intensity to their prematch work. Notes for this report had to be fashioned from a ring side seat only inches from the action.
GHA kicked off and Marr fielded the ball and immediately drove at the visitors. Andrew Acton took the ball into contact with Kris Kirk in close support. Marr recycled quickly and used their powerful forwards to force GHA back. For several minutes GHA defended bravely but after just over two and half minutes Kris Kirk scored for the home side under the posts following a passing move from the breakdown in the GHA half. The try was converted and after four minutes the score stood at : Marr 7 GHA 0.
Marr seemed to sense that the speed and accuracy of their opening forays had rocked GHA and the intensity of the home attack increased. Marr continued to win quality ball from their hard working forwards epitomised by the impressive Ben Johnston who spent much of the match as a very competent false ten alongside his back row duties. Superb tackles by Andrew Spowart and Ross Findlay prevented the deficit increasing. Following a hectic opening five minutes, GHA began to settle and the half back pairing of Ross Findlay and Cameron King (messrs Jericevich and Goudie are on sevens duty in Dubai) began to probe the Marr defensive formation. Michael Scott and Tony Brogan launched themselves at the Marr defence in attempts to find gaps in the home rearguard. From a startled opening, the visitors began to put some incisive passing moves together,particularly by Grant Mollison, Andrew Spowart and Ben Addison.Deep inside the Marr half and clearly growing in confidence the visitors forced a number of errors in the home side culminating in their giving away a penalty in front of the posts for offside at the ruck. Ross Findlay converted to make the score after ten minutes : MARR 7 GHA 3.
Whilst the home side endeavoured to move out of their half GHA forced the game deep into home territory. This was due to a combination of excellent work in the loose and close support between forwards and backs which saw messrs Spowart, King ,Findlay and Binnie make breaks. Marr were under pressure and gave a penalty away after Daniel Law was yellow carded for a late tackle. The visitors chose to kick to the corner and the home support were concerned that their side had for the moment lost control of the match. An excellent jump by Andrew Barnett gave GHA solid possession and the visitors were stopped just short of the try line by desperate Marr defending. The visitors seemed to suddenly lose their line out rhythm and this unfortunate malfunction and a tendency to fail to find a colleague with a pass amongst the backs was to recur several times for the visitors weakening their attacking moves and taking pressure off of the home side. As we reached the twenty fifth minute of the match, Marr seized the initiative with a carefully crafted move orchestrated by Ben Johnston and Colin Sturgeon driving GHA back to their twenty metre area. Over anxiety by GHA resulted in a penalty award to Marr for not releasing the ball. Colin Sturgeon converted the penalty to make the score : MARR 10 GHA 3.
This penalty seemed to reinvigorate the home side after being under pressure for much of the game until this point. As the clock reached the half hour Marr settled into an impressive pattern of ball into contact, recycle, ball back into contact and go again each tome gaining yardage. Only when they felt they had created a good scoring position did they release the ball to their backs. GHA now on the back foot gave away another penalty and Colin Sturgeon kicked to the corner and from the resulting line out the home side put some lovely crisp passing together to send Connor Bickerstaff in to score. The try was converted and after thirty minutes the score stood at : MARR 17 GHA 3.
The minutes before half time were characterised by both sides attempting to run the ball. GHA had by now recovered some of their earlier poise but could not break down the home defence. HALF TIME : MARR 17 GHA 3.
Half time arrived with the match still in the balance. GHA had recovered from a shaky start to gradually control much of the action for the half. Despite possession and a huge improvement in scrummaging GHA had failed during their period of ascendency to break through the home defence. As the half wore on the home side had regained the initiative and secured points at vital times. The visitors had also on a number of occasions failed to find touch with clearance kicks which allowed Marr to run the ball straight back at the visitors. From the restart Marr were awarded a penalty which Colin Sturgeon rifled deep into the visitors half. Marr changed their line out positions and on securing clean ball from the lineout passed the ball through the backs to allow Connor Bickerstaff to score. The conversion was missed and after three minutes of the second half the score was: MARR 22 GHA 3.
Despite this huge set back the visitors engaged their opponents on half way. This was a pivotal time in the match. Marr clearly sensed they could secure a commanding position whilst GHA realised they had to reduce the deficit quickly.Despite their best efforts to reverse the situation, GHA found themselves on the back foot. After applied pressure from the Marr forwards the ball was released and in a series of mispasses and loops Angus Johnson went over to score for the home side. The try was converted and the score was now after fifteen minutes of the second half : MARR 29 GHA 3.
Despite being in a difficult situation, GHA kept calm and continued to compete . Such was their determination that they forced Marr back into their own twenty metre area and were awarded a penalty when Daniel Law was red carded for what appeared to be foul play in the loose. Two more penalties followed in quick succession as Marr attempted to hold back GHA. The visitors then gave a penalty away for pushing too early in the scrum and immediately took the pressure off Marr. For several minutes play moved up and down the park without any real penetration. A plethora of penalties were awarded to both sides for infringements as the game lost some of its earlier fluidity. As we moved towards the last five minutes an attempted pressure relieving kick by GHA was caught by Gregor Paxton who easily brushed off several tackles as he weaved his way from just inside his half to score under the posts. Colin Sturgeon converted to make the score with two minutes left in the match: MARR 36 GHA 3.
Straight from the restart in the gathering gloom GHA put a superb phase of inter passing together to put Ben Addison in for a score which was converted by Ross Findlay. The score was in the last minute of the match: MARR 36 GHA 10. This was the end of an intriguing match in which both sides played some very good rugby but was won by the side that took their chances and defended resolutely .
MARR: C.KOLARIC T.STEVEN G.PAXTON C.BICKERSTAFF G.NESS C.STURGEON G.BAIRD C.NISBET S.ADAIR A.ACTON D.LAW K.KIRK M.PEARCE B.JOHNSTON A.JOHNSTON
Reserves: A.KELLY C.McMILLAN k.VALLANCE K.DIFFENTHAL A. MILL
Scorers: T – BICKERSTAFF (2), A. JOHNSTON, KIRK, PAXTON C – STURGEON (4) P – STURGEON
GHA: G.MOLLISON J.EDGAR B.ADDISON C.BINNIE A.SPOWART R.FINDLAY C.KING T.BROGAN S.USUDA M.SCOTT A.BARNETT P.HARKINS M.RYAN R.ANGUS F.HAIG
Reserves: S.CARSON S.FISHER L.MAVUNGA A.GILLMAN J.POTTER
Scorers: T – ADDISON C – FINDLAY P – FINDLAY