Match Report: v Marr RFC, Saturday 7 November

Match Report: v Marr RFC, Saturday 7 November

Marr 23 vs 15 Stewart’s Melville

When Lindsey emailed our esteemed Chairman this afternoon to ask where the Marr match report had got to, Colin replied thus:

Lovely club
Great pre match meal
Their President donated £20 for the raffle at our Ball
P*ssing down with rain
We lost

Bill – can you expand?

Er, I’ll see what I can do (despite partaking in the aforementioned pre match meal, where Marr’s hospitality to their guests was every bit as good as it had been when we made our first trip to Fullarton Road last season – pure plied me with bevvy, so they did!)

I can, for starters, confirm that it was, indeed, gey dreich as we headed westwards for the game in Colin’s car, with the M8 under about three feet of water and Colin’s car phone ringing off the hook as various anxious coaches periodically rang him for weather updates.

A pitch inspection was set for 11.30 am, and was (much to my surprise) passed – as it turned out, the weather was actually not that bad in Troon, with the worst of it having headed eastwards to confront us on the road through.

Yes, the pitch was heavy, and there was an actual waterfall flowing down the banking behind the technical areas – but it was very much game on (albeit the 2s game had to be moved to a pitch at Marr College itself).

The chat among the RBG faithful before kickoff was that, if anything, the weather might actually suit us, as the heavy pitch might keep Marr’s potent backline honest and favour a more forward-oriented game plan. We were well equipped to adopt the latter, as we had a very strong pack out, with both Ruaridhs back in the saddle, Max Campbell bringing his considerable rugby talents to the blindside and the very welcome sight of Hugh Lindsay on the bench (by that, I mean it was good to see Hugh back in the club colours after his time in Canada, and not that it was good to see he wasn’t starting!)

The first 20 minutes of the game were pretty cat and mouse, both teams sounding out the opposition and looking for opportunities. We had the best of the opening exchanges, if anything, and got our just reward when Mike Hanning landed a penalty after 10 minutes to give us the lead. That lead only held for 3 minutes, when home stand off Colin Sturgeon landed a penalty; he then added another 5 minutes thereafter to edge Marr ahead by 3 points.

Our response came on 27 minutes via the best move of the entire match; while lack of a match video or Gav’s total recall prevents me from describing it in forensic detail, I do recall that it started from around the halfway line and involved some fantastic interplay between Ali Greig, Momo and quite probably a few others before Sean Murchie aquaplaned over under the posts. Mike’s conversion was charged down, but we were, despite that, back in the lead, with the score 8-6 in our favour.

That was actually the end of the scoring in the first half, the only other action of note (according to my still soggy notepad) coming when home openside Paul Burke was sent to the bin after a collapsed scrum on 32 minutes.

The mood in the RBG half time huddle must have been pretty positive, as a combination of the heavy pitch and our determined defence had, to be honest, made the much vaunted Marr backs look pretty ordinary, with our line remaining largely unthreatened during the opening period.

Would that that had remained the case during the second period, as we rather shot ourselves in the foot just a couple of minutes after the restart. After winning a scrum close to our line and in front of the posts, Mike’s pass out to the centres was first predicted and then turned over. The Marr pack seized the opportunity and smashed the ball up towards our line; we defended manfully, once again, but prop Andy Kelly eventually slid over. Sturgeon added the extras and we were 13-8 down.

Sturgeon did the trick from the tee once again on the 50 minute mark after Marr earned another penalty, an award that led the feisty and sizable home support to suggest to the ref that Fraser Strachan might feel better for 10 minutes in a nice toasty tracksuit on the sidelines. Fraser stayed on!

We continued to struggle to get into the game, possibly tiring as the heavy pitch took its toll. Marr, on the other hand, definitely had their tails up, and moved further ahead with a fine try after 60 minutes. Like our try, this stemmed from a set piece on half way, and saw the home back row rampaging across the glaur towards our line. Ross McCann put in one of his trademark hits, but some nice offloading allowed blindside Angus Johnston to dot down. The extras from Sturgeon moved Marr into a 23-8 lead, with 20 to go – game over?

Well, maybe not. Despite having conceded 15 points without reply, our boys stuck to their guns and started to take the game to Marr. Our forwards, refreshed via the introduction of Mike MacDonald and Hugh Lindsay, worked their way up the park and, after a scrum in front of the posts, barrelled over for the score, with Rhys claiming the touch down. Hanning’s conversion made it 23-15 with 10 minutes to go – did we dare to dream of snatching an unlikely victory, or (at worst) a very welcome losing bonus point?

Well, we got neither, as it turned out, despite Mike bravely opting to kick a penalty to the corner to give our pack another tilt at the home line as the clock ran down. One of the home props saw yellow during the subsequent passage of play, but, as in the first half, we were unable to translate our numerical advantage into points.

The relief of the Marr players at the final whistle was palpable – despite the fact that we sat 8 places below them in the table before kick off, they knew they had rather got out of jail today.

Our players, on the other hand, were probably gutted at taking nothing from a game that they had put so much into. They should, despite that, be proud of their efforts – while Marr didn’t exactly look like world beaters on Saturday, they’re (now) third in the table for a reason, and the fact that they looked beatable for a good portion of the game was down to our tigerish defence and never-say-die attitude.

More specifically, our set pieces were generally excellent on Saturday, and the back row once again put in one hell of a shift at the coal face. Momo put in some trademark hits and Adam Howie’s workload was, once again, positively Brewsteresque.

Behind the scrum, Ali and Seb made a solid centre partnership, while Ziggy (in an unfamiliar wing berth) proved that you don’t have to be as tall as Stuart Hogg to be rock solid under the high ball. Ross and Sean probably suffered more than most from the underfoot conditions, but handled well and kept the Marr pace men honest with their probing runs.

Most gratifying, though, was the feeling that our senior players are now starting to step up and show what they are made of. OK, it was another defeat, but (this season) to lose at Marr is no disgrace, and the fact that it felt like an undeserved defeat can only be a good thing. We now need to carry that ‘we wuz robbed’ feeling forward into home games, and away games that should (on the face of it) be more winnable – like, for example, this Saturday’s game against Aberdeen Grammar at Inverleith, or our game at Poynder Park on the 21st.

Onwards and upwards, boys!

Bill McNie

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