National League Division 1

Marr Rugby 52 vs 14 Stewart’s Melville RFC

We started this game like we were the home team rather than the men in purple, pinning Marr in their 22 and enjoying the bulk of possession. With Fullarton bathed in warm sunshine and the going relatively firm underfoot, we could almost have been at Inverleith as opposed to the Clyde coast.

Ali Greig dotted down after gliding in off the right wing after 5 minutes, with Euan Morrison adding the extras; Marr then claimed a couple of unconverted tries to take a 10-7 lead, before a neat break by Sam Ross allowed Ali an almost unchallenged run in off the left wing on the 30 minute mark. If the run in was textbook … the touch down was not, as Ali proceeded to drop the ball behind the line as he went for the one-handed dot down.

That seemed to knock the wind out of us, and to be something of a wake up call for Marr. As the men in red, black and gold collectively scratched their heads and wondered why they weren’t heading for the half time oranges with a narrow lead, Marr rolled up their sleeves, chucked the ball about like it was ticking and ran in three fairly straightforward tries that left them 31-7 up at the break.

Marr continued where they had left off after half time, making the most of our unforced errors, poor line speed and lacklustre tackling to run in another three converted tries.

It’s difficult to predict where Marr will end up in the table, given the relatively easy ride we gave them on Saturday, but they certainly look like a well drilled and very physical outfit. Stand off Colin Sturgeon flings the ball around at some speed, while the direct running of their hefty back row caused us no end of problems. Number 8 Ben Johnston scored four tries, while lock Angus Johnston even managed to ‘moon’ our back pedalling defenders as he cantered in for a try in the first half.

We rallied somewhat in the final minutes of the game, Euan Morrison making the most of gaps in the Marr defence to run in from the edge of the 22. His fine conversion from wide out made the final score 52-14 to our hosts.

It’s hard to take positives from a 50 pointer, but it wasn’t all doom and gloom. We started with young Sam Ross at 10 (Sean Murchie having replaced him at 15) and Sam certainly seemed to thrive on being closer to the action, a lot of that opening barrage being down to his crisp distribution and McCashin-like eye for a break.

Euan Morrison also caught the eye at inside centre; ‘Happy’ isn’t the biggest of players, but (as Gav Calder would probably say) it’s not the size of the dog that counts, just the size of the fight in the dog. With Ali Greig now away to Uni, it will be interesting to see who might partner Euan in the centre going forward – maybe a Royal High reunion with Mike Hanning?

In the pack, you get the impression that we’re very much a work in progress, having lost so many stalwarts like Rhys, Willie, big Ruaridh and MoMo over the close season. Big shoes to fill, in other words.

The newly shorn Thor Rappestad impressed in fits and starts, though even Norse Thunder gods will struggle without on-hand support from their fellow forwards, while his fellow Swede Sami Paulsson looks like he could be a very useful addition to our back row – ‘like Sangy with muscles’, according to our esteemed Chairman!

Scott Cubitt, a second half substitute, is another of those fighty wee dogs – he’s not going to smash you out of the way, but he’s not going to shirk out of a tackle, either.

Moving away from discussing individuals, it must be stressed that, for at least 20 minutes of this game, we looked much more like the Stew Mel of recent seasons, getting on the front foot, moving the ball rapidly from the breakdown and, basically, playing the game the way we want to play it.

The challenge for our players is to demonstrate that same level of precision, energy and hunger across the full duration of a game, rather than burning bright for 20 minutes then, frankly, fizzling out for the next hour as we did at Marr

Finally, a word about the road trip to Marr. Basically, it’s a belter, and comes highly recommended – such a friendly club. We’ll not be back there this season, but you should definitely try to make our next trip over to Troon.

The same goes for the other away trips this season – get yourself a free lift on the team bus, have a chat with the coaches and players before the game, shout the odds during the match then have a good drink in the clubhouse afterwards. Our players may not yet be the finished article, but they will continue to work with our coaches to become the finished article – and deserve our full support as they do so.

Jed at Invers this Saturday – see you there!

Bill McNie

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