Marr Rugby round-up: Marr Rugby wins vital relegation survival battle
BT National League 1 Marr Rugby – 46 Biggar RFC – 12
As the closing stages of the season are reached Marr Rugby’s penultimate match was at home to fellow relegation candidates Biggar. Marr started the match with a four point advantage but with Biggar holding a three match advantage in hand a win for either side was vital. A Biggar victory would consign Marr to the second relegation spot whilst a Marr win would ensure that the glimmer of survival was maintained.
Against this backdrop and Marr’s single point win in the earlier encounter at Hartree Mill a bruising battle was anticipated and this was delivered. There is a rugby adage that forwards win the match and backs determine by how much. With one of the biggest packs of any teams in the league and included in their numbers several Polish international class players Biggar presented Marr’s eight with a significant challenge.
From the kick-off, and playing with a strong wind behind them, Biggar immediately tested Marr’s defence and won a penalty that was converted to open the scoring. Marr immediately responded. Winning the restart they quickly spread the ball wide and attacked down the wing. Scott Bickerstaff charged towards the line but was stopped by a determined and unforgiving challenge. Marr managed keep the momentum going and quick recycling led to Dylan Rowe (sponsored by TR Bonnyman) driving through from close range to score in the corner for an unconverted try.
On eight minutes Biggar re-took the lead with a converted penalty and they added a further three points as centre Craig Swankie landed a drop kick from 35 metres as Marr seemed to stem a promising attack.
As the quarter hour mark approached Marr’s backs got some further attacking opportunities. Marr’s pack had again won possession from the restart and after a series of pick and drives the ball was released wide. Johnny McClung created a gap by slicing through deep towards the try line before passing to his centre partner Aaron Rankin, who was able to complete the run in for a converted try. During this period Kyle Vallance (sponsored by Martin’s Gardens) was in the thick of things and found himself on the end of some significantly robust hits for his troubles.
Biggar immediately hit back. A promising attack was squandered as a spilled ball allowed Marr possession then as they tried to clear their lines while under significant pressure the referee penalised Biggar for a tip tackle that saw influential Craig Simmons sent to the sin-bin. Marr took full advantage of the extra man but for most of the ten minutes Biggar’s defence was exceptional and held the home side at bay. However the relentless attacks finally were rewarded as Fraser Grant crossed the line from close range to score an unconverted try after an extended series of forwards’ pick and drives.
Biggar’s restart kick went long so Marr won an attacking scrum on halfway. Marr took play wide but Biggar’s defence was sound and they coped well with a promising grubber kick from Rory McGee. Clearing their lines they enjoyed some reasonable phases of possession and territory in Marr’s half. Winning a penalty just after the half hour mark they converted and closed the gap to five points.
Marr again responded well and enjoyed a period of sustained possession and pressure in Biggar’s 22m area before losing possession close to the try line following a knock-on. At the scrum Marr’s smaller pack dominated and won possession to allow Angus Johnston to pick and go. After a couple of forward drives the backs were released and Johnny McClung was unstoppable from close range and crossed the line to score a converted try,
Playing the second half with the wind advantage Marr kept the pressure on. An early penalty advantage was converted by Colin Sturgeon. Five minutes later Marr scored their fifth try. The play came after another promising Marr attack was spoiled by a spilled pass. The scrum was key as Marr once again dominated and won a free kick. A quick tap and go allowed the ball to be spread wide and Paul Burke ended with the move with exceptional power to dive in for a try near the corner that was converted.
Biggar’s restart was kicked straight into touch so Marr again enjoyed another good attacking position with a midfield scrum. This allowed them to keep Biggar under pressure deep in their own half. With five minute remaining Biggar conceded a kickable penalty and Colin Sturgeon converted to extend the lead. Shortly following the restart Biggar conceded a further penalty which led to their second yellow carding of the match. Marr pushed for the try and after several phases Scott Bickerstaff powered in and scored the final try that was then converted.
The final whistle brought celebration for Marr but there was no jubilation as minds quickly moved to the next stage of the survival strategy, the final match away against Hillhead Jordanhill.
Marr Rugby man of the match: Angus Johnston (sponsored by Arthur Dunsmuir)
Tries: Dylan Rowe (1); Aaron Rankin (1); Fraser Grant (1); Johnny McClung (1) Paul Burke (1) and Scott Bickerstaff (1)
Conversions: Colin Sturgeon (5)
Penalties: Colin Sturgeon (2)