GHA 22 Marr 39
A very large crowd gathered for this match at Braidholm. The Troon side brought a sizeable support eager to see their heroes crowned League Champions.GHA supporters hoped that their side would be capable of spoiling the party. In many ways this was a day of contrasts. A mild day with sunny periods was interrupted about an hour before kick off by torrential rain which created a greasy surface to a soft playing pitch. It was the Ladies Lunch in the clubhouse with GHA’s very own Chippendales serving libations to the ladies ! Amidst the bonhomie was the sadness in the club over the passing of former President Tom Morrice a wonderful ambassador for all that the game of rugby represents. A minutes silence before the match was impeccably observed by all.
There was also a contrast in the preparations of both sides. Marr on arrival,looking relaxed and confident went straight out on to the pitch checking the parameters of the pitch carefully. They then went through a series of loosening exercises before running team drills with the emphasis on retaining the ball in contact. The ability to retain the ball in contact by offload or recycling would play a huge part in the Marr game plan. GHA worked in two units ,the forwards working on scrummaging and lineout and the backs running short pass drills. Marr kicked off and early exchanges saw both sides attempting to establish territory. GHA were penalised for crossing and Colin Sturgeon hit an excellent kick from outside the GHA twenty two metre area to give Marr the lead. Thus after just over two minutes the score was: GHA 0 MARR 3.
The home side attempted to force their way into the match with a mixture of deft passing and a clever kick through by Grant Mollison. Marr were very quick to close down any threat from the GHA backs with very accurate tackling which often meant the ball was spilled in the tackle and lost. Andrew Goudie tried to find a way through a stout visitors defence by employing a number of deft angled kick throughs and after eight minutes Andrew Spowart chased down a kick and caught Colin Sturgeon in the visitors ten metre area. However the advantage was lost and a quite superb chip and collect by Colin Sturgeon just failed to realise a score by a desperate last ditch tackle. By the fifteenth minute it was evident that Marr would run every ball at the GHA defence, seemingly confident in retaining possession or indeed breaking tackles. In one such move Kris Kirk broke through the home defence and from outside his own ten metre line just failed to score. Whilst Kirk had been held up GHA were penalised at the scrum and from a set move Stephen Adair went over to score. Whilst the conversion was missed the score after sixteen minutes was : GHA 0 MARR 8.
The visitors whose confidence was growing continued to dominate the loose and to take ball after ball into contact. Constantly Marr would drive into the home defence and on engagement recycle or offload the ball with devastating effect. It was all the home defence could do to repel these constant raids. A key exponent of these attacks was Tom Steven whose angled strikes and support play was causing huge problems for a defiant GHA defence. GHA gave away another penalty at the breakdown and Colin Sturgeon just failed to convert. Undaunted as we reached the twenty two minute mark, GHA were awarded a penalty for crossing by the Marr centres. From just outside the twenty two metre zone Andrew Goudie hit what is possibly the oddest kick ever to have succeeded at Braidholm. The ball left Andrew,s boot and sailed drunkenly towards the crossbar, hit the crossbar, spun up to on to the upright and fell over to give GHA their first points. GHA 3 MARR 8.
Marr seemingly stung by the loss of points looked for an immediate riposte. William Farquhar made a telling break and as the ball was offloaded a number of crisp passes through Marr hands gave Scott Bickerstaff the opportunity to score, Colin Sturgeon successfully kicked the conversion to make the score GHA 3 MARR 15.
Messrs Sturgeon and Jericevich conducted a kicking duel to try and gain territory for their respective sides. A break by Ben Johnston found gaps in the home defence and a more accurate pass would have increased the Marr lead.However the ball was adjudged to have gone forward. From the resulting scrum GHA lost the ball in contact and in a well contrived forwards move Stephen Adair went over to score and the try was converted to make the score after thirty seven minutes GHA 3 MARR 22.
As the home side attempted to reorganise and regroup Marr struck again as Ben Johnston again found gaps in the GHA defence and broke from his own twenty two metre line, despite desperate attempts to prevent a score the ball was shipped to William Farquhar to score. Whilst a difficult conversion failed the score at Half Time was GHA 3 MARR 27.
The large crowd had enjoyed an interesting first half. Marr had been most impressive with strong defence, excellent support play and an ability to break tackles. The angles run by the ball receiving player and the total confidence that there would be a support player on the ball carriers shoulders at all times, meant that the hard pressed home side were often facing having to tackle two three players in close formation. The second half began with Daniel Law and Scott Bickerstaff breaking down the wing to launch Tom Steven who just fails to hold a pass with the try line in sight. However GHA as they had done throughout the first half patiently applied their own moves, looking for a way through the Marr defence. In a clever move in which the ball was passed at speed through a number of GHA hands across both sides of the pitch, Michael Scott with a superb dummy shot over the line to score and to bring some cheer to the local support. Andrew Goudie made an excellent conversion and the score after eleven minutes of the second half was: GHA 10 MARR 27.
Hardly had the match restarted than Conor Bickerstaff and Greg Paxton combined to carve an opening through the home defence to allow Paxton to score. Despite the missed conversion the score now stood after thirteen minutes of the second half as: GHA 10 MARR 32.
With the visiting support serenading their heroes with song a downpour of biblical proportions began. In minutes the pitch was reduced to a water filled mud bath with players slipping and sliding in their frantic efforts to handle the ball. GHA in the monsoon like conditions drove the visitors back and a great break by Andrew Spowart was stopped just short of the line. From the resulting five metre scrum the home side worked the ball through hands to allow . Grant Mollison to score. Despite a missed conversion the score after twenty minutes of the half was: GHA 15 MARR 32. In quite appalling conditions both sides continued to give their all. Marr regained possession and with accurate passing in a rain soaked environment sent their supporters into ecstasy by scoring through Scott Bickerstaff from a break by Ben Johnston. Colin Sturgeon converted the try to make the score after twenty five minutes GHA 15 MARR 37. A conversion by Colin Sturgeon made the score GHA 15 MARR 39.
The torrential rain slackened slightly as GHA remained defiant and attempted to pressure the Marr defence. As the clock moved towards thirty five minutes a huge effort by the GHA forwards inside the Marr twenty two metre line took the visitors by surprise and in excellent close support GHA scored through Dario Ewing with Andrew Goudie converting. This made the score GHA 22 MARR 39.
As the final whistle blew GHA were still defiantly attacking a Marr side who have indeed emerged this season as worthy Champions playing a brand of power rugby which is very difficult to compete against. GHA fought to the very end of the match and refused to buckle at any stage.
GHA: G.MOLLISON A.SPOWART B.ADDISON R.FINDLAY J.HAMILTON-POTTER A.GOUDIE P.JERICEVICH T.BROGAN S.USUDA M.SCOTT A.KERR A.BARNETT D.EWING M.RYAN G.CAMPBELL – Subs: S.CARSON C.BAIRD L.MAVUNGA M.HOUSTON C.KING
Scorers: T – MOLLISON SCOTT C – GOUDIE P – GOUDIE
MARR: C.KOLARIC S.BICKERSTAFF G.PAXTON C.BICKERSTAFF T.STEVEN C.STURGEON G.BAIRD C.NISBET S.ADAIR W.FARQUHAR F.GRANT K.KIRK D.LAW M. PEARCE B.JOHNSTON – Subs: A.KELLY O.ROSSI K.VALLANCE G.NESS S.HOWIE
Scorers: T – ADAIR (2), S. BICKERSTAFF (2), FARQUHAR, PAXTON C – STURGEON (3) P – STURGEON