GHA 14 Marr 20

GHA and Marr have developed a habit of producing close contests. After the narrow home victory at Braidholm last season and the subsequent draw at Troon it was Marr’s turn to win on Saturday.

It was, however, a contest that lacked the excitement of the last-minute score in each of last season’s two games. Indeed, Saturday’s two tries were squeezed in between first-half over-time and the first couple of minutes of the second half.

GHA did take a bonus point from the six-point defeat, the widest margin in any of the five matches played on Saturday in the first series of fixtures in BT National League Division 1. That was perhaps significant in indicating how much hard it may be this season for GHA after finishing runners-up last term. Equally significant, too, may well have been Watsonians’ 33-10 win against Peebles on Friday evening.

Marr, undoubtedly, did deserve to win on Saturday. They were the hungrier team, and they had the vital edge in both scrum and breakdown, albeit Jack Dunn did impress in support and carrying for GHA in his first league outing at open side.

GHA looked as if they would continue the rugby they played in many of the games last season. But for a lose final pass, the home team could have been in front with a try after barely two minutes, and Andrew Henderson’s outside break should have led to more than just a penalty goal by Andrew Goudie after six minutes.

However, Marr soon began to look the team more likely to win whereas GHA’s running game flashed only briefly, usually with Chris Binnie involved and most notably when they moved the ball wide to the left only yards from their own line. That was an indication that they wanted to play the rugby of last season.

But it was a minute into first-half added time when Andrew Gillman’s quick tapped penalty on the right sparked the swift crossfield handling for Ross Angus to score in the opposite corner. Goudie missed with the conversion kick, but GHA were 11-9 ahead at the interval.

It was a short-lived lead as Marr struck quickly after the interval with Scott Bickerstaff’s thrust on the right touchline laying on a try for Johnny McClung. Colin Sturgeon missed the conversion attempt, but he did score five penalty goals – three in the first half and two after the interval to stretch Marr’s lead from 14-11.

Goudie had three penalty goals. Two of these put GHA ahead at 3-0 and 6-3 in the first quarter, but the other was deep into second-half added time.

It was hardly surprising that the scoring was dominated by such goals when the referee awarded nearly 40 penalties over the course of the match: more than half of those, ironically, were against Marr. Yet such a plethora of penalties led to only two yellow cards. The first was 77 minutes into the game – against Adam Barnett, GHA’s main lineout source: the second was seven minutes later when William Farquhar illegally denied GHA repossession close to the visitors’ goal-line. It was that infringement that allowed Goudie to salvage the bonus point.

GHA: Chris Binnie; Rangi Jericevich, Ben Addison, Andrew Henderson (captain), Alan Auld; Andrew Goudie, Andrew Gillman; Lyall Archer, Erik Cavan, Michael Fox, Adam Barnett, Robert McKinstray, Ross Angus, Jack Dunn, Grant Neilson – Replacements: Gordon Campbell, Scott Carson,  Grant MacDonald, Ruairi O’Keefe, James Edgar.

Scorers: T – Angus P – Goudie (3)

Marr: Rory McGee; Scott Bickerstaff, Paul Burke, Johnny McClung, Stuart Howie; Colin Sturgeon, Grant Baird; William Farquhar, Stephen Adair (captain), Fraser Ferguson, Fraser Grant, Kris Kirk, Mackenzie Pearce, Kyle Vallance, Ben Johnston – Replacements: Phil Piave, Ollie Rossi, Scott Nimmo, Gregor Ness, Conor Bickertsaff.

Scorers: T – McClung P – Sturgeon (5)

Referee: Gordon Corry.

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