GHA 12 MARR 33

Braidholm welcomed Marr in the first home league match of the season. The clubhouse and environs were busy as there were three home matches, alongside the match dinner with the superb Bob Auld on card game duty. This day marked the twentieth anniversary of the creation of Glasgow Hutchesons’ Aloysians. As always when Marr are visiting, there was a healthy crowd looking forward to yet another fast and furious encounter between these two sides. Both sides prepared thoroughly with particular emphasis on line-out ploys and drills. What had started as an overcast, slightly chilly day began to clear into a quite sunny day by kick-off, with a slight breeze running across the pitch.

 A guard of honour was provided by the GHA Minis, doing superbly well to wave club flags almost as big as some of them! The home side took the field in an attractive new jersey, and it is hoped that the lads will be kitted out in new shorts and socks to maximise the positive effect. A minute silence was impeccably observed by everyone at the ground in memory of the Queen.

The home side kicked off and failed to cover the requisite ten metres. This basic part of the game was to let the home side down on a number of occasions, immediately handing the initiative to the visitors. From this centre field scrum, Marr broke off the base of the scrum and made early intrusion into the GHA half. The visitors were awarded the first of a raft of penalties in the match for encroachment. Marr applied pressure through the incursions of Messrs Miller, Reid and Jardine. It would be a feature of the Marr attack throughout the match that when in open play a player would elect to run into the waiting GHA defence rather than elect a different ploy to find room. As we passed the fifth minute mark there was continued pressure from Marr to find a way through a tenacious tackling effort by the home side in which Michael Fox, Luca Bardelli and Max MacFarlane were conspicuous.  Already, play was beginning to crab across the GHA ten metre line as both sides looked to try and put some phases together. This early pressure was relieved when Charlie Lonergan made a great break from his twenty-two metre area and caused alarm in Marr ranks. Lacking support though, the visitors managed to snuff out this move. Both sides had difficulty securing clean ball from lineout and this had an impact in the attempts by both sides to build continuity and free flowing rugby. Both sides were awarded penalties and useful kicks into the respective danger areas were nullified by the lineouts adjudged not straight which killed the immediate advantage gained from the penalty. Both sides seemed to struggle to get into their stride and mistakes and wrong options and perhaps an overzealousness to engage the opponent especially by the home side led to a number of penalty awards for incursions that led to a frustrating stop start nature to the match.  After around seventeen minutes Marr put in a huge drive at a centre field scrum which forced GHA back and indeed, they conceded a penalty. The very sure boot of Scott Bickerstaff took play right up to the GHA five metre line to loud applause from the Marr support. From the lineout a simple catch and drive allowed the visitors, despite sterling frantic efforts from the home side to score as Curran McMillan went over. The try was converted by Colin Sturgeon and the score after eighteen minutes was: GHA 0 MARR 7. This had really been one of the few connected phases of play by either side and gave the visitors the initiative. From the restart, Marr gathered and attacked the home side only to lose the ball in contact, allowing Max MacFarlane to put in a beautiful grubber kick which forced Marr back to their own five metre line. Marr attempts to clear this danger allowed Luca Bardelli who threw a long pass to Chris Hyde to attempt to give him room to get by the Marr defence. The visitors were quick to spot this and snuffed out the immediate danger. As we passed the twentieth minute the home side attempted to build concerted pressure on the visitors and a further penalty to the home side from illegal Marr scrummaging allowed Max MacFarlane to kick towards the corner. Marr dealt with this danger and play again moved across the respective ten-metre areas of both sides. A feature of the match was developing …players from both sides would make a break and then become isolated and lose possession or as they were engaged, would attempt a tricky pass to a team mate which went forward or was knocked on. As a result there was a dire lack of continuous phases of play from either side, which made progress difficult. Just past the half hour mark, Marr did begin to put some phases together and Gordon Reid drove with support into the GHA defence outside the home side’s twenty-two metre area. Marr- who throughout the match did demonstrate an ability to win quick and tidy ball in the loose- worked the ball forward before releasing Colin Sturgeon who with a superb swing of his body, totally threw the GHA defence wrongfooted and flew over for a spectacular score to huge cheers from the visiting support. The try was converted and after thirty six minutes the score was now: GHA 0 MARR 14. To the credit of the home side, they took the match straight back to Marr and startled the visitors with some carefully crafted consistent phases of play which took them deep inside the Marr half. Adam Barnett, not for the first time, drove though the Marr forwards and critically maintained possession before setting up good ball to allow the backs to pass at speed to feed Luca Bardelli, who flew though the flat-footed Marr defence to score. Max MacFarlane converted just on half time to make the score: GHA 7 MARR 14. It had been a rather disappointing half with neither side able to settle into a consistent plan of attack. An inability on the day to put phases together and perhaps ensure the basics were applied resulted in a rather stuttering performance by both sides. It was clear that whichever side could overcome the strange malaise which seemed to affect both sides would win the day.

During the interval the crowd was entertained by the minis of GHA who produced some lovely examples of teamwork and execution of the basics. The second half began with Marr once more on the attack and the first few minutes, saw Marr attempt to stamp their control on proceedings by putting together some penetrating accurate line passing which forced the home side to defend on a backward trajectory. Marr pressure drove the match to the GHA five metre line and attempts to clear the danger failed as kicks went adrift and handed possession back to the visitors. Some inter-passing between Messrs Baird, Ben Johnston (who put in a power of effective work throughout the match), Sturgeon and Scott Bickerstaff should have led to a score but for a slight forward pass as Bickerstaff moved towards the line. GHA still struggled to clear their own lines and in a subsequent breakdown of play as the home side desperately tried to prevent a try by the visitors, Adam Barnett was yellow carded for an infringement. As we moved towards the eighth minute of the half, Marr tried to find a way through the forward route only to be stymied by consistent and concentrated defence led by skipper Dario Ewing and compatriots Cavan and Falconer. As we passed the tenth minute of the half, GHA released the pressure with a break from defence with the back line ready to move the ball out of their half. However, play is recalled to inside the GHA five metre area where a penalty is awarded to Marr for an infringement. Marr elect to take the ball through the forward into contact and this time the sterling efforts of the home forward cannot prevent Gordon Reid scoring for the visitors. The try is converted and the score after fourteen minutes of the half is now: GHA 7 MARR 21. GHA had found themselves penalised in a number of occasions in this half and they were perhaps affected by this especially as several were for offside at the scrummage line, backs being adjudged to have moved into offside positions.

Marr now seemed to feel that they had control of the match yet there was a defiance and resilience about the home side which ensured that the visitors could not relax in any shape or form. There were a number of clever breaks by a number of GHA Players especially around halfway which, had they been supported more quickly, could have caused the Marr defence problems. As it was, we moved into the twentieth minute of the half as Marr put pressure on the home side and forced play into the GHA five metre area. The home side’s attempted clearance was sliced and gave possession back to Marr. However again the home side were penalised for offside and once again a collective drive by the visitor forwards saw Fraser Grant score despite huge efforts by GHA forwards to stop the forward drive from Marr. The try was converted, and the score was after twenty seven minutes of the half: GHA 7 MARR 28.

A failed restart handed the initiative back to Marr who from the scrum won another penalty. A huge kick by Scott Bickerstaff took play up to the GHA five metre line as alarm bells sounded in GHA ranks.  Once again Marr carefully and with skill drove the ball into the heart of the GHA defence before a secondary drive took them over the line to allow Marr to score again. The try was converted and the score after thirty three minutes was now: GHA 7 MARR 33. Despite a failed restart and a further attempt by Marr to break through, it is GHA in the dying moments of the match who put several phases of possession together and which force Marr to concede several penalties deep inside their twenty-two metre area. From almost the last play of the match GHA swing the ball wide to allow Charlie Lonergan to flash through the Marr defence to score. An excellent attempt at conversion just fails and the final score is: GHA 12 MARR 33.

It was a disappointing often disjointed match with Marr putting enough phases together to win the match. GHA will be disappointed especially following their excellent performance against Herriot’s. The home side seemed to have difficulty putting their undoubted ability to the fore and know that they will require to be totally on their mettle next week as they face a daunting trip to Currie.

By Chris Nairn.





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