A View from the Touchline – Premier League: 14.12.19.
Currie Chieftains 3 pts (1p g) v Marr RFC 14 pts (t 2, c 2)
So often expectations can leave you on a downer and somewhat disheartened, and this was most definitely the case for Chieftains supporters, who braved the elements to watch their team succumb to the tenacious, well-organised League leaders, whose defence was heroic, and who took advantage of the very few scoring opportunities that they were allowed. It was a similar scenario some seasons ago when another high flier from the west wiped the smile from the Malleny faces, but within weeks confidence was restored, and the conquerors were conquered. These are the unpredictable characteristics of sport, and all is not lost. There is still quite a way to go before the outcome of this season’s League programme is decided.
The match was not a classic, but as the teams, who had given their all in the atrocious freezing conditions, headed for the warmth of the changing rooms, three bedraggled, shivering characters followed in their wake; the match officials. No matter who you are, or what the sport, without these doyens of fair play, we would not have sports clubs and fair competition. With the relentless rain and sleet-laden wind blowing the length of the Malleny pitch, they did their exceptional best to police the laws in difficult conditions. As both teams gibed for advantage, that was sometimes accompanied by a bit of gamesmanship; then there was the baying crowd that was also advising the officials that they had got it wrong or missed something; they magnificently continued unperturbed. Without doubt, you have to admire the dedicated spirit in which referees and assistants execute their duties; without them, NO MATCH! What would we talk about after the game?
The Chieftains made an ambitious start on the still green, but soft, pitch which was bound to deteriorate during the wet afternoon when any hope of open rugby would disappear in the slippery mud. Both forwards and backs took play into the opposition 22, and while fingers were still warm the ball was worked along the line. Mike Vernel secured a lineout and the pack rolled forward before releasing the ball for the lively Currie backs to work some magic. Marr contested the breakdowns avidly, and any hope of quick recycling soon became a pipe-dream. In their enthusiasm to stop the Chieftains’ flow Marr infringed, and a penalty, for not rolling away, was kicked by Gregor Hunter, who judged the wind to perfection.
Currie continued to take the game to Marr, who appeared quite content to absorb the pressure and wait for any mistakes to appear. With the home team determined to play their open style, although the ball was proving increasingly difficult to handle in the greasy conditions, plus Marr’s quick line speed, advance was constrained; a loose ball was eventually hacked on into acres of space. Fifteen minutes had passed, and for the first time Marr were in the green and unexplored territory of Currie’s 22. A well-worked mixture of forward drives and solid handling from their confident backs created an overlap on the left wing; experienced Richard Dalgleish raced in for the opening try that Colin Sturgeon converted.
Once again play went back to the Marr end, but in the face of a bitter wet wind, and a stonewall Marr defence, the rising number of Currie errors had all the hallmarks of the previous Saturday’s events at Mansfield Park. Adam Hall and Roy Vucago went close, with Mike Vernel, Graeme Carson and Rhys Davies carrying beyond the gain line into a heap of immoveable bodies and then a dead stop! As halftime loomed, Currie conceded a series of penalties, and Marr kicked for position. They methodically worked their way towards the Chieftains’ line, where it became the home side’s turn to defend; they did so admirably until the referee warned of their penalty count, and Fergus Scott was sent to the sinbin. Now short on numbers, and a 5-metre penalty scrum to defend, Currie were on the back foot. Following a strength-sapping arm-wrestle, the weight of hooker Oliver Rossi, plus the help of a couple of his beefy partners, they shoved
their way across the line. Colin Sturgeon converted to give Marr a healthy halftime lead, but they would have to face the elements for the remainder of the game.
Halftime score – Currie Chieftains 3 pts, Marr RFC 14 pts.
Currie did not make a good start to the second half, as a charged down kick sent them scurrying back to defend. This was, however, the only time that the visitors got anywhere near the home 22 for the next 40 minutes, and they spent nearly all this time defending deep in their own territory. Unfortunately, there were not many highlights as the messy, one-sided contest developed into a battle of attrition which so nearly brought reward for the Chieftains but was always thwarted at a critical point. Some incredible defending and a string of last gasp errors saw the match slipping from Currie’s grasp in the wet icy marshlands of Malleny Park. At times it was very exciting, but not easy viewing for those with a medical condition or of a nervous disposition.
A good forward drive took Currie to within 5 metres of the line, and the momentum continued through some splendid work from Wallace Nelson and Roy Vucago, but on each occasion that a score looked imminent, Marr had sufficient numbers and power to drive the threat backwards. Matters were not helped by injuries to both sets of front row players. The solid bustling work of Fergus Scott was halted by injury with 20 minutes remaining, and Marr mysteriously ran out of qualified props shortly after; the rest of the match was restricted to uncontested scrums, a huge disadvantage for the Malleny pack who had had their opponents in all sorts of set-piece bother.
Gregor Christie nearly broke the deadlock with a neat chip-kick-and-chase for the line, but he was just beaten to the touchdown by the defensive cover. The continuing action was frenetic; perhaps a little more composure from the Chieftains may have produced the required result, but the halftime score remained unchanged in the dire conditions. The opposition defending like automatons. To the relief of all, the referee finally brought the exceptionally long second half to an end, and everyone quickly left pitch-side for the shelter of a warm clubhouse to replay the match with friendly banter! Another tough match next weekend, away to Selkirk. Follow the Club website for confirmation of KO time. I.J.S – 15.12.19.
Currie Chieftains Team v Marr
15 James McCaig, 14 Cameron Meager, 13 Steven Hamilton, 12 Adam Hall, 11 Archie MacClean
10 Gregor Hunter, 9 Gregor Christie, 8 Rhys Davies, 7 Wallace Nelson, 6 Roy Vucago, 5 Matt Poole,
4 Mike Vernel, 3 Reece Patterson, 2 Fergus Scott, 1 Graeme Carson.
Bench – Matias Argiro, Sam Edwards, Hamish Ferguson, Josh O’Brien, Fraser Sayers.
Referee – Keith Allen
AR 1 – Grant Stephen
AR 2 – Brian McGuff
Photo (c) Marr Rugby Website