A View from the Touchline – Premier League, 28.9.19.

Marr 45 pts(t 7, c 5) v Currie Chieftains 27 pts(t 4, c 2, p g 1)

As well as Ayr Rugby Club, their near neighbours, Marr RFC are also establishing a reputation as a hotbed for the sport in Ayrshire. Two seasons ago the Troon club had a taste of life in the top division, and they certainly appear to have equipped themselves well for a longer stay in the revamped Premier setup this time around. Some large drops of rain started to fall at kick-off, but it did not dampen the expectations of a good-sized crowd, and the bright returning sunshine was soon matched by the Fullerton team’s performance in this top of the table clash.

With both teams gleaning maximum points from their previous three outings, plus having a good balance of youth and experience in their ranks, everything pointed towards a pretty close and exciting contest. The nip and tuck of the first five minutes did indicate just this, with Marr attacking and Currie letting nothing through their defensive wall. An unfortunate collision of bodies in midfield immediately changed the dynamic. The Chieftains’ experienced orchestrator, Gregor Hunter who normally exerts a controlling influence on proceedings, looked very groggy as he was assisted to the touchline. He would play no further part in the match.

As is often the case, the reorganised visitors looked a little too casual when a low punt skidded diagonally towards the Currie goal line; the chasing Conor Bickerstaff secured the ball and popped a lovely pass to the supporting Fraser Grant for an unconverted opening score. The Chieftains regrouped and had Marr under considerable pressure before they were penalised, and the threat was cleared. It was very evident that the home team had several fliers in their backline who exploited the space created by speed and accurate passing, both in open play and at the breakdown. Before the end of the first quarter Grant Montgomery shot down the left wing after some sublime handling made the overlap. The corner flag try was converted by Colin Sturgeon.

Although they were now labouring against the constant physicality of a beefy Marr pack, the Chieftains absorbed the pressure and exerted plenty of their own. They were rewarded with a penalty following fine work from Archie MacLean and Fergus Scott; Steven Hamilton kicked the points. On the half hour it got even better for the visitors with Mike Vernel making the most of a penalty lineout when he rumbled over with the forward drive. The try was not converted, and Currie did not handle the re-start well; this appears to be turning into a regular failing. The lapse was punished, as Marr went through the phases before William Farquhar finished the job; Colin Sturgeon converted the try to leave the home team looking comfortable at the break.

Halftime score – Marr 19 pts, Currie Chieftains 8 pts.

A week ago, the Currie defence was watertight, but early in the second half, it became clear that the opposition’s hard running and flawless passing was causing big problems, and under pressure the Chieftains’ reorganised defences looked vulnerable. They were stretched in all directions, and some misunderstanding, coupled with disastrously poor tackling, let Marr run riot and a purple patch of scoring ensued. In the space of twenty minutes Marr had bagged the try bonus point and added three more tries for good measure, via the mercurial guile of Bickerstaff, Scott and their impressive stand-off, Colin Sturgeon. Perhaps a more experienced outfit would have nipped this onslaught in the bud. At forty-five points to eight, things looked rather grim for the visiting team. With 15 or so minutes remaining, they needed to steady the ship and bring some respectability to the score line.

Undoubtedly Gregor Hunter’s organisational skills would have stopped the rout sooner, but cometh the hour, cometh the men, and the young Currie backs certainly produced a finale that would sweeten their journey back to Malleny Park. A try bonus point looked an impossible task to all but the Currie coaches; Alistair Donaldson and Mark Cairns encouraged their team to be patient and build their platforms for attack. With ball in hand, the Currie backline had looked good throughout the match, and when Adam Hall broke a tackle, Charlie Brett took the scoring pass. The try was not converted, but from the re-start Currie’s aggression and determination was palpable. Also, the fact that Marr had emptied their bench, made the home defence look a little ragged; this did help the Chieftains’ cause. Pretty soon Charlie Brett had raced in for his second try and Adam Hall quickly converted it; suddenly the impossible was looking possible.

In the closing minutes play was fast and frantic. Cammy Scott’s twenty metre dash saw him over the goal line, but a tackler dislodged the ball from this grasp, and the try was disallowed. The referee then took play back to an off-side infringement which eventually led to Fergus Scott striding over the goal line for that important bonus point score which looked most unlikely a few minutes earlier. As one travelling supporter commented, ‘Currie need to remember this game, and not make the same mistakes again!’ It was a testing afternoon for the team, which could be termed ‘a bad day at the office,’ but it is all part of a steep learning curve for a team that is in the process of rebuilding. In such a high-profile fixture, it was unfortunate that the backline commander was injured. We all hope that Gregor Hunter is soon back to full fitness. The Chieftains are at Malleny Park next weekend, when Edinburgh Accies will be the visitors; KO 3.00 pm.                                                                      I.J.S, 29.9.19.

Match Officials –

Referee, Ian Kenny

AR 1, David Young

AR 2, Lauchlan Nicol

Currie Chieftains Team

15 Charlie Brett, 14 Cammy Scott, 13 Steven Hamilton, 12 Adam Hall, 11 Archie MacLean,

10 Gregor Hunter, 9 Gregor Christy, 8 Wallace Nelson, 7 Josh O’Brien, 6 Hamish Ferguson,

5 Mike Vernel, 4 Matt Poole, 3 Matias Argiro, 2 Fergus Scott, 1 Graeme Carson.

Bench – Ben Slessor, Cairn Ramsay, Grant Williamson, Matt O’Neil, Tom Clark.