Stirling County 17
MATT VALLANCE @ Fullarton Park
IN the end, for all the excellent work of their pack, Marr could not pull off Mission Impossible and prolong their stay in the top flight. They did what they had to do, winning with a bonus point, but, with the under-strength Melrose side failing to halt the Green Machine at Hawick, it was all in vain.
But the Marr men went down with all guns blazing, and I am willing to bet that big Broon From Troon, watching from up there in the Great Clubhouse in the Sky, would have been impressed by the work of the home pack, in which Warrior Greg Peterson and Ross Miller stood out in that traditional area of Marr excellence, the boiler house.
This, in fact, was a come-from-behind win, after Jonny Hope had kicked the simplest of penalties to open the scoring in five minutes. It took Marr 17 minutes to subdue the youthful exuberance of the visitors, but, in 22 minutes, off a five-metre lineout, the home pack mauled their way over, with Miller getting the touch-down.
Ten minutes later, Marr stretched their advantage, a great spell of continuity rugby ending with Peterson sending Greg Jackson in for a try, brilliantly converted from wide out by Rory McGee. However, right on the interval, County made it a two-point game when solid work from their pack was finished off by Hamilton Burr, with Hope converting with the final kick of the half.
Marr quickly cancelled this out from the restart, a tapped penalty initiating a flowing move, finished off by Conor Bickerstaff. County came back quickly, and as the Marr defence parted, Craig Robertson was left with the easiest of run-ins from Hope’s popped pass. The County captain converted and it was all-square.
Thereafter, however, the Marr pack took control. A penalty try, after they had thrice splintered the County scrum, restored Marr’s lead and sealed the bonus point, before, in the final two minutes, McGee added a penalty to complete the victory.
County look forward to the cup
“Their set-piece was the difference,” said County coach Graham Young. “Greg Peterson was dominant, they kept us pegged back, but, we did a lot of things right both in defence and attack and it was another good learning experience for your younger players. Our focus now is on the cup semi-final in two weeks’ time, but in spite of the result we have a lot to be happy about today.”
Marr coach Craig Redpath said:
“We did our job, we controlled the game and won it. Our professionals gave a great lead, with big Greg Peterson outstanding. Obviously it is very disappointing to go down, but I am proud of what we have done, although this was a hard day to take.”
Marr: T Buchanan; L Masaga, R Dalgleish, C Bickerstaff, S Bickerstaff; R McGee, G Baird; G Jackson, O Rossi, F Watt, G Peterson, R Miller, S Vunisa, B Johnston, A Johnston. Substitutes: C Fidinde, C Nisbet, M Pearce, T Steven.
Stirling County: C Robertson; A McLean, E McGarvie, L Bonar, K Gossman; J Hope, R Swan; A Wood, R Kennedy, A Nicol, J Beech, S Yarrow, H Burr, L Wynne, S Macdonald. Substitutes: M Emmison, B Dineen, J Pow, R Bundy, G Gililand.
Marr: Tries: Miller, Jackson, C Bickerstaff, penalty try. Con: McGee. Pen: McGee.
Stirling County: Tries: Burr, Robertson. Cons: Hope 2. Pen: Hope.
Scoring sequence (Marr first): 0-3, 5-3, 10-3, 12-3, 12-8, 12-10 half-time, 17-10, 17-15, 17-17, 24-17, 27-17.
Referee: S Turnbull.
Man of the Match: This award is not usually given to professionals released to play in the Premiership, but, it would be churlish in the extreme to deny big Greg Peterson, who was quite outstanding today. He set the example for everyone else and he clearly enjoys playing for Marr and following in the footsteps of the Brown Brothers and Bill Cuthbertson.
Talking Point: How did the SRU manage to make such a mess of the end of the regular season? Nobody at Marr begrudged Hawick their win over Melrose, but the feeling was that Melrose should never have been put in the position of having to field a weakened team in a match which did not merely affect Hawick, it also concerned Marr, Boroughmuir and Hawks.