MARR secured the National League One title by hammering Gala 57-8 in their final game of the campaign, while Musselburgh secured the bonus point they needed from their home encounter against Jed-Forest to edge their way into the top six in the table, which means they will play in the new-look Premiership next season.
It was a clinical performance by Marr to secure all five points and beat the Maroons for the first time in three attempts this season, whilst simultaneously completing an unbeaten home campaign at Fullarton Park.
They did it in style – nine tries shared between eight players with Ollie Rossi settling any nerves on three minutes to give Marr a 7-0 lead. Dean Keddie kicked a penalty to reduce the deficit but further tries from Ewan Hamilton-Bulger and a brace from Richard Dalgleish gave the home side the try bonus before the break, with Colin Sturgeon kicking two conversions to make it 24-3 at the turn.
With the shackles off in the second half, Marr played some champagne rugby with Scott and Conor Bickerstaff both going over for superb scores, while William Farquhar, Findlay Hazel and Ross Miller also got over the whitewash.
For Gala, a well-taken try by John Frew gave them a consolation but when news of Musselburgh’s gutsy result against Jed-Forest came through sending them into the remaining promotion place, the Maroons’ disappointing day was complete.
“It was a nervous start for us but the sun was out and to win in front of our own fans was brilliant,” said Marr’s influential No 8 Miller. “We turned it on and scored some great tries and we’re over the moon to get the victory and win the league title.”
Musselburgh make history
Across in the East, Musselburgh didn’t allow the fact that several key players were missing – on club captain Craig Owenson‘s stag party – deviate them away from their mission to return to the top tier of the club game for the first time in 33 years.
Because Gala were losing heavily at Fullarton Park, the Stoneyhill men only needed a solitary point from their final match to leap-frog ahead of the Borderers and into the final Premiership spot for next season. It wasn’t looking good when a strong Jed-Forest team raced into a two-try lead inside the opening 15 minutes, but Musselburgh dug deep and battled back through tries for Martin Cimprich, Kyle McGhie, James Ferguson and Gregor Tait, which not only edged them into a 22-21 lead, but, more importantly, meant they had the four-try bonus point in the bag with 20 minutes still to go.
Jed stretched away again with three more tries before McGhie finished the scoring to make it 29-40 to Jed at full-time, but Musselburgh had got all they needed out of the match.
“I actually think we could have won the game but we fell off a few things in the second half,” said Musselburgh coach Graeme Paterson. “We were missing a few senior players but we were happy to give the players coming in a chance to prove themselves and they did just that.
“It is a fantastic achievement by the club, from the committee all the way down. The players have earned the opportunity to test themselves at a higher level, and I’m delighted for them because they have created a bit of history for the club.
“The hard work starts now – but we’re really looking forward to it. There will obviously be an extra buzz going into pre-season and a real drive to raise our standards because we are in no doubt that it is going to be a really tough but rewarding experience.”
This means that next year’s Premiership will consist of the four Premiership clubs excluded from Super 6 (Currie Chieftains, Edinburgh Accies, Glasgow Hawks and Hawick), plus the top six teams in National One (Marr, Jed-Forest, GHA, Aberdeen Grammar, Selkirk and Musselburgh).
Greenock Wanderers close in on West One title
Meanwhile, in West League One, Greenock Wanderers took a step closer to promotion into the National Leagues with a tense 30-29 home win over Allan Glen’s. The Fort Matilda outfit remain in third place in the table, two points behind both East Kilbride and Allan Glen’s, but those two teams have now finished their fixture schedule whereas Greenock have one more match to play at home to Annan on 4th May, when a bonus-point draw or any sort of win enough to clinch top spot.
But before that, there is the small matter of the National Shield Final appointment against Berwick at Murrayfield next weekend to take care of.