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OFFSIDE LINE: Marr prevail at Musselburgh in match scarred by cards

TWO sides intent on playing open rugby had their ambitions thwarted in a match that was played against a deafening soundtrack of the referee’s whistle. A massive penalty count and a tally of five yellow cards – all for Marr – tells its own story.

Both coaches tried to avoid being overly critical of Michael Todd, the man in the middle, but ultimately it was impossible to assess the efforts of the respective teams without alluding to his performance.


“The penalty count was absolutely ridiculous. It’s baffling to think that a referee has to take three or four warnings before he issues a yellow card”, said Musselburgh’s Graeme Paterson. “There has to be a consequence to a team’s actions. And if he has seen that their actions are wrong, and he is penalising them for that, there has to be a consequence, and not just a penalty. That’s what the laws are there to do.”


And his counterpart Craig Redpath concurred with Paterson’s puzzlement. “That game was all about the referee, I’m sorry to say, and you can’t get away from the fact that both sides will find it bemusing.”


Redpath, of course, was the happier of the two, despite being on the receiving end of the card blizzard. His side is rounding into shape as the season reaches its conclusion, and he is happy with the progress.


“When we played, we looked good and we defended very well in spells. I would be aggrieved if I was them, because in that first half we had six penalties against us and no yellow card. Then we go and score two quick tries,” he added. “We are delighted with the five points, we looked sharp and a lot better than last week. Every time we got the ball and got into two, three, four phases, I thought we looked like we could score. We made a lot of mistakes, but our defence was outstanding.”


Paterson’s biggest issue was the absence of any reward for a performance showcasing a well-drilled set-piece by a side that continues to evolve.


“I’m just gutted that we deserved something from that game. I have no doubt whatsoever of that and I think the way that we played, the way that we took them on – up front especially – we 100% deserved something from that game. To come away with nothing is just draining”, he said.


Marr edged into the lead when Colin Sturgeon stroked over a 40-metre penalty on the first visit to opposition territory. And from that point on, they were never behind, although they also had no opportunity to relax against a team that refused to concede defeat.


The Musselburgh response was a sustained spell of pressure that yielded a string of penalties. All were comfortably within the range of Danny Owenson, but the home skipper opted to tap and go rather than kick for the posts.


The Marr defence held firm, although the penalty tally continued to rise, and there was some consternation among the home supporters as the referee issued two warnings without following through – a yellow card at this stage might have made his afternoon easier.


Having emerged from that onslaught without conceding points, and with a full complement of players, Marr showed their attacking capabilities to devastating effect with a breakout at pace that ended with recycled ball inside the home 22 finding its way to Callum Steel, who powered over for the opening try. Sturgeon’s conversion stretched the lead into double figures.


And it grew by a further five points after 20 minutes when Steel capped another show of pace by darting in at the corner for an unconverted score.


The home side were soon back on the attack and this time a further flurry of penalties ended with Marr skipper Fraser Grant being despatched to the sin-bin. Musselburgh benefited instantly with the ensuing award booted into touch and Colin Arthur capping a powerful surge to leave the hosts 15-5 adrift at half time.


The gap was down to three points within a couple of minutes of the restart when Craig Owenson forced his way over wide on the left and the conversion was good.


Marr responded in kind and, despite strong resistance from the home defence, bagged a third try when Grant blasted his way over from close range.


The latest Musselburgh response led to a further flood of penalties and another warning that eventually led to a yellow for William Farquhar. As they had done earlier, the hosts repeatedly spurned the opportunity to add three points. And they paid the price for that ambition when Marr centre Jamie Shedden carved his way through the midfield and offloaded to Greg Montgomery who darted in wide on the left for the bonus point score.


Marr continued to fall foul of the referee and Craig Miller became the third man to spend 10 minutes on the sidelines. Again Musselburgh capitalised on their numerical advantage, with Sandy Watt racing in for try number three.


Sturgeon banged over a penalty as the game entered injury time and that left Musselburgh seeking two converted tries to win, or one touchdown for two bonus points. They threw everything at a resolute Marr defence but Duncan Hodge was held up over the line and multiple attacks fell just short. In that frenetic finale, Marr ended the match with only 13 men after Angus Johnston and David Andrew were sent to the sin-bin.