Bulls' injury woes mount
By JIm Browning
Marr 40 - Hamilton Bulls 21
Hamilton Bulls visited Marr on Saturday significantly hampered by injured absentees. So great was the injury crisis at Laigh Bent that the Third XV match had to be cancelled due to shortage of suitable specialist forwards. By the end of a tough match the injury list had grown. Most worrying was the injury to Andy Wilson who suffered what looked like a serious neck injury and was taken to hospital. The serious concussion he suffered will keep him on the sidelines for some time. Andy later expressed his gratitude to every one at Marr whose expertise in his treatment was fantastic.
The game was played in a howling gale which blew directly up the park. Hamilton had the benefit of it in the first half and showed their intent from the off. The Bulls took possession from the kick off and a good touch kick sent them deep into Marr’s 22. After a superb last gasp, try saving tackle by Marr’s Captain Conor Bickerstaff Bulls recycled the ball from the resulting lineout, and skilfully passed the ball out their three quarters to Gregor Brodie who found a gap in the Marr defence to score near the corner. Conversion by Wilson.
Marr used their strong pack to force the ball into bulls territory against the strong wind and were soon on the score sheet themselves. After many phases of rucking and mauling the ball was sent out wide to find Marr winger Mill who had the pace to beat his defender and score in the corner. Hamilton were reduced to 14 men when Taz McLaughlin was sent to the bin, but held on well during his absence. However, almost immediately after his return, Marr took the lead through Calvin Henderson. Conor Bickerstaff took a quick penalty finding the Bulls defence napping and after some good forward drives Marr prop Henderson had the power to drive over between the posts, to give Marr the lead.
With the home side’s confidence now high, Marr were soon attacking again. However, Hamilton turned over possession close to their own line, and cleared their lines with an eighty metres clearance kick. Bulls rampaging forwards put pressure on the Marr line, turned the ball over and shipped it wide to Ben Plant who scored in the corner. Wilson again converted.
Half time: Marr 12 Bulls 14.
Marr started the second half with the strong wind behind them. Some excellent Hamilton defence managed to thwart Marr’s attack on several occasions but when fly half Conor Bickerstaff gave his brother Scott a short pass he powered through several Hamilton defenders to score a converted try.
Marr’s Ben Johnston picked up the bonus point, after some excellent forward play. Good ball retention from the Marr pack, sent Johnston in from close range.
Hamilton playing against the wind, had to play a more conservative game to try to make inroads in to Marr territory. Ball retention was crucial and for some 20 minutes the Bulls looked after the ball making steady progress towards the Marr line. This excellent phase of the match from Hamilton ultimately resulted in Bulls’ prop Taz McLaughlin driving over for his first try of the season converted by Aitken. Bulls coach David Gemmell was delighted with this demonstration that his young charges have taken on board the need to be patient, and look after the ball. " I was very pleased with the level of performance today: far fewer mistakes both in defence and attack. The difference today was in the set piece where the size difference did count"
However that period was expensive with injuries to Wilson, Euan Whelan and Greg Richardson (head Knocks) and Hugo Crush and Mark Wallace (Shoulder) . Bulls resistance was finally overcome as the game wound down and Marr’s last try of the match came after sustained pressure and some good handing from the forwards, resulting in Angus Johnston outpacing the tiring Hamilton defence to score close to the Bulls’ posts, giving Liam McLoughlin an easy conversion, to make the final score Marr 40 Bulls 21.
Once again, Bulls showed fantastic courage and no little skill in a match dominated by the weather conditions, and affected significantly by injury, but that was of little consolation as the team slipped to the foot of Nat 1.