Marr 45-8 Irvine
Irvine remain without an away win in the league after a heavy defeat to leaders Marr at Fullarton Park.
Such has been the divergence in the two sides' fortunes since last season - with the hosts on course for promotion to the Championship divisions and the visitors languishing in the bottom half of the table - it is easy to forget that Irvine were seconds away from winning the corresponding fixture then. A repeat of that performance never looked on the cards once the home side got into their stride however.
Marr now lead the division by a staggering 22 points - albeit having played a game more than second placed GHK - while Irvine are at something of a crossroads in their season, sitting nine points behind third placed East Kilbride but only six clear of bottom club Allan Glen's, who are next to visit Marress when the league resumes in January.
Marr came flying out of the traps and could have scored inside the first minute when centre Andrew Gault tried to play in Gregor Ness, only for the winger to knock on trying to gather the pass. They kept the pressure on however, and after another knock-on in a promising position, the home forwards won the ball at the resulting scrum and it was worked to opposite winger Scott Bickerstaff for the opening try after 6 minutes. Fly-half Rory McGee converted for a 7-0 lead.
Irvine responded with a patient spell of possession in the Marr half, and this was eventually rewarded with a penalty which Ross Bryan converted to get the visitors back to 7-3 after 10 minutes. Disaster struck immediately though, when the home side turned the ball over on the kick-off reception and fed full back Conor Bickerstaff who crashed over under the posts to give McGee a routine conversion for a 14-3 lead.
The visitors looked like responding in kind, but they were unable to capitalise on their pressure. They got another chance from a lineout on the Marr 22, and a good break by Ruchin Filander set the platform for another good drive. On the subsequent phase however, Ross Bryan's kick play was ultimately well read by the home defence.
Irvine had a letoff when Scott Bickerstaff was ruled to have knocked on in the act of scoring shortly afterwards. But the respite was only temporary as Bickerstaff ran back a missed penalty to touch and the home side forced a penalty of their own, which McGee kicked to touch deep in the Irvine half, and it was the fly-half himself who applied the finishing touch from the resulting lineout, before converting his own score to put the home side 21-3 ahead after 24 minutes.
The visitors opted to go for goal with a penalty as they sought some kind of foothold in a game that was increasingly running away from them, but Ross Bryan's kick fell agonisingly short. To add insult to injury, within minutes Marr had their bonus point try. They broke dangerously from a penalty lineout on halfway, and captain Stephen Adair crossed in the left corner to cap a fine handling move. McGee missed the conversion on this occasion, but the home side still led 26-3, which remained the margin at the interval.
The home side could have extended their lead within minutes of the kick-off, only for lock forward Kris Kirk to knock on with the line beckoning.
Irvine's chances of getting back into the game received a setback on 49 minutes when they were penalised as they tried to build out of defence, and Tony Wright was sin-binned at the subsequent breakdown. They withstood the immediate pressure from the resulting lineout and looked like they would hold out, but conceded just before Wright's return when Marr turned the ball over from an Irvine scrum, and substitute Aaron Rankin broke clear and crossed under the posts. McGee's conversion took the score to 33-3 in the home side's favour.
Scrum-half Robbie McVey charged down a Marr clearance and was unlucky to be beaten to the ball before Irvine finally got a try on the board on 67 minutes. Substitute Jamie Doolan took a quick throw-in from another clearance by the home side, and the ball was worked to the opposite wing for Stuart Nunan to score in the corner. Ross Bryan was unable to add the conversion but at 33-8 the game was beyond the visitors by this stage anyway.
The home side re-established their thirty-point cushion on 77 minutes when Andrew Gault atoned for his first-half error with a try in the right corner, which went unconverted.
There was late drama as captain Kevin Lang's sin-binning for violent conduct was followed in injury time by Scott Bickerstaff's second try of the afternoon in the corner. McGee's conversion with the last kick of the game rounded off the scoring at 45-8 in the home side's favour.
Marress are back at Fullarton Park for a friendly against their Marr counterparts on December 29th, before resuming their league campaign at Paisley in the new year.
MARR -- C Bickerstaff; S Bickerstaff, A Gault, G Thomson, G Ness; R McGee,
A Bate; C Nisbet, S Adair (capt), F Ferguson, C Craig, K Kirk, K Vallance,
D Morrison, F Grant.
Subs: R Kennedy, R McNicol, J Evans, A Rankin.
IRVINE -- K Hobson; S Nunan, C Lang, K Lang (capt), M McGonigal; R Bryan,
R McVey; B Auld, M Kirk, E Callaghan, R O'Neill, T Wright, A Lang, I Speirs,
Subs: S Docherty, J Doolan, C Maxwell, C Williams.
REFEREE -- Craig Clark