BT National League Three



IRVINE battled to the end against Perthshire on a wintry day at Marress, but once again fell short.

Had this and last week’s results gone their way, Irvine could have been level with ninth-placed East Kilbride with eight games left to get themselves further up the table.

Instead, the gap is 12 points, and with games running out the upcoming visits of RHC, Dalziel and Livingston look increasingly like “eight-pointers”.

When Irvine were relegated from Premier Three in 2009/10, defeat at home to Perthshire saw them fatally cut adrift at the bottom of the table, an early interception try setting the visitors on their way to a comfortable 35-0 victory.

And this match got off to a similarly ominous start for the hosts. with Shire enjoying near-100 per cent possession and territory for the first 11 minutes.

Irvine finally got their hands on the ball properly when they broke out of defence and player-coach Blair Skipper’s kick ahead forced the visitors to concede an attacking lineout deep in their 22. This set the platform for Irvine to have their own extended spell of possession, but they likewise found the Shire defence in determined mood.

Skipper was sin-binned for a shoulder charge two minutes before half-time and the visitors capitalised on their numerical advantage, Ross Dougan crossing on the right to break the deadlock.

That was the last play of the half, but the hosts were to kick off for the second half with only 13 men, after captain Ruchin Filander was shown a yellow card for a high tackle in the build-up.

Ryan Elliston reduced the deficit to 5-3 with an early penalty, but within minutes the visitors extended their lea.The home side ran out of defenders when full back Ryan Miller took an offload and darted in under the posts. Graeme Clow converted to take make it 12-3.

Returning to full strength offered no respite for Irvine, lock forward Dan Bowater claiming Shire’s third try, after the visiting forwards had mauled over the line.

Andrew Lang knocked on with the line at his mercy after good work by Jake Cresswell and Skipper down the left as Irvine tried to respond, but with 12 minutes remaining, the hosts finally had a reward for their efforts when Neil McMillan took a pass from Cresswell and eluded the visiting defence to touch down.

This gave Irvine renewed impetus, and in the final minute Nathan Murray intercepted a needlessly casual ball by the visitors in their own 22, and breezed in to score.

Filander added the conversion to put the hosts back within two points, and there was still time for Irvine to go in search of a winning score. However despite forcing several penalties deep in the Shire 22, which they opted not to kick due to the difficult wind, they were unable to force their way over.

Marress, meanwhile, were left kicking their heels as their match at Hamilton fell victim to the weather.

Both sides have a week off for the Calcutta Cup, before home games against RHC and Glasgow Accies respectively to coincide with the club’s Burns Lunch.