BT National League Three



IRVINE are back in the survival hunt in BT National Three, after a dramatic win over Haddington at Marress.

Man-of-the-match Jake Cresswell’s brace and single scores from Jamie Doolan and Ryan Elliston gave Irvine only their third victory in 16 league games.

The result means the home side close to within 10 points of safety, with East Kilbride beating Berwick and Livingston dropping to ninth place after defeat at Orkney – and they can move off the bottom of the league for the first time since October if they win at home to Dalziel this Saturday and Berwick lose at home to West of Scotland.

Cresswell sprinted the length of the field to score the first of his tries against the run of play in 12 minutes, before winger Kyle Adams replied with an interception try shortly afterwards, converted by fly-half Gareth Pritchard for a 7-5 lead.

It was no more than promotion-chasing Haddington deserved after dominating the opening stages, and just reward for Adams who was forced into touch just short of the line on the visitors’ opening possession.

Elliston missed his second kick of the game when presented with the chance to put Irvine back in front with a penalty, and a misfiring lineout hampered the hosts’ efforts to build momentum in attack – but they eventually clicked just before the half hour when Cresswell crowned a nice handling move with his second try, converted by player-coach Blair Skipper.

Things got even better for Irvine just before half-time when Doolan crossed on the left after another incisive move, to put the hosts 17-7 up and in sight of the bonus point.

If the home support suspected that things were going too well, they did not have to wait long for normal service to resume, with try-scorer Doolan receiving the first of three yellow cards for the home side three minutes into the second half.

The visitors took advantage of Doolan’s absence through a try by Jack Hamilton, the scrum-half racing in behind the posts from long range to give Pritchard an easy conversion.

This cut Irvine’s lead to three points, and they continued to struggle even after Doolan’s return, a miscued drop-goal attempt by Skipper just after the hour summing up their efforts to regain the initiative.

Irvine were soon further under the cosh when prop Ewan Callaghan became the second home player to be sent to the bin, but just when it looked like the lead was going to change hands a Neil McMillan interception set the platform for Elliston to force his way over for the bonus point try with 11 minutes left..

Had Irvine been on a roll that would have been the match, but immediately after Callaghan’s return captain Ruchin Filander was given his own marching orders. And he was still on his way off when referee Darroch Ramsey awarded a penalty try to Haddington.

This led to a fraught final few minutes with both sides’ seasons on the line – and it was Irvine who held on to keep their survival hopes alive for another week.

Meanwhile, Craig Maxwell scored the only try as Marress lost 52-5 at home to their counterparts from Hillhead/Jordanhill. They are also next due to entertain Dalziel.

IRVINE: C Hobson; C Lang, J Cresswell, R Elliston, N McMillan; B Skipper, J Carson; S Docherty, L Ferguson, E Callaghan, T McHarg, A Nugent, J Doolan, A Lang, R Filander (captain). Reps: C Williams, D Kirkwood.

MAN-OF THE-MATCH – Jake Cresswell (Irvine).