BT National League Three



IRVINE secured back-to-back victories for the first time this season against ninth-placed Livingston at Marress, to keep the possible “great escape” on.

Centres Jake Cresswell and Ryan Elliston both scored braces to add to captain Ruchin Filander’s ninth try of the season and another from player-coach Blair Skipper, who also notched a penalty and five of the six conversions.

The result brings Irvine to within four points of safety with 10th-placed East Kilbride losing heavily at home to leaders GHK – and with Livingston due to visit Torrance House this Saturday, they can close the gap further with victory at home to Orkney before taking their chances at Dumfries and Orkney in their remaining games.

With all the teams around them having games in hand however, even if Irvine win all three games they will then face an agonising wait to find out if they have done enough to stay up.

Skipper and his opposite number Kerr Anderson exchanged penalties in the opening minutes, but that was the only time the game looked like being a tight contest as the home side took control.

Indeed , the only surprise about Filander’s try was that it took until 24 minutes to arrive, as the hosts had squandered enough chances by then to earn two bonus points.

Skipper missed a penalty chance to take the score to 13-3 just after the half hour, but it scarcely mattered as Elliston soon made sure he was lining up another kick which he goaled to put the hosts 17-3 ahead.

Anderson, who had missed an earlier penalty with the score at 3-3, rounded off the first-half scoring with his second successful kick of the game to pull the visitors back to 17-6, and this soon became 17-9 as the home side made a slow start to the second half.

In what has been a regular feature of late, the cards started flying as both sides’ discipline began to let them down – but it was the visitors who came off worse for a change, sin-binnings for both Livingston locks bookending Craig Maxwell’s enforced break for Irvine.

By the time Maxwell walked, Skipper had eluded the visiting defence to add Irvine’s third try, which he converted to give the hosts breathing space at 24-9. However by the time he returned, Livingston had registered an unconverted try of their own through winger Ross Barclay.

Normal service resumed once both teams were back to full strength, and Irvine finished strongly with Cresswell scoring his pair in the closing minutes, before Elliston rounded off the try-scoring for the home side in injury-time.

The match ended in farce when a melee in the Irvine 22 ended up with home winger Nathan Murray sent off for retaliation, and the hosts spending a further eight minutes camped on their own line trying not to concede a consolation score.

Despite a yellow card for Skipper reducing them to 13 men however, they managed to hold out and were finally able to celebrate a vital win.

IRVINE: C Hobson; N McMillan, J Cresswell, R Elliston, N Murray; B Skipper, J Carson; S Docherty, L Ferguson, E Callaghan, A Nugent, T McHarg, C Maxwell, A Lang, R Filander (capt). Reps: Z Hamilton, C Lang, J Murdoch.

Marress also managed to register a try bonus against their counterparts from GHK, Jordan Kerr scoring twice to add to singles from Daniel Dunsmuir and Chris Mills, and Craig Williams notching two conversions. However, it was the visitors who ran out 68-24 winners.

They are next due to travel to Braidholm to take on GHA Lions.