Match Report :  Musselburgh 37-24 Stewart’s Melville

Match Report : Musselburgh 37-24 Stewart’s Melville

While it’s great to see our injured players coming along to support their more able-bodied team mates, it’s still a bit worrying when you see the likes of Momo, both Ruaridhs and Angus Rennie wearing bibs and ‘civvies’ rather than the RBG during the warm up. Such was the case at sunny Stoneyhill on Saturday; with Cash sitting on the banking on the other side of the pitch, one kind of sensed that a hard day at the office was on the cards.

It was therefore, pleasing when we began the match on the front foot, with big Alexander Rappestad (later dubbed Bill Bailey by the wags on the Balcony) catching the eye as our forwards rumbled towards the home line. Musselburgh lost skipper Craig Owenson to the bin as the men in blue repulsed repeated attacks, but, sadly, our pressure came to nothing after we were penalised at a scrum near the home line and Musselburgh were able to clear.

Musselburgh then went on to score with their first attack of the game, a kick straight into touch by our fullback Ross McCann providing them with an attacking lineout. Some neat handling thereafter saw stand off Geoff Berry touch down. The missed conversion made it 5-0 to Musselburgh after ten minutes; home kicker Danny Owenson then missed a penalty attempt three minutes later.

The home pack began to hit their stride at this point, rumbling over in the corner for a push over try after a neat penalty kick to the corner. Danny Owenson made no mistake with the extras this time, making it 12-0 to Musselburgh with 16 minutes gone.

Having seen little of the ball since that opening flurry, it was a relief when we sparked into life after 25 minutes. Mike Hanning broke up a Musselburgh attack, the ball moved along the back line and Ross McCann made one of his trademark breaks. He (or maybe Ziggy) then threw a possibly-slightly-forward pass to Sean Murchie, who jogged over the line to touch down by the posts. Mike Hanning’s conversion made it 12-7.

With our tails up once again, we nearly scored on our next attack, Sean latching on to a lovely grubber inside the home 22. The ball was worked back across to Ciaran Whyte in the midfield. With various team mates standing in acres of space to his right, it looked like a try was on if Ciaran could just ship the ball – sadly, he was engulfed by home defenders before that could happen.

Having steadied the ship, Musselburgh took play back up our end of the park, taking advantage of a free ball in our 22 to work the ball along their backline. Berry eventually made the telling break, finding the time and space to play replacement lock McKinstry in at the corner. The kick was, once again, missed, leaving the score at 17-7 with a couple of minutes left in the half.

We once again demonstrated great character after conceding, Ross, centre Ali Greig and flanker Lewis Scott catching the eye in a flowing handling move that ended with us being awarded a penalty near the half way line. Mike Hanning gave the ball a good dunt, but it drifted off to the left of the posts.

Musselburgh finished the half with another dangerous attack, recycling the ball well after another attacking lineout. With another free ball awarded, they tried to play their winger in via a looping kick to the corner; luckily for us, the ball went dead.

Our hosts came roaring out of the traps after the break, with the home fans less than impressed after a touch down in the corner by their right winger was ruled off for a possibly-slightly-forward pass. No passing was, however, necessary when the home pack rumbled over at the clubhouse corner after a penalty kick to the corner. Owenson converted the bonus point try to take the score to 24-7 with half an hour left to play.

Our cause wasn’t helped when Fraser Christie hirpled off shortly afterwards, having put in yet another fine defensive shift.

With our attempts to stem the blue tide becoming increasingly desperate, so the penalty count began to increase. It was, therefore, not altogether surprising when Owenson had a shot at the posts after 55 minutes, the successful kick making it 27-7 to Musselburgh.

Our hosts’ fifth try came after we conceded another penalty on the 60 minute mark, number 8 Hutson picking up at the base of the resulting scrum and diving over from close range. Owenson, after a fairly poor first half, had very much found his range by now, his conversion making the score 34-7.

It is to our player’s eternal credit that, rather than letting their heads go down after shipping 22 points without reply, they decided to throw caution to the wind and have what Gav would likely call a right good go. Mike Hanning was the first to go close on the 65 minute mark, hacking the ball through then haring after it with only the full back to beat; said full back (Hook) gently ‘eased’ Mike off the ball as they raced for the touch down, and received a yellow card for his troubles.

Willie took a tap penalty shortly afterwards, keen to make the most of the extra man, and Ross McCann carried well before being stopped just short of the line, Some neat recycling ended with flanker Tom Spowart crossing for the try to the right of the posts. The conversion was missed, but we’d made it into double digits: 34-12.

With ten minutes left on the clock, we continued to attack, with Greig, McCann, Hanning and Bowie all involved in a fine passage of play that saw crisp recycling and hard running. The move broke down near the line, thanks to some resolute home defence, but scrum half Manson, after checking the lie of the land, decided to have a go himself. He burrowed over and Mike converted to make the score 34-19.

Another successful penalty for the home side only provided them with temporary respite, as we were soon back on the hunt for the fourth, bonus point try. It duly came with the last move of the match, another tap penalty and some slick passing allowing Ross McCann to stretch over in the corner. Final score 37-24.

Another defeat, then, but one that we can still take a lot of positives from. This was, after all, a ground where both Watsonians and Accies had lost narrowly in recent weeks.

We had also headed to Stoneyhill with a fairly serious injury list, and a squad that would probably struggle to achieve an average age of 21 if you took Willie, Mike and Ziggy out of it. Our hosts, on the other hands, were pretty much at full strength.

Yes, we ended up shipping 5 tries, and would have been further adrift but for some wayward place kicking by Owenson in the first half – but, with barely 15 minutes left in the game, we dug deep into our reserves of determination and energy to score three tries and take a valuable point away from Stoneyhill.

While the penalty count against us was pretty hefty – ‘Statto’ Rigby counted at least 20 awards across the 80 minutes – we somehow contrived (unless I missed a card) to keep 15 players on the pitch, whereas our hosts lost two players to the bin. Not sure if that means we got lucky, or that we’ve started to get ‘clever’ when it comes to (say) slowing down opposition the ball. Let’s hope it’s the latter!

Our tackling was also pretty decent. While our defence was rather ragged at times, it’s fantastic to see guys like Ciaran Whyte, Ross McCann and Sean Murchie bursting through the gain line and hunting down the ball carrier – again, while we may be lacking in bulk compared to some sides, we certainly aren’t lacking in spirit and fitness!

It’s also evident that we’ve got a lot of decent rugby players in our ranks – if we can just continue to work on our set pieces and secure a decent amount of possession, we will do just fine in this league.

No game this Saturday, so we’ll hopefully see a few of the ‘bib & civvies’ brigade back in action when Jed visit Inverleith on October 17th. Jed sit immediately below us in the table – let’s keep them there!

Bill McNie

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