Match Report vs Musselburgh
The clinical manner that saw Stewart’s Melville score three first half converted tries ultimately ensured that, malgré nous *, the bonus point win was secured.
Inverleith was at its glorious best on Saturday as 90 plus diners assembled for the pre-match meal. The overnight frost put paid to many alternative matches so the attendance was swollen by a number of last year’s team that obviously still retain a place in their hearts for Stewart’s Melville. Messers Morrison, Morgan, Strachan, McCann and Rennie were spotted inter alios** in the surprisingly healthy congregation. The morning cancellation of the 2nd XV fixture against Musselburgh meant still more assembled to watch events unfold. It felt similar to a family party with the old international pitch a gracious granny to her flock. And Granny had a few surprises for us.
Although Stewart’s Melville were riding high on the back of our victory at Jedburgh the previous week, we were aware that Musselburgh had run Accies close – so nothing could be taken for granted. The absence of Hodgson from last week meant Tom Spowart was introduced, and he ran himself to a standstill until he was substituted late on. In truth, such is the physicality in the modern day game of rugby that most sides are carrying a lengthy injury list as we enter the last third of the season and this makes the strength of the 2nd XV very important. Guys like Tom have to train to prepare their bodies for action when called.
Jonathan Goldring led the charge in the early exchanges, taking short penalties and accepting the challenge to provide the go forward that was otherwise missing, with the injured Rappestad and Hodgson absent. Our front row also looked to have the measure of their opposite numbers and we milked a couple of early penalties.
Michael Hanning resumed the role of conductor of the orchestra that he successfully performed at Jedburgh, and ‘Happy’ Morrison ran a good line to score after six minutes. Musselburgh fancied their chances with the rumble from a penalty lineout but we successfully disrupted their first attempt and their second penalty lineout ended in a knock-on. The pace of our runners and the pace on the ball set us apart from the opposition at this time and Jack Hannay, in particular, popped up to good effect both in defence, holding up his opposite man, and attack.
Next, Hanning found Murchie at his elbow for the ‘flyer’ to score – untouched by human hand – under the posts. Musselburgh were by no means out of it but could not profit from visits to our red zone, the normally reliable Owensen missing a pot at goal. In contrast, after thirty- two minutes, the aforementioned Goldring, enjoying his best display in the red, black and gold colours, scored following several well defended ‘pick and goes’.
Musselburgh, to be fair, hadn’t done a lot wrong, and yet found the score: Stewart’s Melville 21- Musselburgh 0 at half-time.
The second half was a different story as we struggled to get the ball. One or two line-outs went awry, with throws to the back missing their targets, although Wood provided a good option, and Musselbugh’s forwards came onto a game in the loose. Owensen moved to stand-off and their backs started to use the space that is available at Inverleith better.
There was no real alarm when, after ten minutes of the second half, Willie Fleming barged over following continuous pressure. But that alarm became real when Matthew Fleming exploited clever use of the overlap by Owensen to gallop home in the corner. Owensen nailed the conversion from wide out and suddenly it was very much ‘game-on’.
Fortunately, we took a leaf out of Musselburgh’s book and developed a tremendous rolling maul up the stand side, roared on by its denizens and directed by skipper Wood – we must have covered twenty yards. Just when it looked as if Musselburgh had stopped the momentum, John Grant gleefully burst from the pack to score. There is no doubt that settled the team down and we looked to see out the remainder of the match with the replacements all on the paddock.
Musselburgh were not done yet, however, and, in the last minute, they purloined our scrum put-in to allow Graham to touch down and claim a bonus point that no one, in all fairness, could begrudge.
A word about our scrum-halves. The developing Mark Sinclair is abrasive, brave, eager and deceptively quick. Gregor Porteous has beautiful quick hands – one passage of play with Hanning was worth the admission money alone – is intelligent runner and has the better box kick. Mark is first choice at the moment but … a cigarette paper .. .
If we can win at Riverside, all results are possible, so a visit to Braidholm Road, home of GHA and Wee Clarky, should be viewed in that context as we try to assuage memory of our bête noire last autumn.
Finally, in these straightened times when player emoluments are routinely rolled out, might we not look back to the days of Hamilcar, father of Hannibal, who strode the planet two hundred years before Mary’s boy. Hamilcar paid his mercenary soldiers not on gold but in women – any volunteers out there? ***
Final score Stewart’s Melville 26 Musselburgh 21
* Malgré nous: in spite of ourselves
** Inter alios: amongst others
*** locker room talk (apologies to my family and the great American people)