Posted on: September 24th, 2017
BT National League Division 1
GHA v Musselburgh
Saturday 23rd September 2017
Report by Ian Donaldson
The search for ‘Burgh’s elusive first league win of the season took them to the South West of Glasgow to face a GHA side which in recent weeks were finding a bit of form, notably putting 82 points on Stewart’s Melville, so ‘Burgh knew, that with their currently depleted squad they would be in for a torrid afternoon. The starting line-up were missing the two Owensons, Willie Fleming, Sandy Watt, Declan and Conor Slaven, Andrew Cook and James Doig among others. The reason I have accented the missing players is because I also wish to complement their replacements and the new faces in the side, on a very brave, determined performance.
GHA stand-off Ross Findlay got things underway sending the kick-off into the welcoming arms of Luke Hutson, ‘Burgh tried to set up an early offensive, but Donald Kennedy, our debutante scrumhalf was forced into touch. Consequently, the home side then took almost complete early control of the game as ‘Burgh were penned into their own 22 for lengthy periods and only a combination of last ditch tackles, and a great deal of bravery kept the line intact early on.
GHA lock Jamie McCarthy was seeing plenty of the ball, both in the lineout and in the loose, and scrumhalf Andrew Gillman was darting hither and thither, jookin oot and in finding wee gaps. The referee penalised Musselburgh several times deep in their own area and eventually the hosts opened the scoring when winger Andrew Spowart went over amid a suspicion of a knock-on in the build-up, stand-off Andrew Goudie converted and after 8 minutes the hosts were 7-0 up.
The home passing was slick at this stage, often slicing through ‘Burgh with precise movement, with winger Edgar particularly prominent with centres Addison and Findlay also showing up well. The referee then spotted an infringement at the tackle and sent Brad Graham to the bin for 10 minutes. The resultant penalty, kicked by Goudie took GHA’s lead to 10-0 after 13 minutes.
The first 15 minutes has been virtually “all GHA”, but at last ‘Burgh started to get more possession and began to apply a little pressure of their own, when Cory Vela, this week starting on the wing, looked very elusive with the ball in his hands and his jinking “twinkle toed” sidesteps. The “new boys”, Steven Crawford and Donald Kennedy were also getting involved and the heavy artillery of the visiting pack a last appeared in the offensive.
Several phases were put together, including heavy drives by Arthur and McNairn and a particularly belligerent Ross Gregor, before Steven Crawford scored a debut try which Gareth Pritchard converted for 10-7 after 23 minutes. GHA then replaced prop Tony Brogan with Jamie Leslie as the forward intensity increased. Vela continued to stretch the home defence and was extremely unfortunate not to score when he was forced into touch close to the line.
It was turning into a physical encounter and occasionally tempers rose, especially in the packs. The hosts then put together several phases before centre Ross Findlay took a pass from Goudie to go over at close range before Goudie added the extras for 17-7 after 32 minutes. As the interval approached ‘Burgh had another good spell, with Ross Gregor, who clearly had his “dander-up”, to the fore in the forward exchanges, the pressure was unlucky not to be rewarded by a try as Young, Hibberd and Coutts were all involved in handling movements.
With a minute to the break ‘Burgh were awarded a penalty for an infringement at a ruck, but the kick slipped narrowly wide and the score at the break was GHA 17 Musselburgh 7.
Considering the amount of possession and territory GHA had in the first half, ‘Burgh were somewhat fortunate the margin was not greater. The interval brought a change to ‘Burgh’s front row as Craig Owenson replaced Colin Arthur. ‘Burgh restarted brightly when Coutts and Vela had good breaks into dangerous positions. Coutts using a more direct route, while the Australian did his “Skippy” impersonation by eluding the tackles by subtle changes of direction. ‘Burgh then replaced Young with Doig, then with 54 minutes on the clock GHA centre Ross Findlay was yellow carded as the tempers bubbled along nicely.
Then ‘Burgh’s early second half pressure paid off………spectacularly, with two tries in the space of about 2 minutes. Firstly, Craig Owenson showed all of us what we had been missing, with him on the injury list, when he showed remarkable pace for a prop to go over for an unconverted try in the corner after a succession of ‘Burgh drives. The next try was a superb solo score into the other corner by Gareth Pritchard, streaking down the flank before making it to the line, before converting. The two tries took the score to 17 – 19 with the visitors taking the lead, a considerable achievement considering they spent most of the first half under the cosh.
As the game entered its final quarter, ‘Burgh had a slender lead, but the hosts then hit right back with everything they had. Several drives by Barnett, McCarthy and Angus were thwarted as Gillman and Goudie sprayed out the passes, but for a time ‘Burgh courageously hung on, tackling everything in sight, Owenson and McNairn leading the way, well supported by Crawford and the energetic Luke Hutson. However, a cross kick put winger Edgar in at the corner before Goudie converted for 24-19.
‘Burgh now had 18 minutes to save the game and for the remainder of the match would pummel and pressurise GHA like they had done to ‘Burgh in the first half. Tired limbs were replaced for ‘Burgh as Hibberd and Coutts made way for Pryde and Cook. Countless phases and possession followed in pursuit of a score, which, if converted would have yielded ‘Burgh a precious 5 league points, as any try would have been a bonus point try.
Colin Arthur, who carried well all day and was a rock in the set piece, twice went agonisingly close in the dying minutes and on numerous occasions ‘Burgh appeared to be within smelling distance of the line, and it looked as though every ‘Burgh forward had had at least one drive for the line, and several backs too! Yet, somehow, the hosts held on and kept ‘Burgh at bay till the ref blew what must have been the sweetest whistle they’d heard for a long time to give them a 24-19 victory.
‘Burgh, by contrast, felt massive frustration having displayed guts in coming back from a half time deficit away from home, to take the lead and then applying huge pressure in the last 15 minutes to no avail. The only conclusion to be drawn, in my opinion anyway, and a few others as well, was that some days the ball runs for you and some days it doesn’t, this I’m afraid was one of the latter and after a brave performance we have been left with a losing bonus point when it could easily have been 5 points.
Next week Musselburgh play hosts to Stewart’s Melville as the search for the first league win continues.
15 – R. Young, 14 – B. Hibberd, 13 – J. Coutts, 12 – R. Watt, 11 – C Vela, 10 – G. Pritchard, 9 – D. Kennedy, 1 – N McNairn, 2 – R. Gregor, 3 – C Arthur, 4 – G. McKinstry, 5 – E. Milton, 6 – B. Graham, 7 – S. Crawford, 8 – L. Hutson
16 – B. Stott, 17 – C. Owenson, 18 – C. Pryde, 19 – J. Doig, 20 – A. Cook
© 2017 MRFC.