Dec. 3, 2017, 8:32 p.m.
Musselburgh V Gala
BT National League Division 1
Saturday 2nd December 2017
Following on from the home win in the league against Falkirk way back on 4th November, Musselburgh headed to Gala for the first of 3 Border clashes prior to the Christmas break. This season see’s Gala in the second tier of domestic rugby having spent many years in the top flight, this has brought them many trials and tribulations over the first half of the season. Both teams were looking for a much-needed win and a five pointer would just put the icing on the cake.
Over a bowl of soup in the clubhouse prior to the game a discussion was had as to when Musselburgh had last played Gala in a league game, so after several phone calls and a Google search it was discovered they last met on 7th March 2009 in the Scottish Hydro Electric Premiership Division 2, Gala winning the encounter! The teams first met each other in 1946 and since then Gala were the victors of all but one encounter.
Danny Owenson got the match underway on a bright afternoon and it didn’t take long for Musselburgh to get into gear as Gala were penalised at the breakdown and Owenson kicked for touch, Graham gathered the Gregor throw and ‘Burgh were on the attack via McKinstry and Hutson before Gala again infringed and on four minutes Owenson put the first points on the board for 0-3. Musselburgh seemed to have caught Gala napping as within a further 3 minutes Kennedy had gone over for the first try, with Owenson adding the extras for 0-10 after only 7 minutes.
Gala then got their heavy forwards in on the act which caused the visitors all sorts of problems at the scrums as the Gala front three seemed to be more efficient in the nefarious dark arts of the front row. The bigger Gala pack set a maul rolling but they knock-on, again Musselburgh were penalised at the resultant scrum and the Gala stand-off Hunter kicked for touch. ‘Burgh had supremacy at the line-out and stole and the visitors once again came at the Borderers only for Gala to win the ball back and the visitors again, found themselves on the back foot and in reverse gear. They were then penalised for an infringement in front of the posts making the resultant kick easy for Hunter and 3-10 after 13 minutes.
Musselburgh were once more penalised at the set piece and Hunter kicked for touch only for the homesters to knock on after winning their line-out. The visitors found themselves going backwards and within the blink of an eye, centre Jeffrey was under the posts and Hunter converted to tie the score at 10-10 at the end of the first quarter. Gala had certainly woken up and had ‘Burgh under the cosh for the majority of the second twenty. Gala then took the lead when Captain, Spiers scored their third try, the conversion coming off the post and 15-10.
Gala then camped on the ‘Burgh line and it was only determined defending from the whole team that kept them out and held up the try attempt, resulting in a scrum five for Gala. With all the issues at the scrum the next few minutes saw the scrum being reset on numerous occasions, with Mr Kenny having cause to speak to both front rows. Finally, Gala got the ball away which allowed it to be passed out wide only for Watt to be shown a yellow for an alleged dangerous try saving tackle and ‘Burgh were down to 14 men for the next ten. Gala hoped to capitalise on this as Fairburn went over the line only to drop the ball before it was placed.
Against the run of the scrum Hutson got the ball away for ‘Burgh and sprinted up the park only for Gala to steal it back, but ‘Burgh bundled their winger into touch just short of the line. Pryde gathered Gregor’s throw and passed to Kennedy and the ball went through the hands of both forwards and backs, but ‘Burgh were tackled into touch within their own 22. Gala won their attacking lineout and hooker Keen scored out wide, followed by Hunter’s conversion and 22-10.
However, Musselburgh dug deep and after Gala was penalised at the breakdown, Owenson kicked for touch deep into the Gala 22 and they set the maul rolling towards the line. Weir was shown a yellow for illegally bringing the maul down. The visitors opted for the scrum against a weakened home pack and exerted a massive push which saw Hutson go over for an unconverted try and a half time score of Gala 22 Musselburgh 15.
Gala started the second half a man down, but within minutes of the restart prop Logan was also sent to the bin for a further infringement. This seemed to spur Gala on as they charged at the ‘Burgh defence before the ball was lost in the breakdown, Doig gathered and the visitors were on the attack, but this was halted when a pass was deemed to be forward. The penalty count was climbing, and the ref had cause to chat with both captains as Musselburgh were awarded a penalty, Prichard kicked for touch and the ball was gathered and Musselburgh pushed for the line and were awarded a scrum five when the try was held up. Kennedy gathered from the feet of Hutson and the ball was taken forward by Crain, Graham and McKinstry before the backs of Doig, Pritchard, Vela and Hibberd got in on the act. After much shouting from the home support the visitors were penalised for being off-side and Gala then turned the screw on the visitors as, what looked like a forward pass saw Gala 15, Spiers in for the “bonus point” try, Hunter converted to extend the Gala lead to 29-15 on 52 minutes, then on 59 minutes it looked as all was lost for the visitors when Tod scored and Hunter added the extras to take the score to 36-15 at the end of the third quarter.
As darkness descended and the temperature dropped what happened in the next twenty minutes could not have been predicted by the supporters of either team and I am sure it will remain a mystery in the annals of time. Did Gala think the game was safe and they were home and dry with a five-point win or did the visitors just decide that was not how it was to be? Whatever the reasons were, the game changed at this point and the ‘Burgh boys decided to write themselves into the rugby history books!
As hands were growing cold, balls were dropped and knocked on by both sides, then from a Gala line-out on their 5 meter after ‘Burgh were tackled into touch, the visitors stole, and Milton went over to begin the come-back. Owenson missed the conversion, 36-20. Keddie was then shown a yellow for a high tackle and ‘Burgh were on the attack and Gala found themselves penalised for a deliberate knock-on as they scrambled to halt the visitors. For the next few minutes ‘Burgh were camped on the opposition line as they inched ever closer before Man of the Match Kennedy went over for his second and ‘Burgh’s “bonus point” try which Owenson converted for 36-27.
From a Gala line-out McKinstry gathered and ‘Burgh were once again on the move with Veitch, Vela, Cook and Watt being backed ably by Arthur, Slaven and Hutson, before Craig Owenson went in and brother Danny added the conversion and it was “game-on” at 36-34 with 5 minutes left on the clock.
At this point the home support became very vocal as tension rose on the touchline, as Gala fought to keep the visitors out. The clock ticked down and it looked like Musselburgh were going to have to settle for loosing and bonus try points when Hunter scored a penalty for 39 – 34. However, there was time for the re-start and after a high tackle on Milton, ‘Burgh were on the Gala line as they fought to keep the score out, but Musselburgh were determined and Slaven found a way through to tie the score at 39-39 with the conversion to come. Everyone held their breath as Owenson calmly placed the ball on the tee, stepped back and kicked the ball between the posts and the ‘Burgh boys and their support erupted as Mr Kenny blew up for no-side and a final score of Gala 39 Musselburgh 41.
A much needed and deserved win for Musselburgh, who had last beaten Gala way back in 1959 when they won 12 - 9 at Stoneyhill. This performance just proved the grit, determination and mindset of the team as they halted the former Premiership side in their tracks and took the Border’s side by surprise, leaving them with the 2 losing points.
Next week sees Musselburgh back in the Borders as they travel to Philiphaugh, for a 3pm KO against third placed Selkirk RFC.
15 – James Doig 14 – Ben Hibberd 13 – Rory Watt 12 – Gareth Pritchard 11 – Cory Vela 10 – Danny Owenson 9 – Donald Kennedy
1 – Craig Owenson 2 – Ross Gregor 3 – Bob Stott 4 – Cameron Pryde 5 – Graeme McKinstry 6 – Brad Graham 7 – Jonathan Crain
8 – Luke Hutson
16 – Colin Arthur 17 – Connor Slaven 18 – Euan Milton 19 – Andrew Cook 20 – Craig Veitch