Jan. 20, 2019, 8:28 p.m.
BT National League Division 1
Hamilton v Musselburgh
Saturday 19th January 2019
Report by Ian Donaldson
Musselburgh headed for Hamilton, hoping to get back to winning ways after last week’s loss to Gala. The visiting ‘Burgh supporters enjoyed the pre-match hospitality in Hamilton’s modern clubhouse before the real business of the day took place when Hamilton’s stand-off McLeish kicked off and set the home side on to the attack pushing ‘Burgh back, early in the game, somewhat taking the visitors by surprise as they dominated the early possession as ‘Burgh were unable to retain the ball for any length of time.
The hosts forced a penalty in the early stages but McLeish was slightly off target keeping the scoresheet blank, and then against the run of play ‘Burgh took the lead after 9 minutes when Danny Owenson made his usual competent job of a penalty awarded to ‘Burgh on a rare foray into home territory. Hamilton continued in the ascendancy, but it appeared after 13 minutes that a ‘Burgh side who appeared to be “under the cosh” would retain their good fortune as ‘Burgh went 6-0 up following another Owenson penalty.
Hamilton continued to press and their half backs Sinclair and McLeish were directing operations well, their forwards Leggate, Carr and Jones all to the fore in the early action. After about 20 minutes Bob Stott had to leave the field for a blood injury and was replaced by Colin Arthur as Hamilton themselves also made a blood substitution as Crush replaced centre Wallace. Stott returned to the fray after being patched up as the home side continued to press. Their wingers Inglis and Aitken stretched the ‘Burgh defence and they were winning too much ball for ‘Burgh’s comfort, which made it all the more surprising when the visitors increased their lead.
In a break-away attack Ruairidh Young found himself in possession after an infield flurry of passes, before forcing himself over near the corner after 36 minutes, which was followed by a magnificent conversion by Owenson for a 13-0 lead. The thirteen point deficit did not appear to dismay Hamilton as they continued to press in the moments before the interval and eventually got their reward almost on the whistle as winger Inglis went over before McLeish converted to reduce ‘Burgh’s lead to 13-7 at the interval.
At halftime, I doubt if anyone would have predicted the second 40 minutes we had, with tries, five yellow cards in half an hour and a floodlight failure to top it all off! Hamilton started the second half as they had ended the first and the pressure produced a penalty which McLeish kicked successfully for 13-10 to Musselburgh, as the lead continued to evaporate.
Substitutes, White, Craig and McQueen all entered the fray for the Bulls and the changes obviously had the desired effect as on 50 minutes Hamilton took the lead for the first time with a fine solo try by scrum half Sinclair which was duly converted by his halfback partner for 17-13 in the Bulls favour. ‘Burgh made changes as Ross Gregor and Stuart Thompson were replaced by Colin Arthur and Sandy Watt, but it appeared all to no avail as Hamilton increased their lead on 52 minutes when Milne rounded off a home attack before McLeish again converted for 24-13 for the Bulls as the home support lapped it up!
Shortly after his try, scorer, Milne was substituted by Bryan from the Bulls bench and Conor Slaven replaced Bob Stott for the visitors. As we entered the last quarter things seemed to take a turn for the worse when Hamilton sub Josh White was yellow carded and as play raged on as ‘Burgh tried to pull it out of the fire only for Conor Slaven to also received a yellow card. Martin Cimprich then replaced Ruairidh Young as we wondered what would happen next. We didn’t have long to wait as the flood lights went out, at the far end of the field!
Once the lights got back on ‘Burgh continued to attack and Hamilton were forced into indiscretions as their lock McLaughlin and their prop Leggate were both yellow carded in double quick time before ‘Burgh scored through Sandy Watt, an unconverted try for 24-18 with 10 minutes remaining. ‘Burgh continued to press and Hamilton’s 13 men were hard pressed to keep them out and in 73 minutes, only 3 minutes after the last score ‘Burgh engineered their best move of the game down the right flank which culminated in Luke Hutson going over in the corner, bringing ‘Burgh back to within 1 point at 24-23, then Danny Owenson produced the kick of the day with an amazing touchline conversion in the bad light to put ‘Burgh back in front at 25-24.
It looked as if ‘Burgh had got out of jail after a day in which very little had gone their way and Hamilton had played exceptionally well and taken advantage, but the game had yet another twist in its tail when Hamilton’s McLeish broke from the line, he looked set to score but was caught just short and in the defensive fracas Graeme Bowman was yellow carded and a penalty awarded to Hamilton. McLeish then kept his cool admirably to kick Hamilton to victory with the last kick of the ball to make the final score of Hamilton 27 Musselburgh 25.
Another narrow defeat for ‘Burgh who must bounce back v Cartha at Stoneyhill next week.