March 24, 2019, 7:35 p.m.
Tennent’s National League Division 1
Musselburgh v Selkirk
Saturday 23rd March 2019
Report by Ian Donaldson
Musselburgh returned to league duty following the international break and last weeks’ postponement of the Jed-Forest game, to welcome Selkirk, the only Border club in the division that ‘Burgh lost to in the firs half of the season.
Danny Owenson got proceedings underway on breezy afternoon and set ‘Burgh moving forward, there followed a couple of early breaks by Michael Maltman and Colin Arthur, but Selkirk held firm and soon began to turn the tables, bringing pressure to bear. The visitors were looking lively, playing with pace and precision, with full back David Cassidy always prominent, breaking into the line with wingers Darren Clapperton and Henry Bithray comprising a dangerous back three. After 7 minutes their pressure paid off as ‘Burgh were penalised when attempting to stem the tide and standoff Rory Banks took full advantage from the tee to give the visitors a 3-0 lead. Musselburgh began to force Selkirk back but had to be wary, especially against the pace of Selkirk winger Clapperton who was running all sorts of dangerous lines.
Musselburgh retaliated as Graeme Bowman, Craig Owenson and Bob Stott all were prominent in the forward exchanges as ‘Burgh began to force penalties from Selkirk’s defence, Danny Owenson was finding touch as the pack drove on and after several foiled handling movements James Ferguson found his way to the line in the bottom corner for an unconverted try and a 5-3 lead for ‘Burgh after 24 minutes.
Musselburgh’s lead was short lived as only two minutes later Selkirk hooker James Bett went over in a pushover try after constant pressure on the ‘Burgh line. Banks converted to give the visitors a 10=5 lead. The Borderers had an aggressive pack who handled the ball well and had pacey backs who were giving ‘Burgh no end of trouble.
Selkirk No 8 Ewan MacDougall was very prominent, charging around the pack to great effect aided and abetted by Sean Nixon and Peter Forrest pushing ‘Burgh back on their heels. ‘Burgh, however hung on and reduced the deficit from a Danny Owenson penalty on 33 minutes leaving them 8-10 down as the interval approached. It was all to no avail as two further penalties scored by Banks in the 37th minute and the 40th minute of an unnecessarily elongated first half saw a halftime score of MUSSELBURGH 8 SELKIRK 16.
Many observers were of the opinion, that the referee had played an excessive amount of injury time at the interval which proved particularly advantageous to Selkirk, who were in the ascendancy at the time. Selkirk restarted having replaced Scott McClymont with Connor Higgins. ‘Burgh started the 2nd half brightly and imposed themselves on the visitors with Maltman, Hutson and Bowman breaking the line as the home pack went through the phases as ‘Burgh attacked with great purpose before Martin Cimprich completed ‘Burgh’s best move of the game with a fine try in the corner after 47 minutes, then, as if to top it off, Danny Owenson kicked a magnificent angled conversion in the windy conditions to bring ‘Burgh right back into the game at 15-16.
Musselburgh’s position of near parity on the scoreboard lasted a mere four minutes as on 51 minutes another sustained attack by Selkirk brought about by some nice handling sent fullback David Cassidy, who had been prominent all match, over for a fine unconverted try to stretch the Borderers lead to 15-21. At this juncture most of the attacking moves came from the visitors and Callum McEwan made a fine break up the middle before being supported by his pack as the Borderers drove on, the ball going through many pairs of hands before Bithray went over in the corner for another unconverted try on a difficult day for kicking and 15-26 after 68 minutes.
Musselburgh still had time to reign in the 11 point deficit in the short time remaining, but as it turned out the visitors had other ideas as Selkirk forced a penalty on 73 minutes, which Banks duly slotted to increase their lead, 15-29, then with four minutes left on the clock Clapperton scored, not only the “bonus point” try but the try of the match, taking the ball at pace, before bending his running to go over in the corner for an unconverted try and a final score of MUSSELBURGH 15 SELKIRK 24.
Next week sees ‘Burgh head for Inverness to play Highland in the semi-final of the National League cup.