Edinburgh Academical FC v Musselburgh RFC
BT National League Division 1
Saturday 6th January 2018
Report by Ian Donaldson
Following a month-long break from league fixtures due to postponements and the usual Christmas break, Musselburgh could not have picked a tougher assignment for their return, away to runaway league leaders Edinburgh Accies.
The omens did not look good as a ‘Burgh side, again stricken by illness and injury ran out to face a full strength Accies, bursting with the confidence a 100% league record gives you.
Danny Owenson, at stand-off, got the game underway with ‘Burgh playing towards the wall at the far end. The early
Skirmishes for possession fell in the home side’s favour in the middle of the park and Accies winger Calum Ramm sprinted forty yards down the line to score in the corner, in just under 2 minutes. The Edinburgh men’s stand-off Richard Mill then kicked a superb conversion for 7-0.
Such an early score gave the league leaders exactly the boost they were looking for and they continued to hold the upper hand in attempting to press home their advantage and with only seven minutes on the clock Clement Lacour, the Accies prop went over with the weight of his pack behind him in classic “pushover” style which was followed by another superb conversion by Mill for 14-0.
If ‘Burgh were under the impression that the start of the match could not have been worse, the fates decreed that they had seen nothing yet! Firstly, Musselburgh’s injury jinx reared it’s ugly head again as Jonathan Crain limped off, to be replaced by Conor Slaven and secondly in the space of three minutes between the 13th and 15th minutes the hosts doubled their advantage from 14-0 to 28-0, two tries by Luther Hirini at fullback, joining his line to devastating effect on both occasions and slicing open the ‘Burgh defence to score, both tries being expertly converted by Mill, rubbing salt into ‘Burgh’s already open wounds and giving Accies the early “bonus” point.
Being 28 points down after 15 minutes away from home, against a side who have won all their games this season, is just about the ultimate “nightmare” scenario, but ‘Burgh just had to get on with it and to their enormous credit, they showed great guts and determination in attempting to fight their way back into the game. Against a team who were noticeably physically bigger than them ‘Burgh scrapped courageously for some sort of reward and Hutson, Arthur, McKinstry and Co set up Donald Kennedy before the rest of the back line put Cory Vela over in the corner in 22 minutes for a fine unconverted score and 28-5. As if the score had given the visitors a little more confidence, there was a marked upsurge in possession for ‘Burgh and Owenson, Vela and Young ran at the home defence while Arthur, McKinstry, Hutson and Graham took the fight to the home eight.
Then with half an hour on the clock ‘Burgh again had something tangible to show for their efforts as a period of ‘Burgh pressure and penalties finally resulted in Ru Young being released to go over in the corner for ‘Burgh’s second unconverted try and 28-10. ‘Burgh, at this stage, are to be commended for fighting back from such a disheartening start against such a fine side, to score two tries of their own.
However, the pace, power and precision of Accies were not to be permanently denied and on 35 minutes their forward power produced a pushover try for flanker Jack Mann which was again converted by the accurate boot of stand-off Mill for 35-10.
After such a devastating start with four tries conceded in the opening 15 minutes, few would have blamed Musselburgh if they had thrown in the towel against a side so patently superior in all departments, but they demonstrated great heart and were rewarded by a pushover try by Cammy Pryde right on the cusp of the interval, which Danny Owenson converted for a half time score of Edinburgh Academicals 35 Musselburgh 17.
In view of what had transpired in the first half, those of a Musselburgh persuasion in the crowd, were eyeing up the possibility of a bonus point, should ‘Burgh score a fourth try and even though the ultimate cause might have been lost, they might take something from the game. We were all, sadly, to be disavowed of these notions in the most brutal manner imaginable. At halftime some of us even had the temerity to think we could get back into the game, even mentioning “if there’s a hard way to do it, ‘Burgh will do it”, was on the lips of the spectators.
If losing four tries in the opening fifteen minutes could be considered disastrous, how do you qualify losing four tries in nine minutes at the start of the second half to add to an already burgeoning deficit.
The early second half onslaught began after 42 minutes when centre, Neil Armstrong finished off a fine handling movement, before Richard Mill made his usual immaculate job of the conversion for 42-17. Two minutes later, Mill, who was outstanding at stand-off, and after do many successful kicks, scored a try and then, ironically, missed his conversion for the first time in the match, but still moved the scoreboard on to 47-17. Three minutes later and Armstrong “rocketed through for a try and was “over the moon” to score his second of the day! Mill re-set his kicking compass and stroked another conversion over for 54-17.
Then on 49 minutes, replacement Conor Hirini broke down the left wing and went over in the corner, again Mill made a brilliant conversion for 61-17. Quickly followed by a break by Love and a strong supportive run by Jack Mann saw him in for his second try, the conversion just going wide and 66-17. By this stage it was now accepted that victory of any sort or competitive parity was way beyond ‘Burgh, but some sort of solace could still be had if they managed to get another try and that elusive “bonus” point.
There followed a ten-minute period of ‘Burgh pressing and probing with Owenson sniping and kicking, Hutson, Slaven and Graham all driving on and Watt, Vela and Cook and the rest all giving it everything, but just coming up short again and again. Then right on the hour mark, any momentum that ‘Burgh were attempting to build up was totally crushed in the most brutal way possible by a break-away try by Accies replacement Max Love who ran virtually the length of the park to score an unconverted try in the corner for 71-17.
Musselburgh continued to search for the bonus point try and occasionally their eagerness to get the ball forward left gaps that a side as good as Accies will always exploit and in the 65th minute Conor Hirini scored his second try since coming on, a terrific solo effort with the visitor’s defence at sixes and sevens, Mill again added the extra’s, 78-17. ‘Burgh continued to press for the fourth try and commendable effort was spent in an ultimately losing cause. The scoring was concluded by Jack Mann scoring his hat trick for Accies, following up a kick into the corner on 77 minutes, Richard Mill converting to crown a superb display of kicking and leave the final score at Edinburgh Academical FC 85 Musselburgh 17.
Musselburgh were soundly beaten by a very fine side, but still showed guts to come back, albeit momentarily, in the middle section of the game.
Score’s wise it might be said that ‘Burgh had achieved parity in the opening 15 minutes of the first half and 9 minutes of the second, they would have won the game, but sadly they didn’t so no complaints and before we discount these early tries as “lapses”, we can’t forget we “lost” the second half 50-0, with not a single point scored.
However unpalatable a heavy defeat is, ‘Burgh must bounce back next week in a vital clash at Stoneyhill against GHA.