BT National League Division 1
Saturday 28th October 2017
Musselburgh RFC v Dundee HSFP RFC
Report by Ian Donaldson
One of Scottish rugby’s most picturesque grounds was the setting for ‘Burgh’s latest “away day”. With the silvery Tay” glinting in the background and the Tay bridge adding its own atmospherics as Danny Owenson kicked off for a Musselburgh side shorn of influential No 8 Luke Hutson, a situation that was further complicated by an injury to Willie Fleming in the “warm-up” which required Euan Milton to step up from the seconds match with Dundee Titans on the adjacent pitch.
The home side were wearing an unusual kit which was orange with infrequent red flashes on it, no doubt to avoid a possible colour clash. The early stages saw both teams vie for possession as play swung back and forth. ‘Burgh quickly forced two penalties in attacking positions, but the catch and drive was foiled on both occasions by stubborn home defence. The hosts also forced a couple of penalties and full-back Kieran Scoular made his early presence felt by joining the line, before an early injury replacement for Dundee lock Neil Turnbull was required as Angus Farquhar stood in.
The hosts were now building up a head of steam and begun to put ‘Burgh under a fair bit of pressure, their big No 8 Ali Mackie was causing all sorts of problems with his heavy carrying and his fellow back row men, Arnott and McNamara were not far behind him. ‘Burgh defended valiantly, but the hosts were coming at them from all angles and winger Ross Lemon’s darting attacking forays were also giving cause for concern among ‘Burgh ranks. Added to which, ‘Burgh were playing into a stiff first half breeze, which often negated their clearances.
The deadlock was broken after 15 minutes and it was no great surprise that it was the home side who took the early advantage. After several drives to the line, a fine flurry of close handling put full-back Scoular, who had joined the attack, in at the corner. He duly put the icing on the cake with a superb conversion from out near the touch-line for 7-0.
The match continued in much the same vein with Lemon, McGinn and Herron feeding off their pack as ‘Burgh toiled to keep their line intact. Craig Owenson, Brad Graham and Ben Hibberd were tackling everything that moved and Danny Owenson, Cory Vela and Iain Martin scrambled frantically. The pressure however, told again on 25 minutes as the power of Mackie at No 8 took him over at close range for an unconverted try and 12-0. For those of a ‘Burgh persuasion events continued to look ominous as the home side continued in the ascendancy. Dundee wingers, Lemon and Fairweather continued to stretch ‘Burgh who were only seen momentarily in attack. Dundee’s third try arrived courtesy of another close-range effort from the powerful Mackie before Scoular added the conversion for 19-0 after 33 minutes.
Musselburgh were badly missing the graft of Hutson and the line-out expertise of Fleming as they toiled to secure their own ball at times. Strange though, as the minutes ticked on to the interval ‘Burgh had their best period of the game, as a burst by Colin Arthur, with a piece of sleight of hand, that would have done credit to the Harlem Globetrotters, pushed them on to the offensive. They eventually made it to the line after several drives put Ben Hibberd over from close range, which Danny Owenson converted with 39 minutes gone for a half-time score of Dundee HSFP 19 Musselburgh 7.
Prior to the half-time whistle Dundee replacement Angus Farquhar had received a yellow card for handling in the ruck and ‘Burgh having got on the board, began to second half attacking 14 men in an attempt to cut the deficit. The extra man proved advantageous for ‘Burgh after 50 minutes when Brad Graham went over after a series of attacking drives for an unconverted try and 19-12. Then, just as ‘Burgh had closed the gap to within striking distance, 3 minutes later, on 53 minutes, they conceded a try to a solo run clean through their central defence, when centre Neil Herron jinked and sped through between the posts before Scoular easily converted for 26-12.
Musselburgh then replaced Crain and Crawford with Bowman and Kennedy to add fresh legs, as Dundee replaced Lemon and Fairweather with Walker and Sampson. A slightly silly period followed as McLean and Fraser of Dundee both saw yellow cards within a couple of minutes of each other and as ‘Burgh tried to press home their numerical advantage Craig Owenson, was somewhat mysteriously yellow carded after 65 minutes. It was never at any time a dirty game and these decisions and the referee’s somewhat liberal interpretation of the off-side law ensured there would be plenty of post-match discussion over a few friendly pints.
With 15 minutes to go the margin was beginning to look unassailable for ‘Burgh who then introduced Veitch for Hibberd, before a break by Young through the middle was halted just under the posts and from the resultant turnover of possession Dundee No 8 Mackie powerfully burst up the line only for his inside pass to go to ground at the vital moment. Then, as if things were not bad enough for ‘Burgh, Dundee stepped on the gas and Musselburgh completely folded under the onslaught. I don’t think I have ever seen, at this level of rugby, three tries scored in 8 minutes by the same player, but, sadly for ‘Burgh, I did today, when Dundee HSFP’s scrum-half Josh Rutnagur was the man who did the damage in double quick time.
In 70 minutes a spectacular over the shoulder pass by Herron put him over from point blank range for an unconverted try ant 31-12. Five minutes later he scored an interception try, sprinting home from 40-50 yards which Scoular converted for 38-12, then two minutes later another slick Dundee handling move put him in again for his quick-fire “hat-trick” try which went unconverted for 43-12.
Although by this time, obviously well beaten with only a couple of minutes left plus injury time, ‘Burgh managed to show a last burst of defiance as Sandy Watt went over for an unconverted try in the corner for 43-17. Then amazingly, the calamity continued as the hosts flanker George Arnott dotted down for the final try of the game, which was successfully converted by Scoular for a final score of Dundee HSFP 50 Musselburgh17.
The less said about ‘Burgh’s trip to Dundee the better as it transpired that the seconds lost 49-7, to complete ‘Burgh’s very own “Tay Bridge disaster”! All of which makes next week’s match at home to Falkirk even more vital.
15 – R. Young 14 – S. Watt 13 - R. Watt 12 – B. Hibberd 11 – C. Vela 10 – I. Martin 9 – D. Owenson 1 – C. Owenson 2 – C. Slaven 3 – C. Arthur 4 – E. Milton 5 – G. McKinstry 6 – B. Graham 7 – J. Crain 8 – S. Crawford
Replacements - 16 – C. Pryde 17 – G. Bowman 18 – C. Veitch 19 – D. Kennedy