BT National League Division 1
Musselburgh V Jed-Forest
Saturday 27th January 2018
Report by Ian Donaldson
Musselburgh, today welcomed Jed-Forest, a side with renowned handling ability and a reputation for playing open running rugby and a side whose fine form has put them into the reckoning for a play-off place, so there could be no doubt about the task facing ‘burgh. The talk prior to kick-off centred around the windy conditions and how it might affect the Borderers slick handling game. It was therefore thought that, if ‘Burgh could stick the ball “up their jumpers” and play a tight forward orientated game they could get some joy.
After a minute’s silence for 3XV player Nicky Johnstone, who died suddenly last weekend, the game got underway. However, it was the visiting pack who took the early initiative, as almost from the first whistle ‘Burgh were penned in as the blue jerseys appeared to swamp the red of ‘Burgh’s change strip. Goodfellow and Yourston at half back were dictating the early play as their pack looked eager. Then after 8 minutes, a break by Yourston put winger Robbie Shirra-Gibb over in the corner for a fine unconverted try and 0-5.
After losing the first score, ‘Burgh came into the game more, although the windy conditions made the clearing of lines difficult, but Danny Owenson was finding touch with a few penalties after the home pack had squeezed infringements from the visitors. Then, after 12 minutes their pressure was rewarded when Willie Fleming went over from close range, before Danny Owenson made an excellent job of the conversion in the gusty wind to put ‘Burgh 7-5 up.
This was to consequently prove to be ‘Burgh’s best period of the match, as the pack took control with Craig Owenson, Fleming and Arthur all making the hard yards, ably backed by the rest of the pack as ‘Burgh turned the screw. Only desperate Jed defence was keeping them out and just when it looked as if the Borderers would get off the hook, Craig Owenson took the ball “on the crash” and went in under the sticks, allowing his brother Danny to convert and give ‘Burgh a 14-5 lead. Having a nine-point led at this stage was better than many had anticipated, but ‘Burgh were almost immediately brought back to earth with a bump as hesitant defending allowed Darren Gillespie in for an unconverted “sucker punch” try and cut ‘Burgh’s lead to 14-10. The visitors, encouraged by the score began to press again, as ‘Burgh gave away penalties and only the windy conditions and last-ditch tackling was keeping Jed at bay, but eventually the pressure told as Gillespie scored his second try, which Yourston converted for 14-17.
A deficit of only 3 points was not a disaster with 10 minutes to the interval, but Jed appeared to have taken control and for the remainder of the half pummelled ‘Burgh’s line and but for a few uncharacteristic fumbles would have increased their lead. Then just when it looked as though ‘Burgh had weathered the storm Goodfellow jinked his way down the flank and went over in the corner for Jed-Forests fourth and “bonus point” try, which was unconverted, leaving ‘Burgh requiring two scores to service the eight-point deficit of 14-22 at the break.
The second half started, sadly for Musselburgh, as the first had ended, with the visitors in command, their “bonus point” having been procured late in the first half, giving them even more confidence and with six minutes into the second period Monty Mitchell was on hand to finish a neat move before Yourston converted for 14-29.
It was now blatantly obvious to all concerned that to have any chance of saving the match ‘Burgh would have to score next, so for the next 10 minutes ‘Burgh were camped in Jed’s 22, penalties were kicked into corners, catches and drives, rolling mauls and the usual speciality “The Stoneyhill Heave” all came to naught as the Jed defence held firm.
After the hour, Doig and Pritchard were replaced by Hibberd and Kennedy as they followed Stott, who had replaced Arthur in the front row, five minutes earlier. Then the visitors broke from deep inside their own half and hesitant ‘Burgh covering allowed Lewis Young in for a soft try under the posts which Yourston converted for 14-36, then again, a few minutes later Jed, again found a way through as Gillespie went over from close range before Yourston added the extras for 14-43.
‘Burgh, despite being comprehensively beaten, to their credit refused to “chuck it” and engineered a try up the left wing when good handling sent Sandy Watt sprinting into the corner for an unconverted try and 19-43. This being ‘Burgh’s third of the day, gave them 15 minutes in which to attempt to salvage a “bonus point”, if only they could somehow score another try, with the outcome of the game now certainly beyond them. Their prospects looked far from bright as on 70 minutes, another fine handling move put Jed replacement Rory Marshall over under the posts before Yourston again converted to bring up the half century at 19-50.
Musselburgh continued to plug away in search of the elusive fourth try, in the hope that they could at least take what could be a vital point at the end of the season, from a match which had run away from them. They were rewarded with five minutes remaining as “Big Ben” Hibberd twisted inside and outside of the visitor’s defence to score a consolation “bonus point” try before Danny Owenson converted for 26-50.
With the clock ticking down Jed still had one last sting in their tail when Shirra-Gibb went over for his second and Jed’s last try of the day, after another slick handling move, the try was unconverted, but crowned a stylish performance, by a side that took full advantage of every chance that came their way.
Final score MUSSELBURGH 26 JED-FOREST 55.
With no game next Saturday due to the start of the 6 Nations, Musselburgh will not be on League duty till 10th February, when they travel to Philiphaugh to take on Selkirk, who are sitting 4th in the table.