Feb. 11, 2018, 2:29 p.m.
BT National League Division 1
Saturday 10th February 2018
Selkirk V Musselburgh
After a free week for the Scotland v Wales match ‘Burgh found themselves back on the road for a sojourn into the Borders as they travelled to Philiphaugh to take on fourth placed Selkirk, with a much-weakened team, Danny Owenson, Brad Graham, Ben Hibberd, Luke Hutson, Gareth Pritchard, Iain Martin, Euan Milton all being unavailable and Neil McNairn and John Coutts out injured, meaning that several players were playing out of position.
On a bitterly cold afternoon, that had a wintery nip in the air, saw the support of both sides warmly wrapped up as Musselburgh’s Donald Kennedy got the proceedings underway, at the later time of 3pm. Selkirk were certainly keen to turn around their recent losses against Cartha and Aberdeen Grammar with a win over Musselburgh so in the opening quarter they took the game to the visitors. ‘Burgh repelled the early attacks and, on the occasions, that they won the ball, they took the game to Selkirk, with Conor Slaven, Craig Owenson and William Fleming to the fore as the forwards took control of the situation on a park that was soft underfoot. Unfortunately, the handling errors that had dogged Musselburgh in previous weeks crept into the game and allowed the Selkirk winger Josh Welsh to go in at the corner, the conversion was added by stand-off Aaron McColm for the first points on the board for the home side, 7-0.
It quickly became clear that Selkirk meant business when centre, Darren Clapperton jinked his way through the visitors’ defence to go in under the posts, making the conversion easier for McColm and 14-0.
‘Burgh dusted themselves down and begun to play the way that the Mussel burgh support know they can, with Cammy Pryde, Ruairidh Young and the Watt brothers breaking the line, ably supported by the forwards. Selkirk were penalised, and Donald Kennedy kicked for touch, but it didn’t have the legs and Selkirk were once again cutting swathes through the visitors’ defence when Welsh went over for his second try and McColm added the extras for 21-0.
Musselburgh were then forced to make some changes when Rory Smith took a knock, resulting in Corey Vela moving to scrum-half, Donald Kennedy to stand-off and James Doig taking over on the wing., this seemed to unsettle the team slightly as players were out of position. Selkirk were again penalised, and Vela opted to kick for goal, unfortunately it sailed wide, and ‘Burgh were yet to put points on the board.
The next period saw the visitors on the ascendancy with Colin Arthur, Graeme McKinstry and Michael Fleming making the hard yards, before Conor Slaven burst through several tackles before passing to Craig Owenson who barrelled over the line near the post, allowing Vela to split the sticks and ‘Burgh had their first points, 21-7.
Unfortunately, this was short lived as Selkirk hit straight back with two quick tries as the first half drew to a close. The first and Selkirk’s bonus point try was an unconverted one scored by winger Clinton Wagman and the next was Welsh’s hat trick, which he scored under the posts ensuring an easy conversion for McColm and a half time score of SELKIRK 33 MUSSELBURGH 7.
Selkirk started the second half well, but ‘Burgh held strong and play see-sawed back and forward, with possession changing hands on numerous occasions, before Selkirk turned over ball deep in their 22 and Welsh shook off several attempts to stop him as he sprinted the length of the park to score his fourth try under the posts, McColm adding the extras, 40-7.
As we moved into the last quarter, Musselburgh seemed to up their game, forcing several penalties from the home side, culminating in flanker Sean Nixon being shown a yellow card by Mr Grove-White for a deliberate knock-on deep in the home 22. Vela kicked for touch and from the resultant line-out ‘Burgh were on the move towards the try line, only for it to be held up by determined Selkirk defence. Undaunted by this set-back ‘Burgh again came back with youngsters, Jonathan Crain and Thomas Hamilton joining in the fray, the ball going through the visitors’ hands before finding Andrew Cook who found the gap and dotted down over the white wash and Vela added 2 points more for 40-14.
This was quickly followed by a sprint from deep in the ‘Burgh half by James Doig, who was fleet of foot and dodged through the Selkirk defensive line to score ‘Burgh’s third try, Kennedy converted for 40-21. At this point the homsters were determined to keep ‘Burgh from coming away with something from the game as they threw everything at them. Once again, their penalty count was racking up and they were marched back for dissent, which gave cause for the referee to have a chat with Selkirk captain Ross Nixon. As ‘Burgh pushed towards the line, with Ross Gregor and Slaven aided and abetted by the rest of the pack breaking the gain-line, Selkirk again saw a player yellow cared and Wagman went for an early bath as the clock ticked down to no-side. Then against the run of play ‘Burgh’s hope of a bonus point try was dashed when the home side finished the second half as they had the first, by scoring two quick tries, the first by Rory Banks and the second by Clapperton, who ran the length of the park to score Selkirk’s 8th try, McColm converting the first, but not the second for a final score of SELKIRK 52 MUSSELBURGH 21.
‘Burgh, were again left licking their wounds, but for some silly school boy errors and handling mistakes it could have been a much closer scored game.
I’m sure coach Talac will have the team working hard on what went wrong ahead of the home match next Saturday against Cartha Queens Park, who are also on 27 points and are only above Musselburgh because of match points scored.