BT National League Division 1
Musselburgh V Cartha Queen’s Park
Saturday 17th February 2018
Report by Ian Donaldson
The visit of Cartha Queens Park to Stoneyhill promised to be a crucial fixture for both sides, who were level on points as the game kicked off.
The visitor’s started the brighter and quickly gained early territorial advantage and possession. ‘Burgh were finding it difficult to clear their lines as the well organised visiting pack drove on.
Then, in an extraordinary series of events, ‘Burgh took the lead against the run of play. Following a break by the ‘Burgh backs up the left flank, Cartha full back Andy Scott was yellow carded as he halted the home attack. The resultant penalty to the corner and drive for the line concluded in Jonathan Crain scoring from close range. The conversion was unsuccessful, but ‘Burgh were five points to the good after a somewhat rocky start.
The early yellow card for Scott was seen as harsh by many, including Musselburgh supporters and was looked upon as the referee putting down an early marker as to what he would and wouldn’t accept, but ‘Burgh took full advantage. With Scott still “binned” they increased their lead on 11 minutes as a fine handling move and break by Andrew Cook released Sandy Watt to sprint home, before a very good conversion by Danny Owenson made it 12-0.
After a somewhat shaky start, ‘Burgh had weathered the early storm and managed to squeeze out a lead, which would now require to be consolidated, but as has often happened this season, this failed to materialise.
Three minutes after going twelve points down, Cartha forced several good attacking positions in the home 22 and eventually their prop Juan Phyfer forced himself over for the try which was converted by stand-off Gregor Davidson, thereby reducing the deficit to 12-7 after 15 minutes. This encouraged the visitors and their half-backs Davidson and McDougall began to direct operations well and give their pack plenty to bite on.
Then with only 20 minutes on the clock there came a second controversial yellow card when Ruairidh Young and Cartha winger Jonny Campion chased a kick ahead into the corner, the resultant battle for possession concluded with a penalty try to Cartha and a yellow card for Young, and, also the lead for Cartha at 12-14.
Again, like the previous yellow card decision, it seemed rather harsh as what physical contact that did occur, appeared to be of six of one and half a dozen of the other.
Musselburgh held their own despite the numerical disadvantage and even did some pressing of their own with Cook and Fleming being particularly prominent. After 28 minutes they forced a penalty, but Owenson was unlucky with the difficult kick as the wind took the ball off target.
Both sides were having their moments as play moved from end to end as Colin Arthur and Craig Owenson’s heavy carries were matched by those of Downer and Totic of Cartha and while Burrows at centre for Cartha showed up well, he was often more than matched by Andrew Cook who was having a fine game.
With a deficit of only two points as the interval came into sight it was imperative for ‘Burgh that they kept their line intact, but alas, it was not to be and on 37 minutes a slick move up the flank and a sprint for the line by Cartha centre Burrows put him over for a try which was converted by Davidson for 12-21, stretching the lead to nine points at the break. An incident packed first half had produced many talking points and had left the second half with all to play for on both sides. It was seen by many of the locals as imperative, that if ‘Burgh had any chance of winning that they would have to score first after the interval.
But, again, as appears to be ‘Burgh’s fortunes this season, the desired effect was not forth coming, as on 45 minutes Cartha increased their lead as centre Ewen Campbell took a quick pass “on the crash” to go over for 12-28, and more importantly, given both sides league position, a “bonus” point.
Things, indeed looked bleak for ‘Burgh at this point and many of the supporters were distinctly “Doon at the mooth”, although hopeful of some sort of revival.
Ross Gregor replaced Conor Slaven at hooker and on 48 minutes, three minutes after losing Cartha’s “bonus” point try, ‘Burgh went some way forcing themselves back into the game. Several passages of attacking play finally concluded with Rory Watt joining his brother on the scoresheet with an unconverted try for 17-28.
Musselburgh continued to press and move the ball well as if lifted by Watt’s try and the Cartha rear-guard was now being tested. The pressure eventually told when ‘Burgh replacement Donald Kennedy went over for ‘Burgh’s “Bonus” point try which Owenson converted for 24-28, and it was “game-on” once more.
Pryde replaced Crain as ‘burgh introduced more fresh legs in an attempt to retain momentum, which it dully did, as ‘Burgh continued to hold the upper-hand, if not on the scoreboard. Colin Arthur was causing havoc with bursting carries and Hutson, Fleming and Owenson all took the game to Cartha, and Cook and the two Watts took to their heels at every opportunity and Danny Owenson was a constant irritation to Cartha with his sniping runs.
Then in 68 minutes, the revival was complete, and the grins reappeared on the ‘Burgh faithful’s faces as Donald Kennedy scored his second close range try of the day. The try was enhanced by Owenson’s best conversion of the day in the windy conditions for ‘Burgh to lead again at 31-28 with time now the enemy of the visitors.
Cartha were now making a huge effort to get their noses back in front and their annoyance at losing such a commanding lead was driving them on. Then after 70 minutes Cartha suffered another blow, when the referee was summoned by the touch judge’s flag and following a lengthy discussion gave Andy Scott the Cartha full back a second yellow card which amounted to a red and dismissal. The touch judge had apparently seen a “tip tackle” which occurred in the referee’s blind side.
Although ‘Burgh’s lead was slender, facing 14 men for only a few minutes, a vital victory which earlier looked impossible was now on the cards. Cartha, however, were of a different mind, and threw everything at ‘Burgh in a last ditch forward orientated effort to pull it out of the bag. On three separate occasions they forced the home pack to concede very kickable penalties, but amazingly on each occasion chose to kick to touch. Musselburgh were hanging on for dear life and fingernails of both sides of supporters were being bitten to the quick. Then with two minutes to play after Cartha had taken the scrum option another penalty, the home pack were penalised, and the penalty try awarded for 31-35.
The visiting supporters and officials danced with joy as all of a ‘Burgh persuasion looked on in disbelief. Even, then, the drama was not ended, as tragically for ‘Burgh, the ball was fumbled with the line gaping in the last move of the game for a final score of MUSSELBURGH 31 CARTHA QUEENS PARK 35.
To be a neutral watching this game must have been hugely entertaining with ten tries, evenly shared, two yellow cards and a red card, two penalty tries all mixed in with a match which would be vital for both clubs league status. But there were very few neutrals at this game and both Cartha and ‘Burgh fans might be heading home with raised blood pressure, albeit for different reasons.
There is a free week for ‘Burgh next week as Scotland take on the “Auld enemy” at BT Murrayfield in the Calcutta cup. ‘Burgh’s next game, on the 3rd March will be away at Harlaw Road, Aberdeen when they take on 7th placed Aberdeen Grammar.