Saturday 4th November 2017
BT National League Division 1
Musselburgh V Falkirk
Report by Ian Donaldson
The bright afternoon had a distinct nip in the air as Musselburgh lined up to take on fellow relegation strugglers Falkirk in what was sure to be a vital match for both sides, especially following Stewart’s Melville’s fine win at Netherdale last week. Last week’s defeat in Dundee brought three changes to the ‘Burgh line-up as Gareth Pritchard replaced Iain Martin, Willie Fleming replaced Euan Milton and Cameron Pryde replaced Brad Graham who moved to No 8 in the continued absence of Luke Hutson.
‘Burgh again showed their newly acquired sartorial elegance when wearing their new change strip to avoid a colour clash as Danny Owenson got the game underway for Musselburgh.
‘Burgh applied the early pressure with Danny Owenson and Gareth Pritchard making sniping runs and probing kicks into Falkirk’s 22. Several handling movements and early drives were repelled before ‘Burgh were awarded a penalty, which was placed into the corner in the recognised fashion, Fleming took the line-out, but the drive was stopped, albeit only temporarily by the visitor’s defence, before Fleming peeled off the back of the maul to take the scoring pass and go over to open the scoring after only 7 minutes, before Owenson made an excellent job of the conversion for 7-0.
A good start in such a vital game for ‘Burgh, could have been even better, when 3 minutes later poor handling wasted a glorious chance about ten metres out with a two man overlap. ‘Burgh continued to press but chances continued to go a begging, a common problem which has happened all too often this season which must be extremely frustrating for both the coaching staff and the players alike.
The pressure ‘Burgh were applying eventually drew some sort of reward on 17 minutes as the visiting pack were penalised and Owenson slotted the penalty to put ‘Burgh 10-0 up. The play continued to flow towards Falkirk’s line and their stand-off Faulds and full-back Rooney both made fine clearance kicks. The visitors also had in their ranks Marko Mladenovic, an ex- ‘Burgh man who was visiting his old stamping ground and tackling with his usual fervour.
The pressure did, however, tell after 20 minutes when a good move by ‘Burgh brought the second try when Owenson went over following a neat unselfish pass from Cory Vela, before Owenson again made a fine conversion of his own try for 17-0. It was following this try that the Falkirk pack began to engage more fully and bring some pressure to bear on the home eight.
Mladenovic, obviously keen to put on a show for his ‘Burgh pals, was well backed by Scobie and Howie as the knock-on effect raised their packs morale. Their flurries were spirited, but ‘Burgh, through solid defending kept them at arm’s length until they could turn the tables on the visitors, which they managed to do after some attacking forward play the ball went loose and Rory Watt scored from close range, not a classic try in the corner but another superb conversion by Owenson out near the touchline for 24-0 after 35 minutes.
As the interval drew near, ‘Burgh started to look as if they had at last got the bit between their teeth when they scored the best try of the game for their fourth and bonus point try. It started with a great break from deep in his own 22 by Young, who jinked, battered and sprinted through the visiting defence, before being caught and offloading in the tackle to Vela for an easy score which also constituted great support play from Vela as he had sprinted over from the other side of the park to take the pass. The conversion was missed but ‘Burgh led 29-0 as we headed into first-half injury time.
The scoreboard suggested ‘Burgh looked comfortable, but Falkirk gamely gave it their all and their attitude and a brief period of pressure was rewarded when stand-off Faulds jinked round his man to go over from close range for an unconverted try and a half time score of Musselburgh 29 Falkirk 5.
With a “bonus” point in the bag
And a substantial interval lead ‘Burgh had reason to be satisfied with their first half performance, although they continued to be vulnerable through the centre of the park and the passing and execution of moves could have been better. Having said that it was the visitor’s ‘soft centre’ which was exposed after only four minutes of the second period when Danny Owenson broke through the middle and had to make for the corner before touching down, thereby making the conversion attempt more difficult for himself, but again he rose to the occasion with another fine kick for 36-5. The lead extended ‘Burgh then made a raft of changes with Bowman, Martin and Moffitt replacing Pryde, Pritchard and Hibberd.
Falkirk still offered stern resistance with Govan, Simpson and McCulloch catching the eye and stand-off Faulds, looked good. It may have been indicative of both Falkirk and Musselburgh’s season so far, that when both teams have failed to score at one end they have been punished on the break at the other, hence the league positions.
This duly happened again to Falkirk in 52 minutes when Young sprinted into the corner before Owenson kicked another excellent conversion for 43-5. Owenson kicked better today than he had all season and also helped himself to 23 points courtesy of two tries, five conversions and a penalty.
In spite of the ongoing deficit Falkirk however, refused to buckle and a break through ‘Burgh’s central defence by Falkirk’s back row produced a deserved score by flanker Howie in 56 minutes, the conversion missed and ‘Burgh led 43-10. As the hour mark came and went, it appeared, as though the visitors had got a second wind and decided to go down with all guns blazing.
Ramsay and Hall linked well in the centre as the pack showed great heart, especially when being prompted by Faulds at stand-off, who played excellently. Then on 62 minutes they were rewarded for their efforts by their third try of the game when Faulds scored his second try of the day highlighting his own personal performance, the conversion was again unsuccessful, but even at 43-15 down, Falkirk could see a bonus point on the horizon if they could force another try. This was not something Musselburgh had contemplated at halftime with such a lead. In tight title battles and relegation struggles ‘bonus points’ in any shape or form have proved crucial in the past as Falkirk attempted to do exactly what ‘Burgh had done with four losing tries to Aberdeen Grammar in the last home game. ‘Burgh, conversely had the incentive of sending on of their relegation rivals home pointless which would aid their own survival chances.
In the final quarter Falkirk gave it everything and had the lion’s share of possession as ‘Burgh tried to fend off the possibility of a fourth Falkirk try and with 77 minutes gone the home backs clicked into gear and put replacement Moffitt over in the corner for an unconverted try and a final score of Musselburgh 48 Falkirk 15.
A precious “five-point win” for ‘burgh which now sees them into a three week break from league duty, during which they play away to GHA in the BT Cup and the same day as Scotland are set to beat New Zealand for the first time!
Following the Autumn internationals ‘Burgh face their own version of the Border league as they take on Gala, Selkirk and Kelso in consecutive league games.
They will have to be at their very best, as will Scotland against the All Blacks