Sept. 9, 2018, 10:09 p.m.
Tennent’s National League Division 1
Musselburgh v Aberdeen Grammar Rugby
Saturday 8th September 2018
Both teams approached this game in extremely fine fettle after two impressive results on the opening day of the league season. An injury – hit and deleted ‘Burgh side ground out a magnificent 17-12 win over Kelso at Poynder Park, while our visitors crushed Jed forest 68-22 in the Granite city.
Aberdeen Grammar kicked off on a dull, overcast afternoon and immediately had ‘Burgh under the cosh. The visiting pack looked very good early on as they responded to the promptings of their half backs Andrew Ovenstone and Sam Knudson, Knudson at 10 in particular looking very elusive! Their pack also looked eager with prop forward Calum Reddish and No 8 Chris Jollands prominent early on.
Musselburgh hung on, tackling everything in sight and were ironically rewarded by the opportunity to take the lead after 7 minutes, but Danny Owenson’s penalty attempt was unsuccessful. The visitors quickly regained the initiative and continued to bear down on the home line, their back row of Dravitski, Nolan and Jollands, ably backed by their big props Schosser and Reddish, gave the ‘Burgh pack a torrid first quarter. Only desperate last-ditch defence was keeping the visitors out as ‘burgh also conceded a series of penalties in their own 22 which thankfully for ‘Burgh, came to naught, although at one time, the ‘Burgh faithful worried about the referee possibly awarding a penalty try.
In Tom Aplin and Sean Mills in the centre Aberdeen had two of the biggest centres I’ve ever seen, and they were not shy of backing themselves and using their wingers Coe and Ruxton to good effect. ‘Burgh’s back row of Pryde, Maltman and Declan Slaven, together with the rest of the pack tacked themselves to a standstill, but for long periods ‘Burgh could not escape their own half. Danny Owenson and Stuart Thomson were both required to kick intelligently to clear their lines on occasion. The injured Bob Stott was replaced by the only slightly less injured Craig Owenson as ‘Burgh attempted to struggle on.
Then finally, after 23 minutes of almost constant attack, the visitors got their reward as No 8 Chris Jollands went over from close range for an unconverted try and 0-5. Such was the visitor’s early domination, it almost beggared belief that it had taken so long to do so. However, 2 minutes later they appeared to be making up for lost time when flanker Nolan went over in the corner following a somewhat controversial flip pass from the winger who appeared to be in touch, but the try was given, but unconverted for 10-0.
Even, at 10 points in arrears the score line flattered ‘Burgh, considering both tries had been unconverted and the massive domination of possession.
Then, as if on cue, and to the delight of all those of a Musselburgh persuasion, ‘Burgh sprang to life, as after a few phases of pressure replacement Craig Owenson went over from close range. Further joy ensued as big brother’s try was converted by wee brother, Danny to bring ‘Burgh back within striking distance at 7-10.
Two minutes later on 34 minutes, incredibly, ‘Burgh struck again to take the lead, a great handling move across the park before Willie Fleming intercepted an Aberdeen pass before sprinting up the field before passing to Martin Cimprich who took his chance superbly by sprinting for the line for an unconverted try and a ‘Burgh lead of 12-10.
If anyone has ever wondered about the saying “Tries change games” and the possible truth behind it, it’s a popular saying because it’s true!
Suddenly ‘Burgh were looking a better team, but just before we were thinking about a half time lead the visitors scored virtually on the half time whistle! A fine breakaway concluded with Aberdeen No 8 Chris Jolland going over for this second unconverted try of the day and Aberdeen’s third for a halftime score of MUSSELBURGH 12 ABERDEEN GRAMMAR 15.
Owenson restarted for Musselburgh and promptly put his side on the offensive and after only 42 minutes ‘Burgh scored their third try of the day after a break up the wing was followed by slick hands to put Kyle McGhie over before Owenson converted for 19-15.
The match was now developing into a really exciting ding dong affair, as only 4 minutes later, on 46 minutes the visitors got their fourth and ‘bonus point’ try when the very impressive No 8 Chris Jollands got his “hat trick” after a pushover, but once again it went unconverted after coming off the post for 19-20.
The slenderest of leads for the visitors was dully reversed a mere 2 minutes later as Danny Owenson’s penalty also hit the post, but this time it went over for 22-20. The all action fluctuating nature of the game continued as on 52 minutes Sean Mills, one of the visitor’s big centres burst through the ‘Burgh rear-guard for a superb solo try which was converted by his centre partner Aplin to put the visitors back ahead at 22-17.
A mere 3 minutes later, on 55 minutes, this terrific game took yet another turn as a slick handling move put Ronan Stott into the corner for an exceptionally well taken try, diving below his would-be tackler to score ‘Burgh’s “bonus point” try. The conversion was missed, and we were all square at 27-17.
Shortly after the try there was further drama, as Aberdeen prop Calum Reddish was yellow carded for foul play and Fraser Millar replaced Ross Gregor, who had taken a knock. The replacement was temporary and was reversed shortly after when Gregor was able to return to the fray.
Although the score board was level at 27-27 it began to look as though the visitors were tiring as ‘Burgh took the initiative in an attempt to secure victory. As the home pack turned the screw the 14-man visitors coughed up a penalty and Danny Owenson was again spot on for a lead of 30-27 after 63 minutes.
‘Burgh continued to press in a complete reversal of the first half hour, when the visitors were in charge, as the hosts were finishing the stronger team. The pressure yielded another penalty which was unconverted, as the visitors threw their bodies on the line to keep ‘Burgh out, a 3-point lead would be easily reversable and as we reached the closing stages with such a slight lead, there were nerves galore in the Musselburgh supporters’ heads.
Stuart Thomson then produced the kick of the match, a long narrow touch, up the club house touchline which again set ‘Burgh on the offensive. Then finally, in the last minute, all the nerves were soothed by a breakaway try by the outstanding Kyle McGhie who scored in the corner after kicking on a loose ball, the try was unconverted, but ‘Burgh had edged it home 35-27 after a hugely entertaining game.
Huge credit goes to ‘Burgh after surviving an early pummelling and finishing the stronger side. Credit also must go to Aberdeen Grammar for their part in a great game.
What a superb start to the new season for ‘Burgh and next week sees them back on the road as they travel to Marr for what is sure to be another tough test.
Conor Slaven, Ross Gregor, Robert Stott, William Fleming, Graeme McKinstry, Cameron Pryde, Michael Maltman, Declan Slaven, Kyle McGhie, Danny Owenson, Martin Cimprich, Rory Watt, Rory Smith, Ronan Stott, Stuart Thomson
Craig Owenson, Fraser Millar, Euan O'Brien, Craig Veitch