Nov. 4, 2018, 7:06 p.m.
Tennent’s National League Division 1
Saturday 3rd November 2018
Selkirk V Musselburgh
Report by Ian Donaldson
The final leg of Musselburgh’s “Border Tour” too them to a rain lashed Piliphaugh following their fine win in Jedburgh last week, which followed away wins in Kelso and Gala earlier in the season. ‘Burgh had every reason to feel confident given recent results, but on a day of almost constant rain, the playing conditions for both teams were atrocious.
The hosts kicked off and the wind and rain made fluent handling rugby almost an impossibility as last weeks happy ‘Burgh punters looked on like “drookit craws”. These conditions made the game very untidy and shapeless but after 4 minutes the home pack infringed and Danny Owenson put ‘Burgh three points up, 0-3.
Both teams appeared to be looking to establish an attacking foot-hold but it was extremely difficult in these conditions and play swung from end to end. With 12 minutes on the clock Selkirk scrum half Aaron McColm levelled the score at 3-3 with a penalty. The match continued to be a bit of a slog, but amid all the heavy forward exchanges when ‘Burgh did get the ball out, Gregor Tait showed a great deal of adventure and a willingness to use his pace in the squelchy conditions.
The ‘Burgh pack were certainly not cowed by the conditions with Michael Maltman and Colin Arthur making the “hard yards” with heavy carries and the two Flemings and McKinstry using their line-out skills as well in the loose. Selkirk appeared to have a pack that was physically a bit bigger than ‘Burgh’s and their locks Andrew Renwick and Donald Nichol were always prepared to have a go with ball in hand. Although the play was scrappy Selkirk appeared to gain a little territorial ascendancy as the McColm brothers Arron and Callum at half-back began to threaten.
As a matter of interest the Selkirk match announcer intimated that the home squad contained three sets of brothers, The Nixon’s, The McColms and The MacDougalls to which I replied that ‘Burgh also had three sets, The Owensons, The Flemings and The Stotts. I didn’t have the heart to confuse him further by telling him we still had The Slavens, The Crains, The Watts and The Bowmans!!
Somewhat against the run of play, however, Danny Owenson restored ‘Burgh’s 3-point lead for 3-6 with a penalty on the half hour. Then two minutes later the visitors’ line was breached by a break up the flank by Selkirk full-back Josh Welsh who fed centre Craig McDougall who went over for the try, the conversion attempt was unsuccessful leaving ‘Burgh 8-6 in arrears. The deficit on the scoreboard did not last long as a great piece of cheeky opportunism by Danny Owenson who produced a drop goal out of nowhere and ‘Burgh led 9-8 at the break after his brother Craig received a yellow card.
After another 40 minutes of massively draining rugby in very poor conditions and it took the hosts only three minutes to grasp back the lead as scrumhalf Aaron McColm slotted a penalty for 11-9. Musselburgh made a couple of changes as Euan O’Brien replaced Michael Fleming and Jonathan Crain replaced Hutson.
The home pack forced another penalty out of ‘Burgh in 47 minutes and again McColm did the needful for 14-9. Musselburgh then began to produce their best rugby of the day as the pack took control and squeezed numerous penalties from the hosts, driving them back constantly. Danny Owenson continued to play “tap” penalties allowing his pack to drive at Selkirk. As the penalty count rose some of us were thinking in terms of a penalty try, but eventually William Fleming crossed the whitewash before Danny Owenson added an excellent conversion to put ‘Burgh back in the lead at 16-14.
As the game went into the closing stages Musselburgh again rang the changes with Ruairidh Young replacing James Ferguson and Ronan Stott replacing Rory Smith. With such a slender lead, both sides had to be extremely careful in the dreadful conditions as penalties either way could prove crucial in the final reckoning. But, sadly for Musselburgh, on this occasion the only score left in this game was a breakaway try by Aaron McColm, who went on to convert his try for a final score of SELKIRK 21 MUSSELBURGH 16.
And, so ‘Burgh’s winning run comes to an end, but a losing bonus point from a fixture in the Borders is never something to be sniffed at.
By the time Saturday’s match at Stoneyhill against Kirkcaldy kicks -off some of us “drookit craws” may even be dry. With Scotland kicking off against Fiji at 2.30pm the game at Stoneyhill will KO at 12.30pm.