Nov. 25, 2018, 5:58 p.m.
National League Cup, 2nd round
Musselburgh V Hamilton
Saturday 24th November 2018
Report by Ian Donaldson
Musselburgh welcomed league rivals Hamilton Bulls to Stoneyhill for the second round of the National League Cup. ‘Burgh made a few changes from last week’s win over Kelso with Martin Cimprich starting at stand-off, Craig Veitch starting in the centre and Cammy Pryde and Michael Fleming returning to the back row.
On a dull, overcast day ‘Burgh got the game started but the visitors started well, rebuffing any forward momentum ‘Burgh could muster, McLeish and Crush, the Hamilton halfbacks directing operations behind an eager pack, who settled well. ‘Burgh, meantime were handicapped by an early injury which forced Ross Gregor to limp off before being replaced by Jonathan Crain.
In spite of the visitors early promise, ‘Burgh then continued the habit they appear to have acquired this season, that of soaking up the pressure before hitting opponents against the run of play. The score was classic Musselburgh as the “Stoneyhill special” maul did the damage before Cammy Pryde went over from close range. Kyle McGhie added the extras and ‘Burgh were 7-0 up with only 8 minutes on the clock.
The Bulls, however, were undaunted by the early setback and in 12 minutes pulled back a score of their own when a nice handling move put their winger Sinclair over for an unconverted try and 7-5. Then, as had been threatening, the heavens opened making conditions for all concerned, very difficult and the ball into a veritable “bar of soap” for the players.
Play became fragmented as the visitors had plenty of possession forcing ‘Burgh to defend their line with vigour. Hamilton’s front row of Leggate, McQueen and Richardson were all prominent in the loose as well as holding their own in the set pieces. Their back row of Craig, White and Alexander also making life uncomfortable for ‘Burgh. Both teams attempted to play running rugby, but in such dreadful conditions it was proving difficult and I was very much in agreement with a visiting supporter who opined that it was a good day for “sticking the ball up their jumper”
Both teams huffed and puffed and could not breach the line, but Kyle McGhie increased ‘Burgh’s lead to 10-5 after kicking a penalty on 33 minutes. Hamilton continued to give a good account of themselves, but again found themselves hit by a ‘Burgh sucker punch as James Ferguson continued his scoring run after last week’s hat trick, by going over from close range, before Kyle McGhie converted for 17-5 to ‘Burgh at the break.
As the second half started the conditions worsened, but the visitors continued to take the game to ‘burgh, as centres Decelle and Whitelaw attempted to feed their wingers at every opportunity as their pack fronted up well against the ‘Burgh pack. Musselburgh’s third try arrived in 50 minutes and was the match highlight, scored by, in my opinion, the man of the match, Kyle McGhie, who broke through the middle, skilfully eluding the flailing Hamilton tackling before going over for a solo try which he converted for 24-5. Such has been McGhie’s excellent form this season that a try like this was not exactly a surprise, although it appeared to ensure progress in the cup for ‘Burgh, the visitors kept plugging away.
The slog in the rain continued and the visitors eventually scored a richly deserved try by flanker White, before centre Decelle converted for a final score of MUSSELBURGH 24 HAMILTON 12.
As ‘Burgh advance in the cup, next week sees a return to league business with a trip to the Granite City for what will be an other difficult test against Aberdeen Grammar FP.