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MATCH REPORT: Musselburgh 42-42 Glasgow Hawks

Stephen Brunsdon for The Offside Line.

IT WAS a game that neither side really deserved to lose, so it was perhaps fitting that Musselburgh and Glasgow Hawks played out a high-scoring end-to-end draw.

But for all the running rugby on display throughout, disappointment was painted on the faces of both coaches with a case of what could have been for the two teams at opposite ends of the Premiership table.

Musselburgh had been close to pulling off a win against Hawick last weekend and were keen to confirm their strong start to the campaign by breaking into the top four. Hawks, meanwhile, aimed to finally get back-to-back wins.

“We were our own worst enemy, in a way,” reflected Burgh head coach Derek O’Riordan. “We have a tendency to fall asleep during games and we had a 40-minute nap in the first half. This season we’re fighting for the top four, which is sort of against our own expectations, but we’re still struggling to finish off games.”

His Hawks counterpart Andy Hill was equally downbeat post-match: “To lose the lead we had in the second half will be the hard part for us to take in, that’s where it probably feels like a loss to us. All credit to the boys from Musselburgh, I thought they made a good fist of it.”

Musselburgh surged into the lead through a Rory Hindaugh charge-down try after just 30 seconds. Hawks replied immediately from the restart and scored through centre James Pinkerton. Those two early tries set the tone for the match, which was end-to-end in each half.

The hosts just about had the edge early on and scored their second try via full-back Paul Cunningham before Gavin Cruickshanks reduced the deficit to four with a penalty after 15 minutes.

Hawks then utilised their effective line-out set-piece to take the lead following a superb line-break from James Couper; the full-back sliced through the defensive line to go under the sticks, with Cruickshanks’ conversion taking the visitors three points clear. The Glaswegians then increased their margin through the rapid Torquil McLeod, who finished off a terrific counter with a searing run down his left wing.

Musselburgh had found themselves in a bit of a hole but clawed their way back into the match thanks to a Danny Owenson penalty on the cusp of half-time, despite the home side losing hooker Craig Owenson to a yellow card following an apparent punch.

The first half had been frantic, but neither side showed signs of letting up at the start of the second period, particularly Hawks as they bagged the bonus point following another inspired burst from McLeod.

Burgh’s defence was all over the place and Hawks twisted the knife by stretching from side to side. Eventually, Marcus Goodwin crashed over from short range.

And the hosts were back under their posts shortly after the restart as McLeod once more caused havoc down his wing. After strong carries from Lewis Stewart and Max Crumlish, McLeod had an easy stroll over in the corner.

Suddenly, Hawks were leading 32-15. Burgh were stunned, almost shellshocked. But their comeback was masterful, and it began with asserting their dominance in the scrum, something they did with aplomb.

Flanker Michael Maltman had a superb game, and he got the home side back scoring from close range, while Sandy Watt demonstrated his prowess on the left wing by finishing off another period of scrum-based territory inside the Hawks 22. Fly-half Matthew McMillan wasn’t as sharp off the kicking tee as he would have hoped and shipped six points which may have given Burgh more momentum, but the shift had begun in Burgh’s favour, nonetheless.

And before long, Burgh was ahead. They pulverised Hawks’ pack, and replacement Michael Badenhorst bundled over while Fionn Call – on for Danny Owenson at scrum-half – ran in his side’s fifth score of the afternoon.

Although Hill’s men were struggling in the set-piece, they still produced potent threats in the backline, with Sam Graham levelling the scores heading into the final 10 minutes. A quick scrum meant Hawks could put the ball through the hands of Cruickshanks, with scrum-half James Imrie on the loop, feeding Couper inside. The full-back needed only to draw the last man to put Graham in the corner. Game on.

But Burgh fought back once more and, predictably, made the most of a dominant scrum to get on the front foot. Hawks had already lost centre Jos McConkey to a yellow card and were now made to pay by Jordan Lister crossing for another score. Crucially, Owenson’s conversion attempt hit the uprights.

That gave Hawks one last opportunity to win the match and, when replacement Ryan Howie went over from a few yards out, it looked like the game finally had a winner. But Cruickshanks’ conversion went wide, and the collective sighs of relief almost made you think Storm Babet had arrived after all.

“It was great that Hawks came here to play, but for us the more important thing was that we overturned a 56-0 defeat to them here last season,” said O’Riordan. “Fionn came on and kicked a lot for territory and made the wind behind us a two-score advantage. But we need to be able to finish off games better because we afforded them too many chances to get on top of us.”

Teams –

Musselburgh: Paul Cunningham; Rory Hindhaugh, Rory Watt©, Rory Smith, Sandy Watt; Matthew McMillan, Danny Owenson; Craig Owenson, Robert Stott, Darren Miller, Joss Arnold, Jak Haynes, Jordan Lister, Matthew Crawford, Michael Maltman. Subs: Raymond Mackie, Ross Hanning, Michael Badenhorst, Fionn Call, Ben Heber.

Glasgow Hawks: J Couper; S Graham, J Pinkerton, J McConkey, T Macleod; G Cruickshanks, J Imrie; M Downer, A Burgess, M Goodwin, M Crumlish, S Leckey©, L Stewart, JP Thomson, T Wright. Subs: R Howie, K Shanahan, A Syme, R Darroch, R Flett.

Referee: Michael Todd


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