Original report from The Offside Line by Gary Heatly
AN excellently taken try with a minute to play from winger Sandy Watt won this cracking end-to-end clash for Musselburgh against Heriot’s Blues.
When back-row Innes Hill went over for Heriot’s Blues just a couple of minutes earlier, they had tied things up at 34-34 and looked like they might grab an away win with two men in the sin-bin after hauling themselves back from 21-0 down after just 21 minutes, because stand-off Luke Townsend had a chance to put the visitors ahead with the conversion, but it missed to leave things level before Watt’s sucker punch.
This was Musselburgh’s first ever competitive victory over Heriot’s and they have now won three Premiership games in a row. They took five points from this one while Heriot’s picked up two losing bonus points.
And both sets of players deserve credit for putting on such a show – including 11 tries, three yellow cards and plenty of drama – in tricky conditions with the rain never stopping.
“It was another characterful performance, I was really pleased with the way that we never gave up,” Musselburgh head coach Derek O’Riordan said. “We could have just taken our medicine when the momentum swing came in the second half and Heriot’s got going in attack, but we got the bit between our teeth and against 13 men we managed to get over the line, it was fantastic.
“Going forward, the last three results take the pressure off us a bit in terms of where we are in the league and this is a huge day for us as a club, the first time we have ever beaten Heriot’s in a competitive match.”
Musselburgh came out of the blocks flying off the back of wins at Jed-Forest and Selkirk and they were 7-0 up after just five minutes when loose-head Ross Brown scored a try and stand-off Matthew McMillan converted.
Things got better for them five minutes later when winger James Ferguson went over in the corner and McMillan nailed the tricky conversion.
Heriot’s had not really got off the bus at this point and, in the 20th minute, second-row Malachy Keough was yellow carded.
Things got even worse 60 seconds later when centre Ben Heber scored Musselburgh’s third try converted by McMillan.
With 14 men, Heriot’s scored with pretty much their first attack of the day when hooker Duncan Hood went over in the corner in the 27th minute. Townsend could not convert, but it gave them a foothold in things. A McMillan penalty put Musselburgh 24-5 up at half-time.
Heriot’s needed to show a bit more urgency and accuracy after the break and they did that pretty much straight away. In the 45th minute, Keough went over for their second try with Townsend adding the extras.
And 24-12 soon became 24-17 when Keough went over for his second, this time it being an unconverted effort.
As the final quarter of the match began, Heriot’s, whose bench players were making a good impact, had their tails up and their bonus point try came through back-row Rory Kirkpatrick.
It was unconverted and then Musselburgh replacement Danny Owenson kicked a penalty to steady the ship and put the East Lothian men 27-22 up.
The final 15 minutes of this game were as frantic as you will see. Heriot’s scrum-half Chris Yuill scampered under the posts for a try which was converted by Townsend and gave the Goldenacre men the lead for the first time 29-27.
With eight minutes remaining, after a number of penalties were given away by the team near their own try line, Heriot’s No 8 Ali Johnston was sent to the sin=bin.
Musselburgh took advantage with hooker Bob Stott getting their bonus point fourth try converted by Owenson. At the same time Heriot’s centre Trent Storen was yellow-carded leaving the visitors two men down for the remaining few minutes.
Then came the thrilling ending, Hill’s try being followed by Watt’s score for which he found some space out wide, beat his man and ran in from 25 metres out. Owenson could not convert, but the ball was knocked on off the kick-off and then put dead, meaning the home side had edged an epic 39-34.
“We know that we are a young group, so there is a bit of naivety in there at times,” Heriot’s Blues head coach Phil Smith said. “The guys did so well to get back into the game as they did even going ahead at one point.
“So, to not be able to go on and complete the comeback was just a bit frustrating. Overall, our error count was too high and our penalty count was too high, so we’ll look at that and learn from it.”
Musselburgh: R Hindhaugh; J Ferguson, R Watt©, B Heber, S Watt; M McMillan, F Call; R Brown, R Stott, D Miller, J Haynes, M Badenhorst, J Arnold, M Crawford, J Lister. Subs: R Mackie, R Hanning, G Inkster, D Owenson, R Smith.
Heriot’s Blues: A Hunter; P Christie, B Kay©, T Storen, C Meager; L Townsend, C Yuill; A Munro, D Hood, A Bogle, N Docherty, M Keough, R Kirkpatrick, I Hill, A Johnston. Subs: R Jackson, J Lascelles, P Spence, S Wallace, K Singleton.
Referee: Tom French.