It was very appropriate that the 99th anniversary of Musselburgh's founding as a club should coincide with a fixture which could go along way to deciding 'Burgh's Premiership fate namely a visit from Selkirk,a club that has historically been very successful in Scottish rugby and a club who have supplied many players to the national team over the years.
For such an important fixture from 'Burgh's point of view,the conditions were atrocious, or some might say,typically Scottish, meaning gale force wind and torrential rain ! Danny Owenson kicked off for 'Burgh with the wind at their backs in the first half,in the hope that a sizeable lead could be gained which would be sufficient to see them through what would be certain to be a second half onslaught by the visitors.
The early initiative was with 'Burgh as they pinned the Borderers back with astute kicking from Danny Owenson and Freddie Roddick finding the angles for set piece situations and after 5 minutes Selkirk conceded a penalty which , unluckily for Owenson and 'Burgh , came back off the post as the wind found it's first,but not its last,victim of the day ! The conditions were similar to last weeks Calcutta Cup match at Murrayfield, the difference being that the 'drookit craws' attending this match were not seated or partly covered like the Six Nations 'softies' !
The play continued in the same vein and 'Burgh's heavy ball carriers Michael Maltman and Colin Arthur,strove to break down the Border resistance aided and abetted by a very willing pack as the play was kept almost exclusively in the hands of the forwards to negate the effects of the wind.Selkirk's defence was stubborn and well organised,but eventually the pressure told and Luke Hutson stretched out to go in under the posts to open the scoring,Owenson then converted and after 11 minutes 'Burgh had a 7-0 lead. 'Burgh continued in the ascendancy on the restart and all roads were leading to the visitors line,but tremendous defence by the visiting back row of Mackay,McClymont and captain Ewan MacDougall kept the hosts out meantime.Selkirk's props, Pettie and Riddell were also to the fore keeping the play tight in the forwards hands.
Musselburgh however, were not to be denied, and after play had been recycled countless times by Owenson after great driving play by Haynes,Brown and Champion, Paddy Brown went over for 'Burgh's second try of the day,the conversion attempt being unsuccessful,but leaving 'Burgh 12-0 up after 27 minutes.
The prospect of playing into a heavy wind and torrential rain in the second half probably required 'Burgh to increase their lead in the first half with the wind,but unfortunately despite plenty of possession by the home pack,the visitors held firm to the interval at
Musselburgh 12 Selkirk 0 The general consensus of opinion amongst the 'experts in raincoats' at half time was that 'Burgh would have to tackle like demons as if their lives depended on it to get anything from this match against a fine Selkirk side and conditions that Donald Duck wouldn't go out in !
It was astonishing how quickly their fears were justified,as after a mere five minutes after the restart Selkirk prop Bruce Riddell was pushed over by his pack,before stand off Aaron McColm converted for 12-7 after 45 minutes.The perfect start to the second half for the visitors,disasterously for 'Burgh, got even better, as virtually from the restart, they levelled the scores as winger Callum McNeill ran in from half way for a fine opportunist try which was unconverted to level the score at 12-12 after 46 minutes. Things look bleak now for 'Burgh against a rampant Selkirk side ,massively buoyed by the two early second half scores and with the heavy wind at their backs in the final half hour,and the visitors could have been forgiven for thinking that they had the winning of the game.
Musselburgh then produced,just when it was needed most,the best defensive display I have seen from any Musselburgh side,each and every one of them produced a huge performance of guts and sheer effort and heart, tackling everything that came their way in the most horrible of conditions.Conditions that reminded me of the old Fran Cotton photo with mud all over ! The mud was such that both teams were indistinguishable and the referee must have had some job telling them apart.
Much of the play was in 'Burgh's half,but as the game wore on they managed to force a penalty out of Selkirk,but again in the windy conditions Owenson's luck was again out as he hit the post.The visitors continued on the offensive and were awarded a late penalty,which drew gasps of despair amongst the locals and then with virtually the last kick of the ball the took McColm's kick offline in the same manner as Owenson's earlier,leaving the final score at
MUSSELBURGH 12 SELKIRK 12
These two points gained for the draw are probably the hardest earned two points I've seen, at the risk of repeating myself,the entire team gave an enormous. gutsy defensive display for the last half hour in terrible weather,so congratulations to all the players and coaches concerned and indeed to our visitors as well for a sterling performance in which the real winner was the weather. Two weeks time sees 'Burgh in Glasgow to take on GHA in what will be another crunch game.