It appeared impossible to attend this match without the unmistakeable feeling that this was a new era for the club. Apart from being the first competitive game of a new season,Musselburgh had several new players, a new President, and would be playing in the new Premiership division, and in the highest division they’d been in for over 30 years.
The feeling amongst the Musselburgh faithful was one of great excitement and anticipation, which was evident by the larger than usual attendance for the visit of Glasgow Hawks, who will, of course, be one of our league rivals in the coming season.
An awkward, gusty wind greeted the teams as the visitors stand-off Liam Brims kicked off into a strong wind.The Glasgow side took the early initiative, pushing ‘Burgh back and forcing the home defence to test it's defensive mettle.’Burgh however, repelled the early pressure and began to make their own inroads to the visitors line, with Danny Owenson and his new half-back partner Paul Cunningham feeding on ball from a pack of 'old reliables' like Willie Fleming, Craig Owenson, Colin Arthur and the perpetual motion man Luke Hutson, and driven on by another 'new' feature,Michael Maltman in his first competitive match as captain.’Burgh began to press and following a move instigated by Cunningham at stand -off ,the ball was shipped through the hands for Tom Foley to open the scoring in the corner after 8 minutes.The unpredictable wind and the tight angle insured that it was an unconverted try,but 'Burgh had made a positive start and led 5-0.
The early lead was somewhat negated by an injury to Bob Stott,who was replaced by Euan Bonthron. The visitors, stung by the loss of an early score, began to show their pedigree as their half-backs Brims and Siems began to use the possession created by a pack in which Strain,Fraser and Sweeney were to the fore.Their pressure was being repelled by a marvellous selection of ‘Burgh tackles before, after several rucks in the vicinity of the line, produced a try by Hawks prop Gary Strain, the wind again making the conversion impossible and tying the score at 5-5.
Despite losing the score,’Burgh continued to hold the upper hand up front and Cunningham's use of the ball was excellent.They came close to regaining the lead when the scorer of the opening try,Tom Foley was halted close to the line after another fine break.The pressure was beginning to mount and the visitors conceded a penalty, but the wind again thwarted Danny Owenson as his kick rebounded from the post.Then Luke Hutson, showing typical belligerence burst through a couple of tackles and making the 'hard yards' left 'Burgh almost under the posts, the immediate danger was cleared until a piece of inspired thinking by Cunningham got 'Burgh back in front.He executed a delicate cross-kick which was plucked out of the air in the windy conditions by James Ferguson, who dotted down in the corner, before Danny Owenson defied the conditions with a magnificent touchline conversion for 12-5 after 35 minutes.
As the interval drew near,Burgh continued to force the issue, with their heavy carriers, Fleming, Maltman and Arthur hammering away at the visitors rearguard.Another darting run by Foley ended as he was bundled into touch just short of the line, before Owenson increased ‘Burgh’s lead with a late first half penalty on 40 minutes for a half-time score of Musselburgh 15 Glasgow Hawks 5
A very encouraging first half for ‘Burgh against such fine opponents was further enhanced in the first minute of the second half when they increased their lead.A fine handling move was concluded by Colin Arthur giving the scoring pass to Rory Watt, who crossed the line with aplomb, before Owenson again converted stretching 'Burgh's lead to 22-5.
At this juncture, even the most optimistic in the home support couldn't have foreseen how well things were going.‘Burgh almost increased the lead further after 45 minutes, but this time the wind claimed Owenson,s penalty attempt.
Slowly, but surely however, we began to witness Hawks getting back into the game as their back-row of Gemmell, Halfihi and Sweeney made some ground and in 64 minutes they were back on the scoreboard after a pushover try by Craig Shields, the conversion being unsuccessful leaving the ‘Burgh lead at 22-10.
A period of pressure on the home line followed as Hawks had maybe their biggest period of possession in the match,the visiting wingers McCarron and Priestly having good breaks before being thwarted by stubborn ‘Burgh defence.Their locks,Archer and Thomson were also prominent and on one particular occasion when Burgh were beginning to look vulnerable,Rory Watt eased the pressure with a magnificent wind assisted clearance kick which appeared to go for miles to the cheers of the 'Burgh support.
The pressure was only relieved momentarily however, and Willie Fleming was yellow carded for an infringement as the pack continued to keep the Hawks at bay.
'Burgh then replaced Nathan Sweeney and Danny Owenson with Rory Smith and Aiden Reddick and then ,as the game drew to its conclusion and with five minutes remaining,'Burgh appeared to seal victory with another fine handling movement through the backs for Freddie Roddick to score a fine unconverted try in the corner for 27-10.The visitors however, continued to plug away, despite the match appearing to be beyond them and duly got their reward when their captain Callum Harrison went over before Brims converted for a final score of Musselburgh 27 Glasgow Hawks 17.
A very satisfying display by ‘Burgh, as both backs and forwards played well to get the better of, what must be remembered is a high class outfit who are experienced in top league rugby.
Next week of course, sees the opening fixture of the eagerly awaited Premiership with ‘Burgh commencing with a plum tie against Hawick at Stoneyhill. The thirty years since 'Burgh last entertained Hawick on league duty are exemplified by the fact that current President Drew Johnston was in the side that day against a mighty Hawick side which was encrusted with Scottish internationalists !
After today's performance 'Burgh should have nothing to fear come Saturday at 3.00pm.