Report by Colin Renton
CURRIE CHIEFTAINS clinched top spot in the Tennent’s Premiership table with a nine-try show that featured some stunning rugby executed at a pace to which the home side had no answer. The hosts did produce flashes of the form that has made them a solid mid-table side, but were ultimately powerless when Chieftains cut loose.
Musselburgh were desperate to produce a performance for coach Graeme Paterson’s final home game at the helm before stepping down, and they threatened to do so as they raced from the blocks to take an early lead. However, that proved to be short-lived and they were on the receiving end of a Chieftains riposte that gave the visitors the bonus point inside the first 16 minutes.
“It’s great, we’ve finished top of the league,” said Chieftains’ coach Mark Cairns. “I know the play-offs are what will decide who are champions, but for us consistency of performance across the whole season, to get to the point where we’re top of the league, no one can take that away from us. To cap it with a performance like that just shows how far we’ve come.”
And of the way his men went about their task, he added: “It was probably done in the first 25-30 minutes but I think we kept going. Maybe the last 25 minutes or so was a bit stop-start, but I think we kept going for a good part of the game and didn’t take our foot off the gas.”
It was clearly not how Paterson had hoped to sign off as he led the side for the last time in front of the Stoneyhill crowd, and he was frustrated at the outcome.
“You want to show up for the home support,” he said. “It kind of fell flat a bit in the first half. We started so brightly and it disappeared pretty quickly, and to be fair they came out absolutely firing after that and they put us to the sword in the first half. We plugged a few gaps in the second half and at least got a bit of respectability in terms of the performance.”
However, Paterson was happy with the character his men showed in the closing quarter, adding, “We got parity in the set-piece, and we got a bit of ball and a bit of territory. But obviously they’re a quality side, they’re top of the league for a reason.”
Paterson has grounds to be satisfied with the legacy he will leave for the incoming coach, stating: “We’re sitting in the mid-table battle ground of several teams and we want to finish as high up as we possibly can and set the standard for next season for the guys coming in. I think it’s still achievable to get to potentially sixth place, which is a fantastic achievement for the team.”
The home side issued an early warning with a third minute try after Luhann Kotze combined with Danny Owenson from a scrum in Chieftains territory to send Sandy Watt racing in for the opening try of the afternoon.
The response came in short order as two of the star men in the visiting side linked up, with DJ Innes doing the initial damage and offloading to Fergus Scott, who raced past two defenders to dot down. Jamie Forbes slotted the conversion to hand Chieftains a lead they never looked likely to surrender.
The second score came from a line-out catch and drive that ended with Rory Stewart applying the final touch and Forbes again adding the extras.
With the floodgates open, Innes helped himself to number three when he crashed through two tackles, with Forbes again booting the conversion. Chieftains started the day needing just one point to guarantee top spot in the regular season, and it came when Cammy Meager broke from deep and hurtled down the wing before offloading to Scott, who raced in at the corner for his second try.
Not to be outdone Innes also bagged his brace when he ignored the support forming to his left at the breakdown and took the direct route to the line. By half-time, the try tally had grown to six when Gregor Nelson hammered his way over and Forbes converted for a 40-5 lead, while the hosts reached the break a man down after Kotze was yellow-carded for killing the ball.
Scott turned creator for the first score of the second period, slicing through the defence then freeing Forbes for a self-converted try. The stand-off also added the extra two points after Meager sprinted over, and again after try number nine which he also created with an audacious cross-kick that picked out Ryan Daley. who stepped inside the final defender to touch down.
A difference of opinion between Rory Hindhaugh and Fraser Sayers meant it was 14 aside for 10 minutes, and the hosts fared better during that period, with a second try. Owenson sent a raking penalty kick into touch close to the Chieftains line and a drive from the ensuing line-out ended with Colin Arthur claiming the five pointer that bookended the scoring for Musselburgh.