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REPORT: Musselburgh 31-31 Kelso

Article from The Offside Line. Written by Colin Renton.

THREE points apiece was a fair outcome for two sides who had chances to win a game that featured tension, a little friction, and plenty of skill. In the end, both coaches were happy with their haul, but equally disappointed that they hadn’t secured the victory.

For Musselburgh, it seems that last season’s struggle for survival has created a battling spirit that surfaced in the closing stages and left their coach Derek O’Riordan looking ahead with some optimism.

“First of all, credit to Kelso”, he said. “They showed that they belong in this league and they really stuck it to us. We took our foot off the gas after scoring our second try – we almost thought the game was done at that point and they just found a hook into the game and really went for us, so credit to them.”

And of his own players, he added, “Last year in that same situation we wouldn’t have taken league points from a game like that. To give ourselves a chance to win the game with the final kick is a credit to the resilience that we’re starting to build within this squad. There’s positives because I was looking at the last five minutes and thinking we don’t deserve any points because of the way we handed it to Kelso. Today is a lesson for us and a shock for us that we’re not going to get everything on our terms.”

The Borderers left observers in no doubt that they are in the top flight on merit and will offer a stern test wherever they go. They were gritty and gutsy and battled back from conceding two early tries to lead by seven points inside the final 10 minutes before being reeled in by the hosts.

They showed enough to have their coach Kevin Utterson viewing his glass as half full rather than half empty.

“Musselburgh were always going to come out the traps at us. They finished last season on a high and us being the new boys they would be wanting to take it to us. To be fair we didn’t quite get our defensive sets right but the team showed its character. We got back into the game and on another day we would have come away with the win,” he stated before giving credit to his men.

“We’re down the road with three points from our first game up a division so we’ve got to take a lot of positives out of it. There’s a lot to work on but there’s far more positives than negatives,” he added.

The hosts might have been given a false sense of optimism when they raced into the lead after only three minutes when a lineout take provided ball for a slick handling move that ended with Danny Owenson providing a scoring pass for Ollie Craig. Owenson’s conversion fell just short of the target, but he was on the mark with his next effort after doing the spadework to free Rory Watt for Musselburgh’s second try eight minutes later.

Kelso had not yet ventured into the opposition 22 and their first visit, with 20 minutes on the clock, ended when Murray Hastie overhit an ambitious cross-kick. However, the momentum was shifting and the visitors were soon back in the game.

Hastie’s next involvement was a tackle on Owenson that home supporters believed was late, and the home stand-off was still receiving attention when Cammy Thompson raced through a gap to finish. Dwain Patterson banged over the conversion.

By half-time, the complexion of the match had changed. Musselburgh did well to repel a series of attacks, but the multi-phase effort eventually bore fruit for Kelso when Andy Tait smuggled the ball over. Patterson again added the extras with a well-struck conversion.

And, with injury time being played, the visitors showed there is more to their game than the grunt of a powerful pack when they swept the ball along the line to Robbie Tweedie, who touched down in the corner to claim a 19-12 lead at the break.

As they had done in the first half, Musselburgh started the second period well and recycled ball following a lineout drive was moved wide where James Ferguson set Sandy Watt free for a try that cut the deficit to two points.

Kelso kept it tight for the bonus-point try with a series of rumbles carrying play to within striking distance, where Tait dummied his way over to leave Patterson an easy conversion.

The character to which O’Riordan alluded came to the fore as Musselburgh chased the game and the Owensons weighed in with a seven-pointer, with Craig thundering over from close range and Danny adding the extras.

However, Kelso were not yet done with scoring and a clever chip by Tait over the home defence allowed Euan Knox to bag five points. With the wind freshening, Patterson’s conversion rattled off the post, leaving the lead at seven points.

And the hosts bridged that gap with 80 minutes played when a scrum created the chance for Sandy Watt to cross the whitewash. Owenson’s conversion tied the scores and he had an opportunity with the final play to snatch the win. However, his long-range effort drifted on the wind and honours were even.

Teams –

Musselburgh: J Ferguson; O Craig, R Watt, R Smith, S Watt; D Owenson, F Call; C Owenson, R Mackie, N McNairn, J Haynes, J Arnold, J Lister, M Crawford, P Bogie. Subs: R Stott, D Miller, J Herbert, G Inkster, B Heber.

Kelso: D Patterson; A Barbour, H Tweedie, F Robson, R Tweedie; M Hastie, A Tait; G Shiells, E Knox, T Logan, C Thompson, C Brown, A Cowens, M Woodcock, B McNeil. Subs: C Marshall, A Asante, E Thompson, J Glendinning, M Wilson.

Referee: Ciaran Stark.


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