A View from the Touchline – Premier League: 7.3.20.

Musselburgh RFC 24 pts (t 3, c 3, p g 1) v Currie Chieftains 28 pts (t 4, c 4)

On a typically mild windy March afternoon, the few patches of blue sky were quickly obscured by a bank of hostile looking grey clouds, and the visitors from the other end of the City by-pass were about to experience a similar hostile encounter from a pumped-up Musselburgh team determined to maintain their Premiership status.

The Chieftains made a bright start, attacking the opposition with their usual brand of fast-running rugby, but on nearly every occasion that they reached the scoring zone, the ball was either turned over by some excellent tackling or by a clumsy mistake that encouraged the hosts and caused mounting anxiety in the visitors’ camp, which continued throughout the afternoon. Fifteen minutes of cat-and-mouse action was finally broken when the Chieftains manage to conjure a period of fault-free pressure which led to a Reece Patterson try; this followed a steady 5-metre scrum and some impressive recycling by the pack. Gregor Hunter converted, but for the remainder of the half the visitors lost their early spark and were blown away by a rampant Musselburgh performance that had the sizeable local crowd shouting and dancing with glee.

The heavy Musselburgh pack ground their way deep into Currie territory with a superb display of pick-and-drive rugby which tied in the visitors’ loose forwards, while creating space for their enthusiastic speedy backs. A well-worked lineout had the Musselburgh pack driving for the line, but it was stopped illegally just short of reward. The ensuing penalty was quickly taken by mischievous scrumhalf Danny Owenson; his tap-penalty and neat footwork caught Currie off guard; he then promptly converted his try. From the re-start the home team efficiently moved the ball through the hands of their fleet-footed front row to the speeding James Ferguson; the sprightly fullback steamed into open ground, and before the visitors reacted, the ball had reached Gregor Tait on the wing; his well-timed inside pass to Freddie Roddick saw the stand-off gallop in for a spectacular try with no Currie player in sight! The crowd was still buzzing as Danny Owenson’s conversion sailed through the posts.

The expected Chieftains response did not materialise, and the now-dominant Musselburgh fifteen were giving the visitors a torrid time. Currie were starved of possession and had difficulty taming the Musselburgh pack, who were setting up good field positions for their runners. Freddie Roddick should have been floored before he set off on a mazy diagonal run which should have resulted in a try; thankfully Fraser Sayers’ partial intervention dislodged the ball, and from the resulting scrum, Currie managed to clear their lines. It was only a temporary reprieve, as the vociferous crowd encouraged their praiseworthy team to strut their stuff! Just before halftime they did and added to their tally. Following a lineout inside the Currie 22, a well-drilled drive gathered momentum and crashed over the line. Danny Owenson converted the Paddy Brown try to put his team well and truly in the driving seat for the second half.

Halftime score – Musselburgh 21 pts, Currie Chieftains 7 pts.

The Chieftains now had the advantage of the increasingly gusty breeze, but it did not help Gregor Hunter’s early long-range penalty shot at goal, after the over-enthusiastic hosts had strayed off-side. There were still periods when the visitors could not gain the possession they would have liked, and they were experiencing difficulty at breakdowns, as the wily, more experienced opposition slowed proceedings to disrupt the Chieftains’ ambitions. Nearing the end of the third quarter a try did come, but only because of the tenacious, wriggling, leg-pumping efforts of Ryan Southern, who has that ability to shake off tacklers and defy what looks like an improbable scoring chance. Gregor Hunter converted the try, but for the next ten minutes the Currie team were on the retreat, desperately defending their line as the Musselburgh backs tried to cut loose with some powerful angled runs. Mike Vernel, Wallace Nelson, Fergus Scott and Adam Hall felled the big runners and Gregor Hunter kicked for safety. When Danny Owenson slotted a penalty goal that stretched Musselburgh’s lead to ten points, it looked as if the visitors were facing an almost impossible task to salvage something from the game. The continuing onslaught eventually ran out of steam, which possibly marked a turning point in the match, and the honest seaside boys never got back into the Chieftains’ 22; but a tense 15 minutes remained.

Frustrated and noticeably puffing after their attacking exertions, it was now the home team’s turn to keep the reinvigorated Chieftains at bay. Wave after wave of pressure was matched by some heroic defending that would not yield. Currie did cross the try line, but the ball was held up, and from the resulting 5-metre scrum they had to keep focused to deliver points. The pack battled away tirelessly going through countless phases; Matais Argiro and Mike Vernel went close before a stunning run from Steven Hamilton was stopped just a metre out. Sam Edwards and Graham Carson secured the breakdown before more recycling concluded with a Fergus Scott try. Gregor Hunter converted, but Currie were still short of the Musselburgh total.

After stoppage for a couple of injuries, which may have helped the Chieftains’ final push, the game resumed, although time was not on the visitors’ side. Once again, they moved forward with devastating efficiency, matching the home team’s earlier pick-and-drive thrusts; the majority of spectators did not expect the barrage to continue without a mistake or the referee’s final whistle. The final play seemed to be endless, but when the whistle came, it was to mark Hamish Ferguson’s dive for the post protector to score. Exhausted players and spectators littered the scene as Gregor Hunter’s conversion finished the match. Musselburgh gleaned a losing bonus point for their exceptional effort, and on this showing, they deserve their place in the Premiership. They can justifiably say ‘we was robbed!’ Sport can be cruel, and the Chieftains will cherish these valuable points that keep them on track for a home play-off place. Another difficult match next weekend, when the team travel across the City to play Edinburgh Accies who are also fighting for Premiership survival. KO time is at present listed for 3.00pm.

I.J.S. – 8.3.20.

Currie Chieftains team –

15Fraser Sayers, 14 Steven Hamilton, Adam Hall, 12 Ryan Southern, 11 James MaCaig, 10 Gregor Hunter, 9 Gregor Christie, 8 Wallace Nelson, 7 Fergus Scott, 6 Hamish Ferguson, 5 Sam Edwards,

4 Mike Vernel, 3 Cairn Ramsay, 2 Graham Carson, 1 Reece Patterson.

Bench – 16 Matais Argiro, 17 Josh O’Brien, 19 Scott King, 20 Archie MacLean,

Jacob Ramsay, Grant Williamson.

 

Referee – Graeme Ormiston

AR 1 – Euan Clipston

AR 2 – Kevin McGhee

 

Photography – Craig Watson – https://craigwatson.co.uk/p318896452