Currie Chieftains 57
ALAN LORIMER @ Malleny Park
CURRIE CHIEFTAINS posted a priceless Premiership performance in crushing Musselburgh with a bonus-point win over the Stoneyhill side to stay within touching distance of the championship leaders Marr.
In amassing nine tries Currie blended hard and clever forward play that won a shoal of possession and thoughtful back play under the experienced generalship of Gregor Hunter, arguably playing a level below his considerable ability. This was not a division of duties, however. Currie’s forwards shared in the plaudits for the fast running game that the team is developing. Moreover Currie’s bigger men are buying into the idea of running into gaps rather than engage in audible bone-crunching collisions.
“We’re good going forward and a lot of credit for that has to go to our forwards in setting up the platform for the backs. They’ve been working hard in training because we know we’ve got a good set of backs.” noted Mark Cairns, the Currie head coach.
For Musselburgh this was a game that perhaps now defines a a two-tier Premiership. “Physically Currie were better than us,” said Graeme Paterson, the Musselburgh coach. “They were probably mentally better than us too. It was always going to be a tough test for us. I thought in the second half we came back a bit and got a foothold in the game, territorially. The game is out of the way for us now. So we have to move on.”
Currie made a strong statement of intent in the opening two minutes, by retaining possession through the phases, punching holes in the Musselburgh defence and moving the ball wide when the opportunities presented themselves. The end result was a try in the corner by the powerful Fijian-born Roy Vucago, converted from the touchline by Hunter.
Encouraged by the success of their opening play, Currie continued to play an expansive game that finally took play deep into the Musselburgh 22m area. Then, from a second five-metre lineout in the space of a minute, the Chieftains forwards drove over for a try credited to hooker Fergus Scott. Hunter was again successful with his conversion kick.
It did not take long for Currie to add to their try tally, this time a cross kick from Hunter setting up an unconverted try for winger Archie McLean for a 19-point lead in as many minutes. Currie’s scoring rate of a point a minute continued, and again it was their close support play and ability to use space that brought the next score, set up by a half break from Hunter and quick recycling of the ball for second row Mike Vernel to dive over for the bonus-point try, to which Hunter added the extras.
Just as it seemed that Musselburgh could do little to halt the Currie tide, the visitors achieved a breakthrough with a clever inside pass and then a darting run by Danny Owenson that produced a try for the stand-off, Owenson converting his own score. But any hopes Musselburgh might have entertained of a fightback were cruelly crushed with an immediate response by Currie, Vernel taking a pop pass at pace before passing to Gregor Christie for the scrum-half to stroll in under the posts. Hunter’s conversion, his fourth of the first half, put Chieftains ahead by 33-7.
Then in first-half stoppage time Currie added a sixth time, this time Scott making the running before delivering a long pass to debutant Scott King for the FOSROC Academy player to touch down in the corner giving his side a 38-7 half time lead.
Musselburgh looked more purposeful as their change of tactics to a forward-orientated game won them territory, but the Stoneyhill club were unable to deliver the killer punch close to the Currie line.
Inevitably Currie, having quelled the early second-half uprising by Musselburgh, moved play to the other end of the pitch with clever handling that ended with Vucago throwing a long pass to McLean for the winger to score his second try.
Musselburgh’s plight was made worse by the departure to the sin-bin of second row Paddy Brown for a technical offence, and that was exploited by Currie with a driven lineout that gave them their eighth try, credited to Reece Paterson. Hunter claimed his fifth conversion.
Currie had the desire for a further score and it was realised via a penalty-created line-out, patient phase play and then a release of the ball to the wider channels that ended with full-back Fraser Sayers diving over for try No 9, converted yet again by Hunter for the final points of the game.
Currie Chieftains: F Sayers; C Meager, S Hamilton, A Hall, A MacLean; G Hunter, G Christie; G Carson, F Scott©, M Sonzogni Argiro, M Poole, M Vernel, H Ferguson, W Nelson, R Vucago. Subs: R Patterson, C Ramsay, S Edwards, R Davies, S King.
Musselburgh: F Roddick; S Watt, R Smith, R Watt, G Tait; D Owenson, A Reddick; C Owenson, B Stott, C Arthur, W Fleming, P Brown, M Maltman©, C Pryde, L Hutson. Subs: J Crain, J Haynes, C Champion, M Outram, P Cunningham.
Referee: D Young
Scorers – Currie Chieftains: Tries: Vucago, Scott, McLean 2, Vernel, Christie, King, Paterson, Sayers. Cons: Hunter 6.
Musselburgh: Try: Owenson. Con: Owenson.
Scoring sequence (Currie first): 5-0, 7-0, 12-0, 14-0, 19-0, 24-0, 26-0, 26-5, 26-7, 31-7, 33-7, 38-7 half-time, 43-7, 48-7, 50-7, 55-7, 57-7.
Yellow card: Musselburgh: P Brown.
Man of the Match: Currie’s second row Mike Vernel’s performance against Musselburgh encapsulated what the Chieftains are trying to achieve. His strength in the tight was more than matched by his ability to run on to passes at pace and to distribute that ball with accuracy.
Talking point: Currie looked unstoppable when they were on the front foot and their handling at times (both backs and forwards) was a joy to watch suggesting that the influence of Ally Donaldson, back at Malleny Park this season, is considerable.