ANY team that is in a relegation battle needs experienced players rolling up their sleeves and leading from the front – and Musselburgh certainly have that in the shape of captain Danny Owenson.
The local lad reached the 200 appearances milestone for the East Lothian outfit last weekend as the ‘Burgh went down 28-5 at Edinburgh Accies at Raeburn Place, leaving Derek O’Riordan’s men are now six points adrift in the lone relegation spot with just four regular season matches left. So, they know that this coming Saturday’s home clash with ninth placed Heriot’s Blues is vital.
When the sides met at Goldenacre back in October it was an entertaining game with tries aplenty, and the home side coming out on top 34-26.
Given the importance of the game this weekend it might be a cagier affair, but scrum-half Owenson said: “We know how big a match it is coming up against Heriot’s, but we are not focusing on the situation, more our own performance.
“On our home patch we know that on our day we are a match for anybody as we have shown this season already with a win over reigning champions Marr and then pushing league leaders Hawick pretty close.
“Our last two performances on the road have also shown promise, beating Selkirk before the long break and then having lots of possession against Edinburgh Accies last weekend and just not taking our chances which we were punished for.
“People on the outside will talk about pressure and this game against Heriot’s being ‘must win’ for us, but a number of the guys in our squad were playing for the club when we were in the National Leagues and making our way up to this level, so this type of pressure is something we embrace.
“We are a community club made up of a lot of local, hard working players in the squad and we love the challenge of playing against big clubs in the Premiership week-in and week-out.
“Everyone is focused on the game on Saturday and we know there will be a good home support there cheering us on.”
Owenson came through the club’s youth ranks and, while at Musselburgh Grammar School, he was part of a team that won the Scottish Youth Cup at under-16 level at Murrayfield.
A move to Loretto School on a rugby scholarship then came Owenson’s way for his final two years of schooling and while there he played for Musselburgh’s under-18s.
“I then played my first senior season of rugby after school [2011-12] at Musselburgh and I loved it, but because we were down the leagues a bit I then went to Gala for one year as I tried to push into the Scotland under-20s set-up,” Owenson recounted.
“I enjoyed my time at Netherdale under George Graham and a high point was beating London Scottish in the British & Irish Cup, but I found my path to age-grade honours blocked by some pretty good players in the shape of Ali Price, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Scott Steele.
“After that season I decided to move back to Musselburgh and I’ve been with the club ever since and it has been such a joy to represent my local town in recent years.
“I’ve also been able to do it with a lot of my mates and with my older brother [Craig] and that has been a real bonus.
“There have never been any egos at the club over the years and it doesn’t matter if you are a first XV player, second XV player, social player, committee member or supporter, everyone is treated the same at Stoneyhill.
“That means there is always such a good atmosphere around the club on and off the pitch which makes new players who join or players’ families and the like feel very welcome as soon as they enter the clubhouse for the first time.”
After his brief sojourn to Gala, Owenson returned to Musselburgh in 2013-14 and, in 2014-15, they topped National League Division Two, winning 18 of their 22 games to pip Howe of Fife to the title by a point.
Three seasons of mid-table finishes followed in National League Division One before 2018-19 brought a major shake-up in the Scottish club game and a tense finale to the campaign.
“With Super6 coming into being by the summer of 2019, that season six clubs were to be promoted from National One into the Premiership to replace the six first XVs of the franchise sides,” explained Owenson, who works as a site manager from Cala Homes away from the pitch and is the Musselburgh goalkicker. “As can often happen given the Scottish weather, matches were postponed at times and the season drifted into April.
“Going into the final weekend it was between us and Gala for the sixth and final promotion spot, but because we thought there would not be fixtures by then myself and about half of the first team were away on my brother’s stag do.
“There was nothing we could do about it, so we waited to get text messages and the like telling us how things were going.
“It was nerve wracking, but in the end the squad put out that day got a four try bonus from a loss [40-29 at home to Jed-Forest] while Gala got nothing from their defeat [57-9 at Marr] which meant we went up on points difference.
“We cracked open the champagne on the stag do, I can tell you, because many of us never thought we’d get the chance to play for Musselburgh in the Premiership in our careers, but here it was becoming a reality.”
In the 2019-20 season, Musselburgh were seventh in the top flight table before the pandemic saw the campaign cut short. The club’s centenary came and went in early 2021 before last season when rugby returned, they finished seventh in the Premiership before head coach Graeme Paterson stood down.
Now with the aforementioned O’Riordan at the helm, Musselburgh are up against it, but Owenson and co are certainly not going to go down without a fight and the Heriot’s match should be a cracker.
“I want my 201st game for Musselburgh to be a memorable one,” Owenson concluded.