ALAN LORIMER @ Philiphaugh
MUSSELBURGH remain rooted at the foot of the Premiership table after losing heavily to Selkirk at Philiphaugh and already, at this early stage in the season, the spectre of relegation is now stalking the Stoneyhill club.
The one cause for optimism from the match against Selkirk, however, was Musselburgh’s 26-22 ‘victory’ in the second half which earned the visitors a Premiership bonus point. But that might not be enough to instil a new sense of belief.
“There’s no doubt it’s going to be a tough season for us.” conceded backs coach David Officer. “All credit to Selkirk, they came at us in the first half. We didn’t hold on to the ball for long enough, but we showed in the second half that when we do hold on to the ball and go through the phases we can create our own try-scoring opportunities.
“The first half we gave them easy scores, missing first-up tackles and when we did get through two or three phases we coughed up the ball and tried to force offloads. And you can’t win games like that.”
Yet there were some encouraging performances from Musselburgh, a first half break by full-back James Ferguson, good footwork by stand-off Paul Cunningham in taking his try and an overall improvement in the line-out.
It took Selkirk only four minutes to register their first points from a chip and chase try by their stand-off Callum Anderson. Full-back Henry Birthray failed with the conversion attempt, but had little difficulty adding the extras to Selkirk’s second try scored by Josh Welsh from a surging run by flanker Scott McClymont.
Welsh then completed a brace as he finished off excellent interplay between Selkirk’s back and forwards, Bithray successful with the conversion. Bithray then showed his attacking skills, setting up the bonus points try for hooker James Bett, and then adding the additional two points.
Bithray was again the instigator as he and Welsh combined to give winger Ryan Cottrell a clear run to the line. Selkirk still had time for a further score before half-time, helped by Musselburgh’s Cameron Pryde having been shown a yellow card. And after a flurry of tries from the backs it was prop Sean Rankin who claimed the honours with a close-range effort, converted by Bithray for a 38-0 half time lead.
Stung or perhaps embarrassed by their first half tally of nil points, Musselburgh looked more cohesive after the break and were rewarded with a try by flanker Graeme McKinstry after centre Rory Watt had been stopped just short of the line.
Selkirk quickly roared back, bagging their seventh touchdown with accurate handling and the scoring pass from Cottrell that sent Bithray in for the try, quickly countered by Musselburgh when prop Colin Arthur peeled off a driven line-out to claim his side’s second try.
The response from Selkirk was instant, this time Cottrell scoring his second try from a delicate cross-kick by Callum Anderson. The procession of tries then continued with a hat-trick completion by Cottrell, who again benefitted from a well judged kick, this time from replacement hooker Ross Purves.
The try-a-minute game continued as Musselburgh’s stand-off Cunningham dummied his way over for a score converted by Owenson, but Selkirk then inflicted more misery on Musselburgh with a try by McClymont and the conversion from Bithray, before the visitors who signed off this high scoring game with a bonus point try by back row Paddy Brown, Owenson’s conversion inviting the final whistle.
Selkirk: H Bithray; F Anderson, J Welsh, L Martin, R Cottrell; C Anderson, L Morelle; L Pettie, J Bett, S Rankin, P Forrest, D Nichol, J Mackay, S McClymont, E MacDougall Subs: R Purves, B Riddell, J Houston, L Berte, S Wight.
Musselburgh: J Ferguson; T Foley, S Watt, R Watt, G Tait; P Cunningham, D Owenson; R Stott, J Crain, C Arthur, W Fleming, J Haynes, G McKinstry, C Pryde, L Hutson. Subs: P Portsmouth, E Bonthron, P Brown, F Roddick, R Smith.
Referee: R Campbell
Selkirk: Tries: Welsh 2, Bett, Cottrell 3, Rankin, Anderson, McClymont, Bithray; Cons: Bithray 5.
Musselburgh: Tries: McKinstry, Arthur, Cunningham, Brown; Cons: Owenson 3.
Scoring Sequence (Selkirk first): 5-0; 10-0; 12-0; 17-0; 19-0; 24-0; 26-0; 31-0; 36-0; 38-0 (h-t) 38-5; 38-7; 43-7; 43-12; 48-12; 53-12; 53-17; 53-19; 58-19; 60-19; 60-24; 60-26.
Yellow cards –
Man-of-the-Match: Selkirk had many candidates for this accolade, among them debutant centre Lewis Martin, stand-off Callum Anderson, full-back Henry Bithray but it was the power of the forwards and that gave Selkirk go-forward. And tops among the Selkirk big men was flanker Scott McClymont.
Talking point: As David Officer conceded it is going to be a hard season for Musselburgh, who are sorely missing several experienced forwards. But their second half performance against Selkirk should help to cultivate confidence. The challenge is to build on this.