Currie Chieftains 52
IAIN MORRISON @ Malleny Park
THE final score is not a fair reflection of this intriguing contest between two teams that both played with oodles of ambition and plenty of aggression. Currie ran out easy winners in the end but only after undergoing a torrid examination in the opening 20 to 30 minutes when they looked genuinely rattled by the visitors’ aggression.
The home side finished the afternoon with seven tries in the bank, three in the first half, four after the break, all of them expertly converted by full-back Charlie Brett on his comeback from a wrist injury suffered in mid-December, who added one penalty and a try for a personal tally of 22 points.
“Credit to Musselburgh,” Brett said after the game. “They really took the game to us in that opening quarter when we were under a lot of pressure.
“We played far too much rugby inside our own 22 having said before the game that we would only play in their half but our forwards fronted up brilliantly.
“We had three chances in the first half and we scored three tries so with that sort of execution we are going to be difficult to beat.”
You wouldn’t have guessed as much from the final score but Musselburgh were in the ascendancy for almost the entire first 40 minutes, with forwards like Darren Miller and Michael Badenhorst taking the game to the opposition; using the sort bully-boy tactics that Currie fans are used to seeing from the home side.
Little good it did them.
With the twin advantages of wind and slope, the visitors bossed territory and possession only to rub their eyes in disbelief as they found themselves trailing by 21-3 at the break.
The visitors were spirited, able and aided by Currie’s kicking from hand which was poor, three times they aimed at touch and failed to find it, but ultimately Musselburgh were let down badly by their set-piece.
They lost any number of line-out throws, I counted four in the first half alone, but may have missed one, and the problems continued after the break.
The set scrum was arguably even worse, with Currie milking penalties almost at will. At one point Musselburgh opted for a five metre attacking scrum rather than take the penalty and Currie simply took a deep breath and blew them clean off the ball.
Much of the damage was done by tight-head prop, skipper Graham Carson, who certainly earned his post match pint. If Musselburgh scrum creaked in the first half it collapsed like a deck of cards after the break, incapable of holding their ground even for the five odd seconds it takes for the ball to emerge.
“We had a young guy managing our line-out and he got a bit spooked because the opposition got a read on our calls and we simply didn’t adjust as we should have, but he is young and he will be better for that experience,” said Derek O’Riordan, the Musselburgh coach, who pointed out they had lost centre Finn Thomson absurdly late due to Murrayfield incompetence.
“In the scrum, we fielded an 18-year-old loose-head and he had a torrid time of it but, again, he will only learn from the experience and be a better player because of it.
“I think we were hugely competitive for perhaps 30 minutes but we simply couldn’t turn pressure into points. We were a little naive and we should have taken points whenever we had a penalty and got the scoreboard moving.”
Unfortunately for the visitors, turning chances into points is what Currie do best. in the opening 40 the home side made three forays into the opposition red zone and came up with three converted tries to show pretty much perfect execution in wet, slippery conditions that did not favour their all-court game.
Musselburgh actually opened the scoring with a second minute penalty but it was the only time the visitors enjoyed the lead and it didn’t last too long.
Currie’s response came just three minutes later when fly-half Alex Harley chipped the defence, the ball fell for DJ Innes who fed his midfield amigo Gregor Christie for the score. Christie is a scrummy by trade, the brother of All Black Finlay, but displayed his versatility by playing inside-centre as though born to it, having a hand in at least four of Currie’s tries.
The second score came from a driven maul on the left side of the field. It was stopped short of the line and scrum-half Paddy Boyer came close before breakaway Rhys Davies barrelled his way over from short range.
Currie scored their third almost directly from the kick-off and this one belonged to openside flanker (cum hooker) Roy Vucago who ran half the length of the field, weaving his way past defenders like they weren’t there, before the ball made its way to Harley via the ever reliable Christie.
If the first half was a good contest between two teams of equals, Currie totally bossed the second half despite playing the first nine minutes with 14 men after losing Boyer late in the opening half for a deliberate knock-on.
It mattered not a jot. Brett added a penalty two minutes into the half before Christie made the break for winger Ryan Daley to finish off the second best try of the afternoon. Ten minutes later the same two players combined in much the same way to create the fifth try of the afternoon, before replacement Sean Fisher was last man up after Currie marched a rolling maul over the Musselburgh line.
The visitors finally got their first try n around the 65th minute of the match when scrum-half Fionn Call made rugby’s equivalent of a quarter-back ‘sneak; to pick up the ball and pop it down on the Currie try line from inches out, Danny Owenson adding the extras.
Both sides could have downed tools in the final ten minutes but to their credit they continued to play as though this one was still in the balance and it resulted in one last try, another that came against the run of play.
Currie turned defence into attack when going the length, Christie made the interception, he fed Daley and the winger might have gone himself but instead gifted the score to full-back Brett who jumped up off the ground to convert from the far touchline for a 100 percent record off the tee, eight from eight.
Currie Chieftains: C Brett; J McCaig, DJ Innes, G Christie, R Daley; A Harley, P Boyer; T Jeffrey, R Stewart, G Carson, A McCallum, C West, R Davies, R Vucago, S Cardosi. Substitutes: S Fisher, O Blyth-Lafferty, C Anderson, R Morrison, S Leto.
Musselburgh: P Cunningham; O Craig, B Herber, R Smith, S Watt; D Owenson, F Call; R Brown, F Duraj, D Miller, J Arnold, J Haynes, M Crawford, G Inkster, B Badenhorst. Substitutes: J Crain, E Bonthron, P Bogie, J Lister, M McMillan.
Referee: Michael Todd.
Currie Chieftains: Tries: Christie, Davies, Harley, Daley 2, Brett, Fisher; Cons: Brett 7; Pen: Brett.
Musselburgh: Try: Call; Con: Owenson; Pen: Owenson.
Sequence of scoring (Currie Chieftains first): 0-3; 5-3 7-3; 12-3; 14-3; 19-3; 21-3 (h-t) 24-3; 29-3; 31-3; 36-3; 38-3; 43-3; 45-3; 45-8; 45-10; 50-10; 52-10.
Yellow card –
Currie Chieftains: Boyer (39 mins)
Man-of-the-Match: Musselburgh winger Olly Craig beats the first man almost every time and made good yards after contact but the stand-out players were mostly sporting black and yellow shirts. Tight-head Graham Carson made a mess of Musselburgh’s scrums, Courtney West and Ali McCallum bossed the line-outs and made a huge effort in defence while winger Ryan Daley grabbed a brace of tries, but the award goes to full-back Charlie Brett who, like the rest of the Currie team, shrugged off a poor start to finish with a flourish.
Talking point: There was a bizarre moment early in the game with the match very much in the balance. Currie were defending their line with just 14 men because centre DJ Innes was getting treatment from a medic on his ankle (or perhaps boot) behind the posts. It didn’t matter on the day but why didn’t someone ask the referee to stop the game?