Edinburgh Accies 28
STEPHEN BRUNSDON @Raeburn Place
EDINBURGH ACCIES blew off the cobwebs after a five-week lay-off by recording an efficient bonus point victory over a spirited Musselburgh side at Raeburn Place.
With neither side playing since the opening weekend in December, this fixture was always going to be a rusty, scrappy affair and so it proved.
Iain Berthinussen’s squad came out better drilled, albeit lacking in discipline with three yellow cards, and put a misfiring Burgh side to the sword with four well-worked tries.
It all points to an enthralling final four games of the season for Accies as they look to consolidate their place in the Premiership playoffs.
“We’ve had five weeks off but, as I said to the lads, five weeks to stew on a pretty crap performance away to Hawick at Mansfield Park,” said Berthinussen. “Musselburgh had a great side out here today, so we’re just delighted to get the maximum points at the end, we made it difficult for ourselves, but I thought we had real control throughout the game.”
Burgh head coach Derek O’Riordan lamented his side’s lack of preparation over the festive period and that rustiness showed inside the opening 12 minutes as Accies raced to a 14-0 lead with the visitors barely able to take stock.
Accies were clinical from the off and scored their first try through hooker Fraser McAslan, the result of an ominous driving maul from a penalty line-out after five minutes. Fly-half Jamie Loomes was excellent from the kicking tee all day and slotted a brilliant touchline conversion.
Having failed to fire a shot from the kick-off, Burgh finally got their hands on the ball, albeit momentarily as their first two line-outs malfunctioned. Indeed, the set-piece proved to be Burgh’s bête-noir, and Accies capitalised perfectly for their second score.
The hosts’ scrum was utterly dominant, and the pack won the first of many penalties on the halfway line, leading to a line-out deep inside their opponents half.
Swift hands off the back of a slight overthrow from McAslan gave Accies the gainline advantage, with Loomes feeding Max Wallace, who in turn released the incoming full-back Ben Appleson.
Appleson half broke a tackle before offloading to winger Lewis Wells, who sauntered in at the corner to touch down. Again, Loomes was spot on with his conversion.
The writing seemed on the wall for Burgh at this stage, but O’Riordan’s men responded well, despite coughing up two attacks and a golden try-scoring opportunity for winger Sandy Watt close to the line.
Burgh’s forwards had done the hard work of grinding down the Accies fringe defence and fly-half Paul Cunningham’s clever delayed pass for Watt opened up a winger-sized gap in the Accies line. Watt unfortunately knocked on and Accies were able to clear their lines.
Both sides were also down to 14-men by this point, with Accies prop Clem Lacour the first to see yellow after repeated infringements from the hosts, while his opposite number Neil McNairn was sin-binned after a neck roll at a ruck.
The rest of the first half proved to be something of a turgid affair, with handling errors and penalties from both sides. The half-time whistle could not have come quicker.
“We just maybe chased the game a bit too much,” Berthinussen said. “And that probably allowed them to get into the game and frustrated us. We gave up a lot of penalties, I think it was about 16 for the match, and four on the bounce which resulted in our first yellow.
“And we didn’t turn them enough, we tried to play out of own half too much and in the first 10 or so minutes of the second half we played a lot smarter.”
Burgh’s second half performance was demonstrably better than their first, but that didn’t stop Accies from bursting out of the blocks with a third try as pressure paid off. Captain Ruairi Campbell touched down in the corner after a deft chip behind the defence from Appelson as the Burgh pack started to buckle at the scrum. Loomes’ conversion made it a 21-point game.
Although the scoreboard was very much against them, Burgh created far more in the next 30 minutes than they managed in the entire first half, which will be pleasing to O’Riordan’s coaching staff.
Back-rowers Michael Badenhorst and Paul Bogie were stand-out carriers for Burgh, and they made ground with relative ease, while Cunningham and Findlay Thomson stretched Accies wide.
This pressure brought with it another two yellow cards in quick succession, for Neil Armstrong and Tom Drennan.
Accies somehow held on, thanks to their unstoppable scrum and successfully broke up the play enough for Lacour to bag the all-important bonus point score from short-range at the other end of the field.
Burgh deserved something from the match, for all their endeavour, and they did get a consolation try through replacement Calum Marshall in the corner, after some slick backline play from Matthew McMillan.
Although defeated, Burgh took positives from the end of the match which O’Riordan hopes will spur his squad on for a make-or-break fixture with Heriot’s Blues next weekend.
“The reality is that there’s now six points between us and Heriot’s which makes the last four games even more tasty for us,” he said. “We are treating it like a mini-league with them, Jed and GHA, and we can’t be bogged down by this as we’ve got an important next four or five weeks.”
Edinburgh Accies: B Appleson; K Gossman, M Wallace, N Armstrong, L Wells; J Loomes©, S Broad; C Imrie, F McAslan, C Lacour, J Mills, F Simpson, T Drennan, J Sole, R Campbell. Subs: G Ratcliff, C Black, R Thompson, M Love, R Hodgson.
Musselburgh: M McMillan; T Foley, F Thomson, R Watt, S Watt; P Cunningham, D Owenson©; C Owenson, F Duraj, N McNairn, J Campbell, W Fleming, M Badenhorst, M Outram, P Bogie. Subs: R Hanning, E Bonthron, J Haynes, C Champion, C Marshall.
Referee: F Hollins
Edinburgh Accies: Tries: McAslan, Wells, Campbell, Lacour; Cons: Loomes 4.
Musselburgh: Tries: Marshall.
Scoring Sequence (Edinburgh Accies first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0 (h-t); 19-0; 21-0; 26-0; 28-0; 28-5.
Yellow Cards –
Edinburgh Accies: Lacour, Armstrong, Drennan
Man-of-the-Match: So many of Accies’ players put their hand up, but captain Ruairi Campbell was exceptional in most areas. Strong carries, a pillar in the defensive line and a general nuisance to the Burgh pack, the back-rower also contributed to the bonus point with a try in the second half.
Talking point: It’s easy to point at the five-week break as the reason for Burgh not quite being at the races, but Accies had the same amount of time off. Accies were simply more clinical with ball in hand and used their effective set-piece to great effect to secure the territory they needed to build a try-scoring platform. Victory was essential today, the fact it turned out to be a bonus point win was, in the end, the real bonus.