ALAN LORIMER @ Riverside Park
FOR a second successive week Jed-Forest staged a second half resurgence but whereas they came up short last weekend against Glasgow Hawks, this week their post interval effort produced a win sizeable enough to deny Musselburgh what would have been a merited losing bonus point.
For the neutral observers this was a box office match that yielded twelve tries in all, seven for Jed and five by Musselburgh, albeit for the purists there was much not to like – not least a number of inaccurate kicks and perhaps more crucially missed tackles, that certainly cost Jed dear in the first half.
Just why Jed are slow out of the blocks will provide their head coach Andy Brown with a few hours of thought in the coming week ahead of his side’s visit to Raeburn Place but
“We made mistakes in the first half and found it difficult to exit out of our own hand,” conceded Brown, who was much happier with his team’s attitude after the break, saying: “We controlled territory a lot better and managed to keep hold of the ball and do something with it. We weren’t clinical enough in the first half. Once we start going multi phase and start moving teams around we can score points”.
Musselburgh’s director of rugby, Grant Talac, acknowledged that Jed managed to step up their forward effort in the second half. He said: “I thought the boys played well in the first half and I thought we were in control. The second half was really disappointing the way in panned out. Jed came out for the second half a bit more fired up. Their forwards got on top of ours. We had a few loose kicks and they punished us.”
Defeated they may have been but Musselburgh posted a few very good individual performances, notably James Ferguson on the wing and Max Outram at open side flanker. Another to show good form was young stand-off Matty McMillan who certainly gave the visiting backline considerable balance in the first half.
Significantly, Musselburgh looked sharp in the warm-up and confirmed their readiness for battle by scoring in the opening minutes with a try by Outram made by a Paul Cunningham break.
The reply from Jed-Forest was swift. A tap penalty by Jye McGough allowed Jed to find space on the left, leaving centre Owen Cranston with a clear route to the line, the conversion by Lewis Walker giving his side the lead.
The balance again shifted as Musselburgh, looking slick with ball in hand, carved out a backline try for wing James Ferguson following a clever wrap-around run from McMillan.
This time Owenson converted and then quickly followed this success with a penalty goal to open up an eight point lead, immediately reduced to three following a short range unconverted try from Paulo Ferreira.
Then, from turnover possession, Musselburgh moved the ball wide and it was a combination of slick running and weak tackling that gave Finlay Thomson a solo try, maximised by Owenson with his third successful shot at goal of the day to give the visitor a ten points interval advantage.
Jed wasted little time in disposing of their points deficit, first with a try by Gregor Young made by his twin brother Lewis, and then a second to claim the bonus point with the roles reversed by the Youngs. Walker converting the first and then Lewis Young the second for a 26-22 lead.
Musselburgh, however, stayed in the fight with a good try for flanker Matt Crawford after the ball had been spread wide to narrow Jed’s lead to a solitary point, only for Jed to strike again with a solo effort by replacement Mason Cullen and the conversion by Lewis Young.
Cullen then made a further contribution, coming off his wing to pose a threat in midfield before delivering a long pass to Robbie Shirra-Gibb for the wing to race in for Jed’s sixth try.
With five minutes of the game remaining, Musselburgh put the result in doubt with their fifth try, a second for Ferguson converted by Owenson to make the score 38-34 in Jed’s favour.
Jed then made sure of their win with a galloping run by skipper Clark Skeldon. The big second-row was stopped but in the aftermath scramble for possession, Ferguson was yellow-carded for illegally preventing the ball exiting on the Jed side.
Then in the final minute of play Jed hammered the final nail into Musselburgh’s coffin with a second try for the mercurial Cullen to give Jed optimism for the battles ahead.
Jed-Forest: L Young; G Young, O Cranston, R Ferreira, R Shirra-Gibb; L Walker, J Mcgough; G Paxton, F Scott, P Ferreira, G Law, C Skeldon, E Lauder, D Wardrop, B Roff. Subs: H Meadows, T Cromarty, K Grieve, M Cullen, A Bambrick.
Musselburgh: P Cunningham; J Ferguson, R Watt, F Thomson, S Watt; M McMillan, D Owenson; N McNairn, B Stott, C Arthur, C Champion, J Haynes, M Crawford, M Outram, L Hutson. Subs: F Duraj, P Brown, L Milne, G Neill, C Marshall.
Referee: Ross Mabon
Jed-Forest: Tries: Cranston, P Ferreira, G Young, L Young, Cullen 2, Shirra-Gibb; Cons: Walker 2, L Young 2.
Musselburgh: Tries: Outram, Ferguson 2, Crawford, Thomson; Cons: Owenson 3; Pen:Owenson.
Scoring Sequence (Jed-Forest first): 0-5; 5-5; 7-5; 7-10; 7-12; 7-15; 12-15; 12-20; 12-22 (h-t) 17-22; 19-22; 24-22; 26-22; 26-27; 31-27; 33-27; 38-27; 38-32; 38-34; 43-34.
Yellow cards –
Man-of-the-Match: Jed’s Mason Cullen came off the bench just before half time but it was in the second half that he made his mark, scoring two tries from quick footwork and creating another for wing Shirra-Gibb in a game-breaking performance.
Talking point: The lower half of the Tennent’s Premiership is certainly proving a tough competition but with a long way to go it remains to be seen if it will be same actors in the final fight.