STEPHEN BRUNSDON @ Riverside Park
MICHAEL BADENHORST scored a hat-trick of tries as Musselburgh came out on top in a thoroughly entertaining Premiership fixture away to Jed-Forest. Both sides bagged bonus points on a day where the visitors’ execution and poise were the prevailing forces.
Musselburgh came firing out of the blocks in the early stages as the home side struggled to play in the right areas. When they did, they couldn’t retain the ball as Burgh manufactured a number of turnovers which sent Jed back into their own half.
After a fifth-minute penalty miss from a relatively easy position, Burgh were rewarded for their dominance with the opening try of the match, courtesy of the towering second row Badenhorst. After pinning the visitors into their 22, quick ball from Fionn Call eventually found the arms of Badenhorst who surged through the line before bumping off three would-be tacklers to crash over after 15 minutes. Call converted to make it 7-0.
Jed’s opening to the match could not have gone much worse. Not only had they not taken advantage of the few opportunities they had inside the Burgh half, but they also lost both centres by the half-hour marker. Gregor Young was replaced after Badenhorst’s try by Scott Murdoch while Dom Buckley also left the field.
To add insult to injury, Burgh continued to pile on the pressure and looked immeasurably more comfortable with ball in hand than their hosts.
From a penalty line-out on the 10 metre line, Burgh launched a piercing attack, with winger James Ferguson sprinting into the 22. From there, quick ball from Call sent the Jed pack scrambling to stop the assault, slowing the ball down only marginally. Craig Owenson got close from a series of pick-and-go moves, before Call snuck over from a few yards out to score the second try, which he duly converted.
In contrast to the first quarter, where out-half Gary Munro kicked a penalty dead, Jed used their set-piece to put Burgh under pressure in the second quarter. With ball going to hand through their mobile loose forwards, Blake Roff and Dan Wardrop, Jed got to within a few yards, before the dependable Paulo Ferreira – making his first start of the Premiership season following a failed effort at retiring – crashed over from short range to open Jed’s account.
After the break, Badenhorst claimed his second score – seconds after returning from a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on – as Jed’s defence seemingly evaporated in midfield. The second-row again broke the first tackle and was offered a veritable boulevard to race through for his side’s third try, which was converted once more by Call.
For all that Jed struggled in defence, they started looking more dangerous with ball in hand and took it to Burgh in their own half, notably through full-back Mark Glen and winger Robbie Shirra-Gibb. The pair made Burgh’s life difficult, but the visitors were their own worst enemy as Ferguson was binned, and Jed awarded a penalty try, following a deliberate knock-on a few yards out.
Burgh reacted immediately and it was Badenhorst once again who slipped out of Shirra-Gibb’s tackle on the far side to sprint over for his hat-trick.
The game now began to open up as Jed scored their third try, via Buckley, who returned to the field following his earlier exit. Burgh cleared their lines as far as Shirra-Gibb who in turn fed Glen to take it into contact. Scrum-half Aiden Bambrick then broke through the line before sending Buckley in almost unchallenged under the posts.
Two minutes later, Shirra-Gibb then ran in a sublime coast-to-coast effort, with Munro’s pair of conversions levelling the scores at 28-28 heading into the closing stages.
Burgh were then pinged for a high tackle with 10 minutes left, and Munro’s boot was again accurate to hand Jed the lead for the first time in the match.
But it wasn’t over yet. Burgh would have the final say, as Sandy Watt – far from his usual omnipresence – shifted the balance back in the visitors’ direction by stealthily touching down from a chip ahead, surprising the Jed defence to slide over.
That effort, along with Rory Smith’s final try, proved more than enough to see out a hard-fought victory for Burgh, one which left head coach Derek O’Riordan relieved.
“We struggled to find our structure in the first half and had a 12 playing 10, so it was pretty difficult at times,” he said. “But we’re happy with how we finished the game, Fionn’s vision for Sandy’s try at the end was pin-point and showed that we can close out these sorts of matches. We showed the sort of resolve that we lacked last year, but that wasn’t a bad Jed side and we can build on this now.”
Counterpart David Grieve was left to rue another missed chance. “I don’t know what to say really, we had good parts today but again we conceded over 40 points,” he sighed. “We took the lead and I thought we would have a good exit, but Musselburgh were sharp and we weren’t at the races in the first half.”
Jed-Forest: M Glen; L Walker, G Young, D Buckley, R Shirra-Gibb; G Munro, A Bambrick; P Ferreira, J Ferguson, H Meadows, C Skeldon©, B Hope, D Wardrop, E Lauder, B Roff. Subs: R Briggs, H Stenhouse, R Thomson, L Elder, R Marshall.
Musselburgh: R Hindhaugh; J Ferguson, R Watt©, B Heber, S Watt; R Smith, F Call; C Owenson, R Stott, C Arthur, J Haynes, M Badenhorst, J Arnold, M Crawford, J Lister. Subs: J Crain, R Brown, G Inkster, M McMillan, O Craig.
Referee: A Cleland
Jed-Forest: Tries: Ferreira, Penalty, Buckley, Shirra-Gibb; Cons: Munro 4; Pens: Munro
Musselburgh: Tries: Badenhorst 3, Call, S Watt, Smith; Cons: Call 5
Scoring Sequence (Jed-Forest first): 0-5; 0-7; 0-12; 0-14; 5-14; 7-14 (h-t); 7-19; 7-21; 14-21; 14-26; 14-28; 19-28; 21-28; 26-28; 28-28; 31-28; 31-33; 31-38; 31-40; 31-42.
Yellow Cards –
Musselburgh: Badenhorst, Ferguson
Man-of-the-Match: Forget the fact that he copped a yellow card in the first half, Michael Badenhorst was simply sensational all game. A hat-trick of tries to his name should be proof enough of how much the big South African got around the park, and his work off the ball brought a strong balance to his game which helped Burgh get on the front foot on more than one occasion.
Talking point: Burgh bullied Jed off the ball with the sort of frequency in the first half that would make any team struggle to find their rhythm. The pack was superb all game, notably Badenhorst, Stott and Matthew Crawford and this gave Burgh much-needed momentum in the loose. Jed could not match the intensity and, despite their fightback, ran out of steam at the end.