Edinburgh Accies 28
COLIN RENTON @ Stoneyhill
MUSSELBURGH had the edge in a marathon encounter that stretched beyond 90 minutes and featured eight tries shared evenly, ensuring that both sides took something from the game. There was plenty of pace on show from the two teams, but the difference proved to be Musselburgh’s ability to take their opportunities when they presented themselves, then defend well when it mattered.
Two successive home wins suggest that Stoneyhill will be a tricky place for opponents to visit as the season progresses.
Assistant coach, David Officer, hopes that will prove to be the case, although he believes there is still much more to come from the East Lothian outfit. He was satisfied with several aspects of the performance, but less so with others.
“We’re pleased with the result. We dug in at the end. We had a dip in the second half,” he said. “Too many mistakes, turnover ball, penalties and we gave them an opportunity to get back in the game. But we had a chat at half-time and the guys came out, got a score on the board early and that settled us a bit.”
Of the defensive effort when the line was under siege in the second half, he added: “Our structure in defence has been good this season – it’s just one-on-one tackles we’ve been missing. These are things we’ll work on and hopefully we’ll get better week-on-week. Pleased with the result and the resilience from the squad.”
That attribute was evident from the start as the home side, looking to bounce back from a defeat seven days earlier, raced into action and opened the scoring with only three minutes on the clock. Danny Owenson banged a penalty into touch, Jordan Lister gathered at the line-out and when the drive was halted, Neil McNairn powered over, leaving Owenson a simple conversion.
Accies looked slick in attack, and it took a solid tackle by Rory Hindhaugh to halt Hamish Janes and keep the lead intact. And the gap grew on 20 minutes when a break from halfway carried play to within striking distance where the ball was flung out wide to Sandy Watt, who marked his return to the side with a try, which Owenson converted.
Musselburgh were good value for their lead at that stage, but Accies looked menacing on their visits to opposition territory, with the pace on both flanks stretching the home defence.
However, it was swift ball transfer rather than searing pace that created the first Accies score. Richard Mill launched the break, Vincent Hart kept the move going and fed Janes, who exchanged passes with Ruari Campbell before completing the job. Mill added the extras.
The kicker then squared matters when he added the conversion after Jamie Loomes sprinted over to cap a six-phase attack following a penalty that was booted into touch. Accies then raised the pace and ended an entertaining first half in the ascendancy but failed to boost their points tally, meaning at the break the sides were locked at 14 apiece.
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The second period started in a similar fashion to the first, with the hosts looking the sharper of the two, and they reclaimed the lead when Watt was on hand to take a pop pass and dart in for his second after Luke Hutson had been hauled down 10 metres shy of the whitewash. Owenson’s immaculate boot added the additional two points then took the gap to double figures when he banged over a penalty from 40 metres.
Accies responded with a spell of sustained pressure. Cole Imrie was held up over the line but the score was delayed by just a few seconds, with Neil Armstrong gathering the drop out and slaloming past several defenders to score and leave Mill a simple conversion.
That set up a tight finale, but the hosts bagged the crucial score when Paul Cunningham tried to capitalise on a three man overlap but had his pass knocked on by Janes. After consultation with his assistant, Graeme Ormiston awarded a penalty-try and yellow carded the offender.
There was one more twist still to come and it occurred deep into injury time. A string of penalties allowed Accies to chase the bonus point score. Desperate Musselburgh kept their opponents out, but it was done illegally and earned William Fleming a yellow card. Then, with the final play of the game, a last desperate effort yielded a try for Fraser McAslan, converted by Mill.
That offered some consolation for Accies coach Iain Berthinussen. “Delighted to get two points in all honesty with the way we played – we were pretty poor,” he said.
“Ultimately we didn’t protect the ball well enough. We played some good stuff at times and we just forced an offload that lost us the game.”
However, he does believe that he has the makings of a decent squad, adding: “There is something definitely there. We had a big turnover of players coming in, which maybe took a bit longer than we thought.”
Musselburgh: R Hindhaugh; S Watt, L Brook, R Watt, G Tait; P Cunningham, D Owenson; C Arthur, C Owenson, N McNairn, W Fleming, J Haynes, M Crawford, J Lister, L Hutson. Replacements: A Forbes, B Stott, P Brown, L Kotze, V Kacori.
Edinburgh Accies: V Hart; H Janes, N Armstrong, R Mill, B Appleson; J Loomes, B Grainger; C Imrie, C Black, R Montgomery, F Simpson, S Whittaker, M Walker, J Sole, R Campbell. Replacements: F McAslan, C Taylor, A Inwood, B Afshar, W Stephen.
Referee: G Ormiston
Musselburgh: Tries: McNairn, S Watt 2, penalty try; Cons: D Owenson 3; Pen: D Owenson.
Edinburgh Accies: Tries Janes, Loomes, Armstrong, McAslan; Cons: Mill 4.
Scoring sequence: (Musselburgh first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 14-5; 14-7; 14-12; 14-14 (h-t) 19-14; 21-14; 24-14; 24-19; 24-21; 31-21; 31-26; 31-28.
Yellow Cards –
Man-of-the-Match: There were contenders on both sides, but the man whose urgings and organisation were key to the victory, was home skipper Danny Owenson, who proved that there is much more in his armoury than a reliable boot off the tee.
Talking point: Two home wins for Musselburgh is a good start towards achieving their overriding objective of Premiership survival. One potential barrier will be their ability to withstand injury absences, with several more players picking up knocks in this match.