Currie Chieftains 46
COLIN RENTON @ Stoneyhill
CURRIE CHIEFTAINS eased to a comfortable win that maintains their perfect start to the campaign. But it was a tougher contest than the result might suggest, and swung on a key moment early in the second half when Musselburgh failed to capitalise on a spell of sustained pressure that might have caused a vastly different outcome.
Chieftains had harnessed the elements in the first period to claim three tries, but the hosts were poised to cut the deficit and had a man advantage. However, they failed to capitalise on the opportunity and it was the visitors who showed a clinical edge to kick on and take all five league points, and leave the Stoneyhill men empty-handed.
Chieftains, with a stiff wind at their backs, wasted no time in imposing themselves. With two minutes on the clock, Jamie Forbes fed Charlie Brett, whose clever chip found Sam Cardosi, who gathered and raced over for an unconverted score.
The hosts responded with a spell of possession that featured strong breaks by Ben Heber and James Ferguson plus a couple of solid contributions from Rory Hindhaugh, but they failed to make it into the opposition 22 and it was Chieftains who were next on the scoresheet. This time a line-out catch and drive provided the base for Ali Bain to crash over, with Brett adding the extras.
Musselburgh’s scrum and defence held up well, with Sandy Watt delivering one crushing tackle on a fleeing Ryan Daley, but they were struggling to contain live-wire centre DJ Innes, who had already been prominent a couple of times before bursting clear after half an hour and setting up Brett to send Cammy Gray over for what proved to be the final points of the half.
Musselburgh ended the period in the ascendancy but had nothing to show for their efforts. However, that spell of pressure exposed some weaknesses in the Chieftains ranks and also led to a mounting penalty count against the visitors.
The pattern continued after the restart and the home side bagged the points that their efforts merited when Raymond Mackie capped a string of pick-and-go efforts by crashing over. Danny Owenson’s conversion meant that Musselburgh were back in the game.
And they looked set to add to their tally as they continued to dominate possession. They were held out by an increasingly desperate defensive effort from Chieftains, who eventually fell foul of the referee, with Thomas Jeffrey the unlucky recipient of the inevitable yellow card. The turning point in the game came when Musselburgh failed to make the most of that numerical and territorial advantage.
They paid the price with an hour on the clock when a scything run by Jamie Forbes carried play into the opposition 22 for only the second time since the interval and he sent Innes sprinting clear for the bonus point try.
That buoyed the visitors but also quelled the Musselburgh spirit and ended the home side’s resistance. Chieftains clicked through the gears to claim four more tries in the remaining 25 minutes. A catch and drive ended with Ollie Blyth-Lafferty dotting down. Brett converted, then raced in at the corner for try No 6.
By full-time the gap had grown yet further as Sam Leto freed Bain for his second score of the afternoon before Daley added further gloss to the score line when he darted over in injury time.
Both coaches were in agreement about the turning point in the match, with Musselburgh’s Derek O’Riordan bemoaning the loss of composure by the hosts.
“It was just a lack of maturity on their line,” he said. “Just a pass beyond or a pick-and-go and we were over the line, then suddenly you’re at 17-14 and it looks like a different game. Giving up the penalty on their line just changed us psychologically a little bit and we were in a battle.
“I’m disappointed that we didn’t take anything from the game today but we had flashes that showed us there’s enough in the tank,” he added. “We’re going to have to be really on our game against Jed next week.”
In the Chieftains camp, Ally Donaldson offered a similar view. “It was a lot tougher than the scoreline looks. Obviously we ran away with it at the end. When it was 17-7 and we were down to 14 men on our own line and we managed to hold them out, that was the defining moment in the game,” he said.
“I feel that’s probably been our best performance of the season although there is still a lot more to come. Musselburgh are a well-coached team, a physical team, and although they have a few important guys missing, to come here and get a result like that is hugely satisfying.”
Musselburgh: R Hindhaugh; J Ferguson, R Watt©, B Heber, S Watt; D Owenson, F Call; R Brown, R Mackie, C Arthur, J Haynes, J Arnold, G Inkster, M Crawford, J Lister. Subs: D Miller, R Hanning, C Champion, R Smith, O Craig.
Currie Chieftains: C Brett; J McCaig, C Gray, DJ Innes, R Daley; J Forbes©, C Lessels; T Jeffrey, G Carson, O Blyth-Lafferty, W Inglis, A McCallum, A Bain, S Cardosi, R Davies. Subs: K Robertson, S Fisher, C West, M O’Neil, S Leto.
Referee: David Young.
Musselburgh: Try: Mackie; Con: Owenson.
Currie Chieftains: Tries: Cardosi, Bain 2, Gray, Innes, Blyth-Lafferty, Brett, Daley; Cons: Brett 2, Leto.
Scoring sequence (Musselburgh first): 0-5; 0-10; 0-12; 0-17 (h-t) 5-17; 7-17; 7-22; 7-27; 7-29; 7-34; 7-39; 7-44; 7-46.
Yellow card –
Man-of-the-Match: Despite the result, several Musselburgh men had a decent claim, but the powerful running and try contribution of DJ Innes made the Chieftains centre the stand-out performer.
Talking point: Chieftains appear to be building momentum and there will be more clarity in the coming weeks over the possibility of going one step further than the runners-up slot they occupied last year.