Edinburgh Accies 35
COLIN RENTON @ Stoneyhill
GUTSY Musselburgh staged a late rally to snatch a narrow victory that strengthens their grip on a place in the top half of the Premiership table. The home side led for most of the game then, after falling behind, bounced back from an eight-point deficit to snatch victory with a penalty five minutes into injury time.
The hosts were well worth the victory but they were unable to shrug off a determined Accies outfit that performed below par in several areas, but managed to stay in the game despite being under pressure for lengthy spells, and with a couple of minutes to play looked set to leave Stoneyhill with all five league points.
Home coach Derek O’Riordan is keen to manage expectations, but a play-off spot is not beyond the realms of possibility. He was delighted with the outcome in a match he saw as crucial to his club’s campaign. “It looked like we had almost given it away towards the back end but it’s about having the resolve to find a way to win,” he said. “That game was massive for us in the context of the season.”
He is happy with the way his side is evolving, adding: “We’ve got a clear idea of what we want to do on the attacking side of the ball and we have confidence in the game that we have, with attacking threats right across the field.”
It has been a tough few weeks for his Accies counterpart, Iain Berthinussen, who has had much of the experience in his squad ripped out through injury. Against that backdrop, he was reasonably satisfied to take two bonus points.
“We did really well to stay in it because we were really poor. We didn’t stick to what we had talked about doing all week so I’m really pleased that we were in the game, if I’m honest”, he said. “It’s kind of where we are at the moment – some guys missing and some young guys coming in. Ultimately, we’ll be better for it.”
Musselburgh made a strong start and had Accies on the back foot for much of the opening quarter. They opened the scoring after 15 minutes. Michael Maltman made the initial break and the ball was moved wide to Sandy Watt. He was halted deep in the opposition 22 but the recycled ball found its way to Danny Owenson who finished well then added the conversion.
The gap grew to double figures after 12 minutes when a penalty into touch created the platform for a powerful surge that ended with Darren Miller crashing over.
Accies gained a foothold in the game and opened their account in 19 minutes when Patrick Ritchie caught the home defence napping with a quickly taken penalty and plunged over between the sticks to leave Ben Appleson a simple conversion.
Musselburgh bagged a third try when a penalty into touch and another maul stretched the Accies defence, before a slick pass by Owenson found Rory Watt, who darted in, with the try’s creator adding the extras.
Accies battled back and a penalty into touch provided an opportunity to build a series of attacks that edged them closer to the line before Cole Imrie dived over to claim the points. Appleson again converted and provided the momentum for the visitors to finish the half strongly, although they failed to add to their score.
Musselburgh secured the bonus point try ten minutes after the restart when a thundering run by Maltman took him to within striking distance where Michael Badenhorst was on hand to gather and dot down.
Accies responded with a tap penalty that was shipped through several pairs of hands before Neil Armstrong crossed the whitewash and Appleson converted to leave the gap at three points. That extended to six when Owenson stroked over a penalty.
Accies set up a stirring finale to the match when a spell of renewed pressure ended with Chris Thomson’s cleverly angled run landing the bonus point try, with Appleson’s conversion nudging the visitors into the lead for the first time.
And the hosts were left needing two scores when Imrie capped another string of post-lineout attacks by hammering his way over to claim his second converted score of the afternoon.
Musselburgh were not yet done and Owenson sliced through for his second try, then added the extras with a drop kick to cut the deficit to a single point.
And he proved to be the match winner when he was presented with a penalty in front of the posts after a pass at a ruck hit a defender who was slow to retreat.
The win was no more than Musselburgh deserved, while the two bonus points secured by Accies means they remain in a solid position as the campaign enters the crucial phase.
Musselburgh: P Cunningham; O Craig, R Smith, R Watt©, S Watt; D Owenson, F Call; C Owenson, R Mackie, D Miller, J Arnold, J Haynes, M Maltman, G Inkster, M Badenhorst. Subs: C Arthur, R Brown, P Bogie, M Crawford, M McMillan.
Edinburgh Accies: R Chalmers; Gavin Welsh, N Armstrong©, G Woods, K Gossman; B Appleson, P Ritchie; C Imrie, F McAslan, C Crookshank, T Drennan, S Whittaker, C Thomson, K Slingsby, J Sole. Subs: G Hall, A Hain, G Napier, B Grainger, J Jones.
Referee: T French
Musselburgh: Tries: D Owenson 2, Miller, R Watt, Badenhorst; Cons D Owenson 3; Pens: 2
Edinburgh Accies: Tries: Ritchie, Imrie 2, Armstrong, Thomson; Cons – Appleson 5
Scoring sequence (Musselburgh first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 12-5; 12-7; 17-7; 19-7; 19-12; 19-14 (h-t) 24-14; 24-19; 24-21; 27-21; 27-21; 27-26; 27-28; 27-33; 27-35; 32-35; 34-35; 37-35.
Man-of-the-Match: A powerful back-row was key to Musselburgh’s success and the impressive contribution of Michael Maltman meant he just pipped Michael Badenhorst as man-of-the-match.
Talking point: Musselburgh played well in several early-season games but failed to win them, then posted a couple of tight victories. They have learned how to win and are now performing with confidence. Accies have an unfortunate injury list, but as key men return over the coming weeks they should still be play-off contenders.