LEWIS STUART @ Stoneyhill
DESPTE finishing the game with only 12 men on the pitch, Musselburgh moved up to fourth in the Premiership table with an eight try demolition of winless Jed-Forest. They were in complete charge of events for most the match until a flurry of late yellow cards saw three players sent to the bin, two for high tackles, giving the visitors the chance to rescue an unlikely scoring bonus point.
The fact is, though, that until the numbers were tilted so heavily in the Borderers favour, the Edinburgh outfit were in a different class and might even have scored more, a point that coach Derek O’Riordan was quick to make afterwards as he made sure his players did not get too carried away by the ease of their win.
“Our interplay was was fantastic, but I still think we were trying to play too much from our own third and we didn’t have enough control over the game early on,” he pointed out. “We left quite a few scores out there. 51 points is great but I don’t think it was an accurate reflection of the game really.
“When we were down to 12 men, there is not a whole lot you can do except try and bear up defensively, so they got an opportunity to get their confidence up and play in a way they’re really good at – loose, fast and unstructured.”
Nor were there any complaints about the yellow cards, one for a technical offence and two for high tackles, though there was some sympathy from the coach for players, with some having to adapt to different laws on tackle height in the Super Series and the Premiership.
“I think the referees are handling it as well as they can,” O’Riordan added. “You’ve got Super Series players who are playing two different rules coming down into the league and also have referees who are switching between the Super Series and the Premiership. It means the ambiguity around what is high is sort of amplified. We just need to focus on trying to tackle below the ball.”
Against that, Ross Goodfellow, the Jed assistant coach, was left looking for positives from what he admitted was a poor performance. He found it in the final try flurry, though that has to be set against the numbers on the field.
Still, in a side desperately searching for confidence, it was fair for him to point out that with the chance to open up and show what they could do ball in hand his players had taken full advantage. “We played really well in the last 20 minutes, got some real go-forward, showed what we could do and got some tries,” he said. :The game was over by then, sadly, but we could have just folded and we didn’t. It’s a positive that we finished strongly but it’s not good enough.
“It showed that when we put it together we can play rugby but we’ve just been massively short on numbers so credit to the boys who are here. The plus point is we finished strongly.”
The finish was not the issue, the start was. It took Musselburgh only two minutes to get the try scoring underway with Sandy Watts put clear by some good work from fly-half Danny Owenson.
Jed did hit back with a long period of pressure which ended is Robbie Shirra-Gibbb, the wing, being put clear to score but that was only a brief blip in the pattern of the game, and it didn’t take long before Danny Owenson and Michael Badenhorst made ground and full-back Paul Cunningham finished on the right wing.
Owenson did it all himself for the third try, as he dummied the defence and just made the line, before he added a penalty. The bonus-point try came after only 27 minutes with No 8 Paul Bogie hammering up the middle of the defence to take the ball almost to the line before offloading to flanker Matthew Crawford, who found Ben Heber, the centre, for the score.
Jed replied with a try from lock Jamie Hynd after a line-out maul had been held but the half finished with Musselburgh driving the visitors off their scrum ball and thundering all the way to the line for Bogie to touch down.
It was much the same pattern in the second half with Badenhorst, the flanker, finishing a classy move featuring Heber, Cunningham and wing Ollie Craig before Watt collected his second after hooker Darren Miller had done the groundwork on the other side of the pitch.
Even after Bogie saw yellow, Musselburgh were able to score with replacement Jordan Lister being driven over in a maul but two more yellow cards in quick succession turned the pattern of the game on its head.
Facing 12 men, Jed could let the ball go freely and flanker Blake Roff claimed a score before Robbie Thomson, another replacement, went over for the bonus point.
Full-back Mason Cullen showed his pace and sidestepping ability with a wonderful length-of-the-field try but for all the joy that brought the visitors, it was never going to be enough.
Musselburgh: P Cunningham; O Craig, B Heber, R Smith, S Watt; D Owenson, F Call; C Owenson, D Miller, E Bonthron, J Arnold, J Haynes, M Badenhorst, M Crawford, P Bogie. Subs: A Forbes, R Brown, J Lister, A McLean, M McMillan.
Jed-Forest: M Cullen; B Irvine, G Young, R Marshall, R Shirra-Gibb; O Cranston, M Glen; J Ferguson, H Keith, N Bates, C Skeldon, J Hynd, E Lauder, B Roff, B Fotheringham. Subs: J Bowie, G Law, R Thomson, B Howe, K Grieve.
Referee: C Worsley.
Musselburgh: Tries: S Watt 2, Cunningham, D Owenson, Helen, Bogie, Badenhorst, Lister; Cons: D Owenson 4; Pen: D Owenson.
Jed-Forest: Tries: Shirra-Gibb, Hynd, Roff, Thomson, Cullen; Con: Cranston.
Scoring sequence (Musselburgh first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-5; 12-5; 17-5; 20-5; 25-7; 27-5; 27-10; 32-10; 34-10; 39-10; 44-10; 49-10; 51-10; 51-15; 51-17; 51-22; 51-27.
Yellow cards –
Musselburgh: Bogie (65 mins),Badenhorst (69 mins), Call (73 mins).
Jed-Forest: Lauder (35 mins)
Player-of-the-Match: It was nip and tuck between Michael Badenhorst, the flanker, and Sandy Watt, the wing. Both scored and were always threats whenever they got the ball but Badenhorst picked up a silly yellow card, and that tips the award to Watt, who collected two tries and could have had a couple more.
Talking point: Things are looking grim for Jed-Forest, who must now fear that they could go through the season without a win. They looked like a side with all their confidence stripped away by earlier failure and the worry for the coaches is how they can rebuild self-belief with pressure games to come.