FINN TAIT @ Stoneyhill
HAWICK delivered a dogged performance to ultimately silence a Musselburgh side that showed heart and character in their fight against relegation. In tough conditions, the Borderers capitalised on Musselburgh misfortune to take a tight win and extend their unbeaten run to 12 match and extend their lead at the top of the table.
“Conditions played a big part today, I am happy with how we weathered the storm but I feel at times we didn’t play to the conditions and invited pressure onto ourselves,” said victorious coach Matty Douglas.
“Credit to Musselburgh, they really stuck in, I am just happy we managed to take the points away from home. It was a real dogfight and with so many changes they were always going to be a tough side and it was good for us to be in a game like this.”
Musselburgh came out the gate full of fire, dominating the early exchanges with Paul Bogie and Neil McNairn leading the charge. The hosts built strongly and had the try-line within sight before a wayward pass was smartly collected by Kirk Ford and allowed Hawick to clear.
Off the resultant line-out Hawick kicked waywardly allowing James Ferguson to return a thunderous 50-22 that glanced off the corner flag protector. A smart line-out move allowed Edinburgh Rugby academy player Jamie Campbell to dive over to score, rewarding Musselburgh’s early pressure.
The physicality of the Musselburgh team was vicious in the early exchanges with several Hawick salvos being shutdown at source. Fearsome tackles in midfield were exchanged by the two centre pairings with neither side able to capitalise on field position due the line speed and brutality of the hits.
This period of deadlock was broken by the Musselburgh front-row, who produced a huge scrum allowing Danny Owenson a penalty shot at goal. He duly converted stretching the Musselburgh lead to eight points.
Hawick’s defensive rock, Andrew Mitchell, switched caps to lead the charge in attack taking Hawick inside the 22. Owenson was sent to the bin for cynical play and Ford converted took the three points.
But Musselburgh didn’t allow being man down to dent their enthusiasm, and Hawick were punished for indiscipline in the contact area which allowed stand-in kicker Paul Cunningham to restore Musselburgh’s lead.
The pendulum then swung Hawick’s way and they made their man advantage pay, utilising their tactical kicking to keep Musselburgh pinned deep in their half, and when visiting stand-off Kyle Brunton to Mitchell, the rampaging centre Mitchell escaped the challenge of opposite number Rory Watt and thundered over the top of the despairing cover defence to level the scores. The metronomic boot of Ford converted, and Hawick brought themselves within a point.
Owenson, fresh out the bin, wasted no time steadying his side, placing some exquisite box-kicks to march Musselburgh down into the Hawick 22, and the home team had a maul held up over the try-line.
The second half started frantically with both sides having early line-breaks, the robust figure of Michael Badenhorst making in-rouds for the hosts and Gareth Welsh nearly escaping down the touch line for the visitors.
Hawick were first to bother the scoreboard operator in the second half, Ford capitalising on some smart work at the breakdown from captain Matt Carryer to hand Hawick the lead.
In response, Owenson again brought his forwards onto the ball nicely with Badenhorst and the returning Max Outram working tirelessly. Owenson also tried a cheeky chip over the top which would’ve seen Rory Watt in for a score but the winger could not gather.
Brunton cleared and Hawick took control with Ronan McKean making good metres down the touchline, before the visiting forwards earned their team a penalty which allowed Ford to go for the corner, but the Greens were thwarted by Campbell’s aerial excellence, pinching the ball five metres short of his own line.
Hawick’s pressure cooker continued, drawing several penalties, and Musselburgh eventually lost Craig Owenson to the bin. Handbags ensued and there was a murmur of discontent among the home fans who believed they were hard done by.
A powerful Hawick scrum provided an ideal platform for Brunton’s backs to capitalise and with several miss-passes the ball found its way to Lewis Ferguson who finished in the corner. Ford claimed the extras from the touchline.
Musselburgh were unlucky again, the team showing tremendous heart and fight. Even with 14 men they posed a threat to the line and looked to be inching closer before Badenhorst lost control in the process of another thunderous carry.
This pressure led to a card for the away side against second-row Daniel Suddon for coming in at the side. But the hosts could not capitalise on their pressure. Finn Duraj fresh off the bench provided the best chance of the half, bursting down the touchline evading defenders before being shut down by the covering Ford.
Hawick’s Ross Graham saw yellow for a dangerous tackle which gave Owenson a chance to take Musselburgh within a score, and Musselburgh the chance of an unlikely win against 13 men, but Hawick . controlled the final few minutes and the home team and had to settle for a losing bonus point.
“We deserved a lot more out of that game,” said Musselburgh coach Derek O’Riordan. “This is the standard we should expect at this point following the corner we turned in advance of playing Marr. We’ve shown twice now that we can go toe-to-toe with the big boys in the league.”
Musselburgh: R Young; J Ferguson, F Thomson, R Watt, S Watt; P Cunningham, D Owenson; C Owenson, B Stott, N McNairn; J Campbell, W Fleming, M Badenhorst, M Outram, P Bogie. Subs: F Duraj, C Arthur, J Lister, C Champion, F Call
Hawick: K Ford; L Ferguson, E Reilly, A Mitchell, R McKean; K Brunton, G Welsh; S Muir, M Carryer©, N Little, D Suddon, S Fairbairn, C Sutherland, C Renwick, S Graham. Subs: R Graham, T Hope, D Redpath, H Patterson, L Gordon-Woolley.
Referee: Fergus Hollins
Musselburgh: Tries: Campbell; Cons: Pens: Owenson 2, Cunningham
Hawick: Tries: Mitchell, L Ferguson; Cons: Ford 2; Pens: Ford 2.
Scoring sequence (Musselburgh first): 5-0; 8-0; 8-3; 8-8; 8-10; 11-10 (h-t) 11-13; 11-18; 11-20; 14-20.
Yellow cards –
Musselburgh: D Owenson (25mins), C Owenson (55mins)
Hawick: Suddon (70mins), R Graham (75mins)
Man-of-the-Match: The work-rate and effort shown by the whole Hawick back-row was excellent, but Calum Renwick was the pick of the bunch. His contribution was a big part of the reason why Hawick were able to grind out the win.
Talking point: Hawick will take the points, but Musselburgh confirmed today that they belong in this league. If they continue the effort levels and willingness to front up which they showed today, they will take the relegation battle deep into the season.