COLIN RENTON @ Stoneyhill
MUSSELBURGH turned in a mega-Watt performance to halt a five-match losing run and edge a step closer to securing Tennent’s Premiership status for next season with a win that was a little more comfortable than the score-line might suggest.
Sandy Watt and his namesake Kieran bagged four of the home side’s five first half tries, as they built a lead that Selkirk looked unlikely to counter. To their credit, the Borderers rallied from that dismal first half showing to take a four-try bonus point, although the damage had been done.
The differing fortunes of the sides were reflected in the views of the respective coaches, with Graeme Paterson effusive in the praise of his men, while Scott Wight was at a loss to explain a performance in the opening 40 minutes that he described as embarrassing.
“It’s been a long time coming and I’m just delighted for the players, and Danny [Owenson] as captain. It was a really good performance in the first half. The game broke up in the last 20 minutes or so, but we’re going to take this and just enjoy it,” said Paterson.
“I felt beforehand that we had a real focus. We just played a simple game in that first half. We carried hard, and the set-piece was a lot better, so that gave us the chance to play a bit of rugby and it showed – when we played rugby, we played good rugby.”
For Wight, the inability to implement the game-plan was particularly annoying. “We speak about doing stuff on a Tuesday and a Thursday night then when you come to Saturday and don’t do it, it’s hugely frustrating. We identified a couple of areas where we felt they were weak and we didn’t expose that. Our ability to look after ball was dreadful. We didn’t string anything together,” he said.
And, although the performance levels clicked up a gear in the second period, he was far from satisfied, adding: “We fronted up and turned it round but even in the second half we probably still had another four or five try-scoring opportunities.
“We’ve got two games before Christmas against Hawick and Currie so we better get our act together pretty quickly or we’ll be on the receiving end of two defeats. We’ve definitely got the squad to answer the questions.”
In Selkirk’s defence, their cause was not helped by the loss of Peter Forrest and James Bett to injury inside the opening five minutes, and further bad luck led to a reshuffled front-row and uncontested scrums later in the match.
The pattern was set early as the hosts enjoyed the bulk of the possession and applied pressure to the Selkirk defence. However, that opening onslaught failed to deliver points, and there were 14 minutes on the clock when the breakthrough came. Colin Arthur made the first dent with a thumping run and, with the Selkirk defence stretched, Sandy Watt dived over at the corner.
Conditions were tricky for kickers and Danny Owenson’s missed conversion was followed by a Callum Anderson penalty that rattled off a post at the other end as the visitors sought a foothold in the game. Owenson atoned for his miss by turning creator for the second Musselburgh try. He pounced on a loose ball and combined with Rory Hindhaugh to carry play into opposition territory before he fired the recycled possession out to Watt who dotted down for a second time.
Gregor Tait did the spadework ahead of the third touchdown, with Watt again bagging the score after powering through a Ben Pickles tackle. The Selkirk centre bounced back immediately to claw back five points. With the referee playing advantage, Anderson sent over a well-judged cross-kick and Kieran Clark batted the ball into the path of Pickles who finished in style.
That was pretty much it for Selkirk’s first half threat and by the interval Kieran Watt had secured the bonus point when he powered over in the corner. The hosts then claimed try number five when Rory Watt took recycled ball and threw a long pass to Gregor Tait who sprinted in.
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Selkirk looked to carry more of a threat after the restart but lacked the cutting edge to carve a way through the home defence. In response, Owenson banged over a penalty then was alert to capitalise on a gap that opened up at a scrum inside the visitors’ half, darting down the blindside to score.
There appeared to be no way back for Selkirk, although Wight’s men were finally stung into action and Bruce Riddell was rewarded for a determined run when he crossed the whitewash after 62 minutes.
All Selkirk could hope for was a four try bonus and they moved closer to that goal when Scott McClymont, who was one of a handful of Selkirk players to earn plus marks, profited from uncertainty in the home ranks to score a try. The momentum had shifted and the bonus point was secured when Anderson raced over, cutting the deficit to 13 points with five minutes left to play.
Musselburgh stemmed the tide when Paddy Brown crashed over and Owenson added his first conversion of the day. However, Selkirk had the last word when Pickles touched down for a second time and Ethan McVicker added the extras.
Musselburgh: R Hindhaugh; S Watt, J Ferguson, R Watt, G Tait; P Cunningham, D Owenson; C Owenson, R Gregor, C Arthur, J Haynes, K Watt, D Slaven, M Crawford, L Hutson. Subs: P Brown, D Hodge, C Pryde, G Leitch, R Young.
Selkirk: K Clark; C McNeill, B Pickles, R Nixon, J Welsh; C Anderson, J Hamilton; L Pettie, J Bett, B Riddell, P Forrest, A Renwick, A Grant-Suttie, S McClymont, E MacDougall. Subs: A McColm, M Murray, A Renwick, T Brown, E McVicar, R Chalmers.
Referee: J Perriam
Musselburgh: Tries: S Watt 3, K Watt, Tait, D Owenson, Brown; Cons: Owenson; Pen: Owenson.
Selkirk: Tries: Pickles 2, Riddell, McClymont, Anderson; Con: McVicker.
Scoring sequence (Musselburgh first): 5-0; 10-0; 15-0; 15-5; 20-5; 25-5 (h-t) 28-5; 33-5; 33-10; 33-15; 33-20; 38-20; 40-20; 40-25; 40-27.
Yellow cards –
Man-of-the-Match: Despite a rare off-key performance with the boot, home skipper Danny Owenson was tactically astute, excellent in his decision making and leadership, and among the tries in an impressive all-round performance,
Talking point: Once again, Selkirk performed better in the second half, but the damage was done in a lacklustre opening 40 minutes. Little wonder that Scott Wight is frustrated by the patchwork nature of his side’s performances yet confident that his squad possesses the talent to put it right.