GHA 24 Musselburgh 19
Despite a disappointing start to their league campaign, Musselburgh arrived at Braidholm determined to begin the climb up the league table. GHA for their part had lost very narrowly at Jed-Forest last week and were intent on returning to winning ways. An overcast day with a slight wind blowing down the pitch greeted players and supporters. The pitch was in very good condition as both sets of players set about their preparations. Both sides went through rigorous stretching exercises before running through the panoply of set moves and drills. A reasonable crowd built up before kick off with the Braidholm Boozer with mine hostess Kate providing welcome sustenance for supporters.
GHA kicked off with Andrew Goudie sending a long diagonal kick into the heart of the visitors defence. The ball was gathered and returned and the opening few minutes were punctuated by crash ball efforts from powerful Musselburgh players Neil McNairn and Colin Arthur which required strong tackles to dispossess the player. GHA responded with several crash drives of their own through messrs Sutherland and Angus. Play concentrated around the ten metre lines as both sides probed for gaps. Andrew Gillman and Andrew Goudie moved the ball quickly and some clever interplay between the GHA back division unsettled the visitors. After six minutes pressure from GHA allowed Michael Scott to carry the ball deep into the visitors twenty two metre area. The home side were awarded a penalty which Andrew Goudie teased into touch inside the Musselburgh five metre line.From the lineout GHA put the ball through hands with Cameron King stopped just short of the line. The visitors hacked the ball clear but it was gathered by James Edgar whose mazy run caused panic in the visitors ranks before he released Andrew Spowart to score. Andrew Goudie converted and the score after eight minutes was: GHA 7 MUSSELBURGH 0.
GHA worked hard to keep the pressure on their opponents with a mixture of mis passes, feints and driving surges by forwards operating as a trio in the loose. In desperation Musselburgh gave away a penalty and Brad Graham was yellow carded for repeated infringements. Andrew Goudie elected to attempt to convert the penalty which was in front of the posts. His kick was successful and the score after fifteen minutes was : GHA 10 MUSSELBURGH 0.
The visitors quickly regrouped and repeated strikes by Colin Arthur made inroads to the GHA half. Gareth Pritchard and Donald Kennedy were using the ball cleverly to tie in the home defence before releasing the ball. Cory Vela in particular was a growing menace to the home defence. Musselburgh sensed they could cause some damage as they worked themselves into a good attacking position well inside the home half.A super disguised run and pass launched Cory Vela who broke through the home twenty two metre line only to see the ball knocked on with the try line beckoning. This move seemed to galvanise the visitors and after good work in the loose, Stephen Crawford went over to great acclaim from the visiting support. Gareth Pritchard converted to make the score after twenty five minutes : GHA 10 MUSSELBURGH 7.
GHA sensing a resurgence in their opponents redoubled their efforts and breaks by David Corbenici, Seitaro Usuda and Andrew Spowart were stopped by effective defensive tackling by the visitors. However Musselburgh gave away a penalty for hands in the loose and the resulting kick to touch put GHA inside the Musselburgh twenty two metre area in a good attacking position. With a catch and drive the home side tried to take the ball round the edges only to be stopped by the Musselburgh forwards. In a clever change of tactic, messrs Gillman and Goudie combined to feed Ross FIndlay whose beautifully timed run and excellent running line allowed him to break through the defence to score.The home support recorded their appreciation of the fine execution of a patient build up. Andrew Goudie converted to make the score after thirty minutes : GHA 17 MUSSELBURGH 7.
GHA were playing with a pleasing fluidity combining forwards and backs in gaining territory and changing tactics to keep Musselburgh guessing.Despite this setback, Musselburgh continued to work very hard and were certainly not playing like a team that has failed to record a win this season. Indeed as we approached half time the visitors were stopped just short of the GHA try line by dogged defence. The home side cleared the danger and found themselves breaking into the Musselburgh ten metre area. Further pressing resulted in a penalty being awarded for a high tackle to the home side. The ball was dispatched into touch and the home side were once again in a threatening position just outside the visitors twenty two metre area. However Musselburgh cleared the danger and indeed soon found their accurate passing took them up to half way. This time Musselburgh were awarded a penalty which Gareth Pritchard put into touch. In a change of tactics Gareth Pritchard sent a grubber kick through towards the GHA line at the corner and it took excellent cover work by Cameron KIng and Andrew Spowart working in tandem to negate the danger. However the home side were awarded a penalty for a high tackle and Andrew Goudie took play up to the ten metre area. Despite GHA winning the lineout, this time Musselburgh were awarded a penalty from outside the twenty two metre area. Critically Gareth Pritchard who had elected to go for goal just missed with his attempt and the score at half time was: GHA 17 MUSSELBURGH 7.
It had been an interesting forty minutes with both sides playing some good rugby. Musselburgh despite conceding seventeen points were certainly not out of the reckoning and GHA realised that there was still plenty of work to be done in the second half if a victory was to be obtained.
Musselburgh restarted the match and were clearly determined to give their all to haul the score line back. An excellent tackle by Andrew Gillman on his opposite number blunted a promising break into the GHA half. For several minutes both sides tried to impose their control on the match with much of the action again taking place between the ten metre lines. Effective tackling by both sides was causing the game to move across the pitch. GHA went through a number of phases with quick passing and linking from Andrew Gillman setting his backs on the front foot. As both sides looked for a way through Ross Findlay was yellow carded and almost immediately Musselburgh sent a long ball into touch at the corner. The visitors mounted a fierce attack which only desperate tackling blunted. However the visitors were not to be outdone and Bob Stott squeezed over in the corner to score. The conversion failed and the score after fifteen minutes was: GHA 17 MUSSELBURGH 12.
This score gave huge confidence to the visitors who with forwards and backs combining forced GHA to defend inside their own half. Musselburgh were making inroads and carefully recycling the ball and varying their angle of approach.By the twentieth minute sustained pressure on GHA brought a rich reward when Ben Hibberd went over in the corner. The try was converted amidst great celebrations amongst the visiting support. The score was now : GHA 17 MUSSELBURGH 19.
The home side to their credit did not panic but instead took the game straight back to the visitors. With controlled possession the home side worked their way into the Musselburgh half. Andrew Goudie was causing the visitors difficulties by his speed of pass and mis passes and subtle feints. In one such break it took several Musselburgh players to stop him breaking away. Excellent ball retention by the home pack forced the visitors to defend deep inside their own half and tied in their forwards. GHA were patiently making ground waiting for the opportunity to break through. After twenty two minutes a combined move by messrs Goudie and Edgar resulted in the winger using his excellent pace and clever footwork to go round his opponent and score.An outstanding conversion from a very tight angle by Andrew Goudie made the score :GHA 24 MUSSELBURGH 19.
The last fifteen minutes of the match offered up some good rugby from both sides. An enthralled and nervous crowd cheered and groaned as both sides attempted to find a way through. Sterling defensive work was required with strength sapping tackles stopping breaks by both sides.As we moved into the last ten minutes GHA worked hard to protect the ball, launching small groups of forward at the visitors and ensuring they retained the ball. This tactic made quite a contrast to the efforts of Musselburgh to throw the ball wide at every attempt as time began to turn against them. The match was on a knife edge one mistake by either side would probably carry the day. Musselburgh as we moved towards the last seven minutes made a concerted effort to use their forwards to smash their way deep into the GHA Twenty two metre area. The visitors were thwarted by a mighty defensive effort and there was great relief when a dropped pass by the visitors was hacked up to halfway. George Baird came on for his debut with minutes to go. Despite his tender years this young man kept the pressure on the visitors by short passes to the forwards alternating this with passes to his fellow backs.Musselburgh tried desperately to win the ball in the loose but excellent game management by the home side allowed them to hold on to their lead at the final whistle with the score: GHA 24 MUSSELBURGH 19.
This was a close encounter with neither side able to hold the initiative for very long and the result was in doubt to the very end. GHA managed the game towards the end superbly but had to ensure that they carried out the basics effectively .
MUSSELBURGH: R.YOUNG B.HIBBERD J.COUTTS R.WATT C.VELA G.PRITCHARD D.KENNEDY N.McNAIRN R.GREGOR C.ARTHUR G.McKINSTREY E.MILTON B.GRAHAM S.CRAWFORD L.HUSTON Reserves: B.STOTT C.OWENSON C.PRYDE J.DOIG A.COOK
GHA: C.KING J.EDGAR B.ADDISON R.FINDLAY A.SPOWART A.GOUDIE A.GILLMAN T. BROGAN S.USUDA M.SCOTT A.BARNETT J.McCARTHY R.ANGUS J.SUTHERLAND D.CORBENICI Reserves: S.CARSON J.LESLIE L-M MAVUNGA E.HARDIE G.BAIRD
REFEREE : Mr S TURNBULL
ASSISTANT REFEREES : MR A LAING MR D PINE
Photo credit: Colin Robinson