GHA 33 Musselburgh 34
Musselburgh arrived at Braidholm to play this rearranged match. It meant a shortened break for the players of both sides from the attritional nature of League duty. An overcast day with little wind greeted all at Braidholm. The pitch was soft but held a stud, Both sides fully understood the importance of using this match as a launching pad for their efforts to secure a top six position come the end of the season. Both teams prepared thoroughly ensuring bodies were truly ready for the contest after the festive break.
GHA kicked off and Musselburgh immediately gathered the ball and engaged the home side on half way. In the early exchanges both sides attempted to probe for weaknesses in their opponents and play moved back and forth between the respective ten metre areas. Musselburgh began to employ Colin Arthur in midfield, apart from his physicality the prop’s handling ability and running power were to present an excellent attacking platform all day for the visitors and give concern to the home side. The promptings of Daniel Owenson gave Musselburgh a slight advantage in territory. In the ninth minute, the visitors were awarded a penalty just outside the GHA twenty two metre area. Daniel Owenson produced the first of many accurate kicks in the match to make the score at the tenth minute: GHA 0 MUSSELBURGH 3.
The home side, stung by this reversal immediately took the game to the visitors and a promising platform inside the visitors half came to nought when George Baird received an injury which curtailed his movement and later forced him to leave the field. Despite this the home side cheered on by a good crowd, attacked the Musselburgh defence. An excellent diagonal kick by Max MacFarlane and a scalding break by Ben Addison which just failed to win points for the home side were the highlight of the next few moments. The home side mounted fresh attacks through their hard working forward forcing the visitors back deep into their own half. A quickly released ball and swift passing allowed Ben Addison to burst through the Musselburgh defence to score in the fourteenth minute. The try was converted by Ross Findlay and the score was now GHA 7 MUSSELBURGH 3.
The visitors set about regaining territory and moved the ball well as the home defence seemed slow to close down danger and as a result Luke Hutson in the sixteenth minute broke through the home side to score to loud acclaim from the travelling support from the East. The prodigious boot of Daniel Owenson converted the try to make the score after nearly eighteen minutes: GHA 7 MUSSELBURGH 10.
The match scoring was typical of fixtures between these two sides which traditionally have always been high scoring affairs. The home side were clearly annoyed at themselves for giving away a try so soon after taking the lead. The GHA side worked hard to find an opening, maintaining possession and switching the ball from side to side. Some crunching tackles in this phase of the match stopped progress for both sides. A penalty to GHA on the twenty fifth minute gave the home side the opportunity to take play deep into the Musselburgh half with an accurate kick. The attempt failed and gave possession back to a relieved visiting side. Missing crucial touches was to hinder the home side throughout the match and tended to undo some great lead up work in the loose. As we moved into the thirty fifth minute a superb break by Adam Kerr drove a wedge through the visiting defence, the ball was quickly recycled and Max MacFarlane broke through several desperate defensive tackles to fly over the line. Ross Findlay converted and as we moved towards half time the score had swung back in favour of the home side: GHA 14 MUSSELBURGH 10.
This was the half time score. It had been an exciting first period with some good interplay. Neither side seemed capable of achieving dominance and the match could be won by the side that pressed home their advantage and avoided errors.
The visitors attacked the GHA side in the opening minutes of the half with some authority and won a penalty inside the GHA twenty two metre area. Daniel Owenson converted the penalty and the score was now : GHA 14 MUSSELBURGH 13.
However GHA settled to the task and were soon asking questions of the visiting defence. GHA forced play into the Musselburgh five metre area but excellent defence seemed to rebuff the efforts of the home side until in a quick release to the backs and some deft handling, Ross Findlay exploited a gap and went over in nine minutes to score. Murray Houston converted and the score was now: GHA 21 MUSSELBURGH 13.
Having been caught once after a score the home side once again failed to hold the opposition and in a sweeping move Musselburgh’s Patrick Brown ran through the home defence to score. Daniel 0wenson once again converted and the score after twelve minutes was GHA 21 MUSSELBURGH 20.
This score seemed to encourage the visitors to attack on a broad front. The home side found themselves defending desperately inside their half but in vain as Stuart Thomson finished off a cutting move by Musselburgh to score. Daniel Owenson secured a further two points and the score had dramatically turned around to read after fifteen minutes: GHA 21 MUSSELBURGH 27.
The home side attempted to shake off their disappointment and pushed the visiting side back into their own half. Musselburgh got into a terrible fankle inside their own twenty two metre area trying to run the ball and the ever alert Max MacFarlane seized on a missed pass to collect the ball and sprint between the posts to score. Murray Houston converted and the score turned yet again to read after seventeen minutes: GHA 28 MUSSELBURGH 27.
The game was now very much in the balance. Musselburgh renewed their efforts and the home side had to defend desperately to stop sorties from the visitors being successful. However Musselburgh were awarded a penalty after huge efforts by GHA to defend their line. The visitors elected to go for a scrum and as the ball was released and taken into contact the visiting forwards worked a clever roll to find space to allow Graeme Brown to go over . Needless to say the peerless Owenson claimed the two points for the conversion and as we passed the half hour mark the score was now: GHA 28 MUSSELBURGH 34.
With the crowd roaring on their respective favourites GHA hammered at the Musselburgh defence. As spectators nervously checked their watches a herculean effort by GHA to get over the line was stemmed by superb defence by the visitors. However with time running out a ball sent wide to Grant Mollison allowed him to squeeze in at the corner. GHA missed the conversion and fought to the end to try and overtake the one point deficit. The visitors held out to be winners in what had been an exciting match. The home side were left to rue several moments when mistakes proved costly but cannot be faulted for a huge effort which just failed to win the match.
All at Braidholm wish a speedy return to health for club legend Bill McMurtrie.
GHA: G. MOLLISON, A. SPOWART R. FINDLAY M. MacFARLANE, B. ADDISON, C. KING, G. BAIRD, S. CARSON, M.SCOTT, M. FOX, A. KERR, J. McCARTHY, D. EWING, R. ANGUS, J. SUTHERLAND – REPLACEMENTS: S. FISHER, B. KASPAR, A. BARNETT, M. HOUSTON, A. PUREWALL
SCORERS: T – MACFARLANE (2), ADDISON, FINDLAY, MOLLISON C – FINDLAY (2), HOUSTON (2)
MUSSELBURGH: J.FERGUSON S.THOMSON R.SMITH L.HUTSON G.TAIT D.OWENSON K.McGHIE C.OWENSON R.GREGOR C.ARTHUR W.FLEMING C.PRYDE M.MALTMAN M.FLEMING G.BROWN – REPLACEMENTS: R.STOTT N.McNAIRN J.ANDERSON P.BROWN J.DOIG
SCORERS: T – G. BROWN, P. BROWN, HUTSON, THOMSON C – D. OWENSON (4) P – D. OWENSON (2)
REFEREE: Mr G POUNDER
ASSISTANT REFEREES: MR W GAFFNEY & MR D McKERVAIL