Bulls win arm wrestle with Musselburgh
By JIm Browning
Hamilton 27 - Musselburgh 25
Hamilton Bulls secured a last minute victory against a Musselburgh team sitting 4th in National 1 and took revenge for their defeat earlier in the season. The first half of this game saw both teams cancel each other out but exploded into life in the second half, and as pressure on both teams grew, the referee, Mr Hollins, issued a total of 5 yellow cards, as the game threatened to spiral out of his control.
It was the visitors who got on the scoreboard first after Hamilton’s McLeish had missed a long range penalty attempt. Musselburgh also missed a long range effort but Owenson was gifted an easy penalty shot after Hamilton’s 22 drop out went straight out giving Musselburgh a scrum in mid field. Bulls were penalised, much to the bemusement of spectators, and owenson nudged the visitors in front. Musselburgh are renowned for their forward strength and they were able to produce a repeat performance on 12 minutes to extend their lead.
The game became bogged down in centre field for almost 20 minutes as both defences dominated. On a dull day, the game was becoming just as dull until minutes before half time. Hamilton’s captain, Mark Wallace
suffered a severe facial injury after a heavy collision. Burgh’s Ruaridh Young showed real sportsmanship in calling the referee’s attention, when they were in a good attacking position. It was perhaps fitting then that is was Young who broke Hamilton’s restructured defence to score in the corner. However, Hamilton went straight back on the offensive and the backs showed the kind of handling for which they are known and as the ball was moved towads the left wing, Milne showed real slight of hands to move the ball out of the tackle to Ross Inglis
who crossed the line for Hamilton’s first try, which McLeish converted. Half time Hamilton 7 – Musselburgh 13.
The second half however was much more positive for Bulls. Within minutes of the kick off Mcleish kicked a long range penalty to reduce the leeway. On 55 minutes, Hamilton finally took the lead with a well taken try by substitute Hugo Crush
. Milne showed great strength to break out of his own 22 and carry bulls into Burgh territory and quick recycling took Hamilton to the 22. Crush saw the gap on the blind side and made one of his trade mark breaks to run in from 22 metres, again converted by Mcleish. 3 minutes later, Milne himself scored having picked up the ball in his own half to break the first tackle. He found himself in space and showing a turn of pace that surprised even him, hw made it to the line for an easy conversion. Score now 24 13. Bulls supporters began to believe that their team would be rewarded for some really courageous play.
However tempers frayed and after a brief scuffle the referee awarded a scrum to Burgh on the advice of the AR. The crowd and the players were bemused. This was upgraded to a penalty for dissent, and Burgh moved the ball quickly. In the ensuing melee White was yellow carded. At the next phase, Burgh’s Conor Slaven received his marching orders for an infringement at the break down. Although the floodlights broke down temporarily, play raged on and as Burgh attacked, Hamilton’s desperate defence saw yellow cards issued to Hamilton’s McLaughlin and Crush, though it was unclear for what. With 12 playing 14 Burgh took advantage and scored two quick tries to turn the game on its head. A brilliant touch line conversion from Owneson put them into a 1 point lead. With time running out, bulls threw everything into attack and great handling gave Inglis a clear break. Howeve a last ditch tap tackle brought him down a metre short. Burgh threw men into the ruck to seal the ball off. Bowman was yellow carded, and Mcleish had the composure under pressure to kick the final points.
Coach Gemmell was delighted though relieved and after the match confessed to having doubts as to whether his players would be able to survive the yellow card madness. “Some of the senior players really showed up today to manage that period as well as we did and to set the platform for that final kick.” Hamilton won 27 – 25, to edge clear of their near rivals in the lower half of the division. They travel to Kirkaldy next to take on the team they narrowly defeated just 2 weeks ago.