Musselburgh took comfort from their season’s performances overall after letting slip a chance to claim silverware in the RBS Scottish rugby Shield final at Murrayfield.
The Honest Toun outfit went down 9-11 to Dunfermline despite leading 6-0 early in the second half and even then it seemed they might snatch victory in injury time when Dunfermline were warned three times that they were straying along the offside line in the shadow of their own posts.
“There were five Dunfermline players right on the line and I thought there was a penalty. He (referee Kevin White) asked them three times (to keep onside) but on the whole you can’t take too much away from Dunfermline,” said Musselburgh coach Brian Hughes.
It was a bitter blow to have lost out so narrowly after finishing runners-up in National League Division One.
Hughes admitted: “You could cut the atmosphere with a knife in our dressing-room but I suppose it is the same with any team who lose a final.”
However, the coach agreed with skipper James Doig who acknowledged that a season in which promotion was gained had to be seen as a success.
“It’s hard to bear but it has been a productive season and promotion was first and foremost our goal. The hunger was more in Dunfermline and we struggled to get quick ball, that was the difference. The contact area is key and that is what won them the game,” said Hughes.
Musselburgh’s 6-0 lead came through penalties by stand off Dave O’Hagen who kicked a third after Gregor McNeish had equalised and ex-Boroughmuir second row Tom McColl had rumbled over for a try.
However, deep into injury time Musselburgh worked their way upfield forcing the Fifers to live dangerously in looking to cut down their space but instead of continuing to re-cycle panic set-in, the match ending on a snatched drop-goal effort by O’Hagen from too far out.
“We were a bit quick attempting the drop goal instead of trying to keep in building phases,” said Hughes who, nevertheless, insisted: “Turning point was at 6-0 ahead then we put a high kick up rather than holding on to the ball and shutting the door.”
Another crucial moment came during a first half dominated by Musselburgh when hooker Rory Chesham burst to within a couple of metres of the opposition try-line then failed to find support.
“He was trying to find me with the pass and we just didn’t execute well enough with too many errors,” said skipper Doig, adding: “We didn’t play our game and it was Dunfermline who showed up.”
Indeed, there was an overwhelming feeling that Musselburgh, caught napping when conceding a try from a free kick, had failed to get strong running No. 8 Rob Lovatt into the game often enough.
Similarly, winger James Murray got scant opportunity to use dangerous pace but full back Liam Draycott did distinguish himself with a try-saving tackle while managing to provide most of an attacking threat which – crucially – was blunted when Dunfermline had Colin Eadie sin-binned during the second half.
The culture gap Dunbar had to bridge in an unsuccessful Bowl final was summed up by skipper Jamie Peters after his East Division Two side had been edged out 7-13 by Helensburgh.
“To find ourselves in the Scotland dressing-room was very different from some places we have been in the league including one pavilion which was so small we had to change in groups of five,” said Peters.
An inability to finish off line-breaks, particularly in the first half, cost Dunbar who were heavily penalised on the ground. “Helensburgh were a wee bit more streetwise than us,” said Peters. “Four or five times in the first half we made breaks but couldn’t finish and when my penalty kick came back off the post it was inches away from falling to my brother, Gary, who would have been in under the posts.
“The ball just wouldn’t bounce for us.”
Ironically, Helensburgh’s try came from a grubber kick which sat beautifully for winger Johnny Drake and David Sterry’s conversion added to a couple of penalties for 13-0. This roused Dunbar and with eight minutes remaining sub Sandy Thomson ran through from inside for a try converted by Peters.
“I couldn’t believe I was scoring a try at Murrayfield in my debut year in the first team,” said the 18-year-old motor mechanic.
“I’m sorry we didn’t get the win but just making it to Murrayfield was a reward for the season we’ve had.
“On the day we panicked a wee bit.”
Peters added: “One consolation was that we brought so many youngsters who will have had an insight into what it means to play at Murrayfield.”
Coach Paul McCloskey said: “The penalty count against us is something we will have to look at for next season.
“But we came to give it a go – and we did.”
In the Cup Final, Gala defeated Ayr 24-10 after turning round level at half-time while Murrayfield Wanderers defeated RHC Cougars to lift the Sarah Beaney Memorial women’s Cup.