Prior to playing Musselburgh in the Edinburgh Regional Shield semi final on Saturday, it had been 385 days since Preston Lodge last lost a match.
But that record could not last and despite a good showing for the first hour, their local rivals proved too strong in the end came out on top by scoring five tries to PL’s two.
Musselburgh had the better of the early exchanges and for the first five minutes, all of play took place in PL’s 22. It took some good defence to withstand the onslaught but eventually the ball was cleared and pressure relieved through the boot of Paul Glynn. Eventually, PL settled into the game and Chris Dixon and Paul Voy linked together to make a good break up to the 10 metre line. The Musselburgh pack found it difficult to withstand the pressure and eventually conceded a penalty which Greg Kinross tried to convert into points but despite a good effort from long distance, the full back’s kick drifted just wide in the blustery conditions.
PL now looked much more confident while going forward with the ball and the pack had a good drive which was stopped just 15 metres from the line before being penalised for holding on to the ball on the ground. However, they would suffer what proved to be a costly setback when Paul Voy was sent to the sin bin for not retreating from a penalty and this allowed Musselburgh a distinct advantage as half backs Danny Owenson and David O’Hagan were able to put the quick ball at their disposal to good use inside the 22 by sending a long pass out to James Murray on the right wing and the extra man advantage was apparent as he had plenty of space to cross for the try. O’Hagan converted to make the score 7-0 after 15 minutes.
Next it was Musselburgh who would lose a man for 10 minutes when prop Craig Owenson fell foul of the referee for collapsing a driving maul inside the 22 but once again Kinross was unable to convert the penalty kick into points. Once Voy was restored to action, it was PL’s turn to have the man advantage and they made no mistake following an excellent Craig Quigley break into the 22 where he was able to offload to Darren Eales who in turn sent a scoring pass to Chris Dixon and the centre touched down for an excellent try. Kinross was on target this time to level the score at 7-7.
Two of PL’s youngsters, Aaron Welsh and Blair Robertson were showing up well in the loose but Cook and Davis in Musselburgh’s midfield defence were able to thwart most of the attacks without too much trouble.
The home side were able to obtain good field position 10 metres from the try line following an O’Hagan penalty and once the ball was safely secured, the pack embarked on several pick and go drives to the line. The pressure was too great for PL to sustain and eventually Neil McNairn was able to force himself over for a controlled and deserved try. Once again O’Hagan converted which extended Musselburgh’s lead to 14-7 after 35 minutes but PL weren’t finished and would have the last word before half time. From the restart, the back row trio of Voy, Eales and Quigley were able to cause the Musselburgh defence problems in the 22 and it took some good tackles to prevent them from scoring. Good, quick ball at a scrum was put to good use by Greg Leitch and was quickly passed again to Chris Dixon who slipped his tackler and forced his way over for his second try of the half. Kinross slotted the conversion to level the score at 14-14 at the break.
Despite starting the second half brightly with a break by Blair Cowan and then Raymond Mackie who made 40 metres before being tackled on the 22, the majority of territory and possession for the rest of the match would be enjoyed by Musselburgh. Their 3rd try came from another series of pick and go phases that PL could not stop but this time the ball was fed back to full back Liam Draycott and he had far too much pace for the defence and he crossed for the try with ease. O’Hagan converted to make the score 21-14 and the stand off was on target again a few minutes later, this time from a penalty when PL were caught offside on their own 22.
Musselburgh were just starting to show some of the form that has taken them to the top of National League 1 when they were handed a further advantage when PL hooker Raymond Mackie was sent to the sin bin. Once again, they were too good to miss this chance and a series of quick passes through the three quarter line got the ball to Murray and the winger was able to grab his second and his side’s third try of the afternoon which O’Hagan would convert with ease.
Despite their best efforts, PL failed to dominate the play in any way and Musselburgh’s confidence grew as the match wore on. Draycott, Murray and James Doig were proving very difficult for the PL defence to contain and several chances were created but not taken. The increased pace of the game meant that PL were making errors and losing the ball and eventually, while rightly trying to slow things down, they were penalised for holding on. O’Hagan made no mistake with his kick from 35 metres although it did hit the post before crossing the bar to make the score 34-14 with just 5 minutes to go.
As the final whistle approached, PL had their most promising attack of the half and Chris Dixon very nearly scored a 3rd try when he was stopped right on the line. However, the Musselburgh defence was able to win the ball back at the breakdown and quickly passed it out to Murray on the wing who looked as though he would run the length of the field to score. Incredibly though, PL’s Jonathan Brash was able to catch him and bring him down on the 22 but the ball was passed out of the tackle and Draycott was on hand to finish the job under the posts. O’Hagan completed his perfect kicking record for the afternoon to make the final score 41-14.
This was a good test for PL and lets them see just what is required to take them to the next level but Musselburgh were worthy winners and will play Murrayfield Wanderers in the final.
Preston Lodge return to league action next week when they will play Trinity at Bangholm. Kick off 3pm.
L Draycott, J Murray, A Cook, P Davis, J Doig, D O’Hagan, D Owenson
F Sutherland, R Chesham, C Owenson, W Fleming, N McNairn, J Allen, G Bowman, P Kirkland
E O’Brien, L Hutson, C Veitch
Preston Lodge Team:
G Kinross, P Glynn, B Robertson, C Dixon, J Brash, A Clark, G Leitch
K Duncan, R Mackie, C McLean, B Cowan (Capt), A Welsh, C Quigley, D Eales, P Voy
D Thomson, A Archer, S McLean