Muir Maul Mansfield Men at Murrayfield
Match Report and Photos: Chris Evans
Boroughmuir Rugby brought the BT Cup back to Meggetland in spectacular fashion, after sweeping aside opponents Hawick in the final. In a great day of rugby at Murrayfield, over a thousand Muir fans cheered their side to a fourth cup victory.
The match had a great build up all week and the many messages from ex-Boroughmuir players through the website and social media, appeared to inspire belief amongst the Muir faithful and indeed players, that they could make history once again. However, Hawick were favourites with many to take home the cup, after finishing two places higher than Muir in the league and also backed by a large travelling support.
It was Hawick who got the match underway but Muir safely fielded the drop-out and stand-off Carl Bezuidenhout kicked deep into the Hawick half. The Hawick full-back returned the kick, which was caught by Bezuidenhout who passed it in field to Muir full-back Craig Marshall. He took play into the Hawick half and linked up with the flying Dutchman Sep Visser. The outside centre looked as if he was going to outstrip the Hawick defence to score a first minute try, however the Borders side managed to bring him down short of the try line. With the ball buried at the bottom of the ruck, Muir were awarded a scrum and from this the forwards were able to give scum half Jonny Adams a stable platform to pick his moment for a clever snipe and dive over the line. Bezuidenhout added the conversion and Muir were off to the perfect start after three minutes.
Hawick were rattled and although they were awarded a penalty in their half soon after, they failed to secure a resultant line-out and Muir forced a trurnover. The backs attacked down the right blindside, with Marshall again making good yards. Hawick were penalised in their twenty-two and Bezuidenhout, slotted another three points. After ten minutes Muir were 10-0 up and full of confidence.
For the next ten minutes, Hawick looked to put their stamp on the game and showed glimpses of danger with their stand-off and inside centre bringing their forwards into the game. However, the Muir defence was resolute and led, as always, by captain Andrew Rose who was able to slow down the Hawick attacks. The set piece was also excellent, with hooker Cal Davies hitting his second row jumpers Adam Best and Trent Sutton accurately. At scrum time, Muir were also in the ascendency, which somewhat surprised the onlooking fans a bit.
Boroughmuir put together an excellent ten minute spell of play halfway through the first half. On the Hawick ten metre line, left wing Jordan Edmunds fielded a box kick from ex Muir scrum half Greg Cottrell. Edmunds took the ball into contact and the ball was quickly recycled, with lock Sutton carrying the ball well and then showing a sublime bit of skill by offloading to young number eight Magnus Bradley who found himself in open space and showed impressive pace to canter in from 30 metres out. The conversion was added and Muir were 17-3 up.
Boroughmuir, who were excellent at the re-starts all day, again were able to apply pressure back on Hawick with a deep kick. The follow up defence by the Muir men was suffocating Hawick and forced a knock-on on their ten metre line. The backs looked to spread it wide, and although the passing wasn’t perfect, Visser picked up a loose pass, got on the outside of his opposite number and put Marshall in space down the right channel. The full-back drew in the last Hawick defender and put rookie winger Grant McConnell in for a score.
The pick of the first half tries followed five minutes after. Bradbury was increasingly asserting his influence on the game, especially in the loose and a strong carry and offload to McConnell stretched the Hawick defence. Bezuidenhout was able to pick up from the resultant ruck and found space to run into where Hawick defenders should have been. With the Hawick full-back closing in on the Muir stand-off, he slotted through a great grubber into the twenty-two and Bradbury was able to gather and dive over the line. The try was converted and after half an hour Muir were leading 29-3.
Hawick hit back two minutes later, with Rory Hutton jinking past a defender and giving a well timed inside pass to wing Scott McLeod who side-stepped his way to a try under the posts. The conversion went over and this served as a reminder to Muir of what Hawick were capable of when they gained decent possession and territory.
Hawick knew that they needed to take some risks to further peg back Muir and the decision to take a quick tap penalty from within their twenty-two underlined this. Muir, however, quickly organised their defence and a big hit from prop Robby Wilson halted the attack, with Hawick eventually being forced to concede a line-out on their ten metre line. Sutton took a good catch at the tail and the Muir pack launched a driving maul which ended fifteen metres from the Hawick line.
After Hawick were penalised again at the breakdown, David Reekie kicked for the corner and Muir again looked to utilise their line-out weapon. The backs stretched the Hawck defence out to the left hand side and Jonny Adams looked to profit from close-out. He was stopped short but Hawick were unable to stop the considerably larger frame of prop Simon Berghan from driving over. Bezuidenhout converted and after repelling a Hawick attack late in the first half, Boroughmuir went into the changing rooms with a commanding 36-10 lead.
The start of the second half was a bit loose from both sides, as Muir took their foot off the gas slightly and Hawick chased the game. Fifteen minutes into the second half, the Muir coaches made their first changes with Jonny Latta coming on for try-scorer Simon Beghan and Mike Entwhistle replacing captain Rose.
The replacements made an instant impact, with Latta showing up well in his first scrum which allowed the backs to attack on the front foot. Visser again made a half-break and quick ruck ball saw Bezuidenhout fire a flat pass to McConnell who came off his right wing to link up with Edmunds on the left. Edmunds showed good power to fend off two defenders and looked to have squeezed in the left hand corner. The referee opted for the TMO and after a tense three minutes decided Edmunds had touched down in the dead ball area. However, a poor twenty-two drop out was taken by McConnell and he raced up his right wing. Like all good opensides, Entwhistle was close in support and took an inside pass from the young wing to score with possibly his first touch of the match. The try was again converted and Muir stretched their lead to 43-10 with twenty minutes remaining.
Semi-final hero Chris Laidlaw replaced Bezuidenhout, and shortly after Jonny Adams made way for crowd favourite Sam Johnston, to form a new half back partnership for Muir. Laidlaw took control of the game and as it became more fractured looked to gain territory with some good kicking to the corners. Hawick, however, still had their passages of good play and their front-row replacements made good ground with some fine charges up the middle. This eventually led to a try from replacement hooker Lindsey Bell, which was duly converted.
In the last fifteen minutes, Muir emptied their bench with Craig Keddie, Ross Bradford and Sam Bingham, replacing Sutton, McConnell and Davies respectively. The strength in depth on the bench was again telling, as Muir finished the game strong with two tries.
The first of these started again from clean line-out ball in the Hawick twenty-two. The backs moved the ball from left to right, but a change of direction from scrum-half Johnston saw him find the charging blindside Ian Moody, who dummied and ran in for a well deserved try.
From the re-start Muir launched another attack, with Reekie firing a great pass to Laidlaw who then threw an equally good pass to Edmunds. The hardworking wing scorched forward and unselfishly drew his opposite number to put Visser in for a score in the left corner. Laidlaw impressively sunk the difficult touchline conversion.
One final Muir attack was bravely thwarted by Hawick and the referee blew his whistle for full-time shortly after. The final score a massively impressive 55-17 to Boroughmuir.
The official man-of-the-match was Jonny Adams, whose sharpness of pass was matched by his great sniping runs and pressurising box kicks. However, every player was mightily impressive for Muir today. It has been, at times, a tough season for Boroughmuir but since the turn of the year coaches Bruce Aitchison, Ben Fisher and their assistants, have overseen a steady rise in performance levels from their team. This culminated in a season best performance and proved that Boroughmuir could rise to the occasion and exceed even the most optimistic fans expectations.
Last word is for the Boroughmuir fans who were, by the end, the most passionate, vocal and supportive of the 10,074 that had come through the Murrayfield turnstiles across the course of the day.
Come on the Mighty Muir, 2015 BT Cup Champions!
Boroughmuir: Marshall, McConnell, Visser, Reekie, Edmunds; Bezuidenhout, Adams; Wilson, Davies, Berghan, Sutton, Best, Moody, Rose (Capt), Bradbury.
Replacements from: Bingham, Latta, Entwhistle, Johnson, Laidlaw, Keddie, Bradford.