A Tale of two halves…
West of Scotland 26 Biggar 32
Biggar claimed only their second away win this season after they scraped over the line against West on Saturday.
That Biggar claimed a 4 try bonus was another boost for the side who have struggled recently, save for last week against bottom of the table Hill Jills.
With West claiming a win over near neighbours GHK the previous Saturday, Biggar travelled in the knowledge that they would face a city side on form. That they dominated the first half was extremely pleasing then, their 29 point tally coming in very nearly the same number of minutes. Aird Jardine kicked 2 conversions from the 5 first half tries, the opening try scored by himself and others by Alisdair Sinclair, Donald Voas, Ewan Sanderson and Gregor Stewart.
Quite what went wrong after the break needs some analysis but seemingly, without any obvious reason, Biggar’s effort faltered just as West’s increased, the home side able to claw their way back into the contest to add 3 tries to their solitary first half score to claim a 4 try bonus of their own ato take the score to 29-26 with some 10 minutes remaining.
This then became a 1 score match and it was left to Jardine to stretch Biggar’s lead to 6 points with a penalty. West were still very much in the game however and had they opted to kick for touch with their last penalty and use their most successful tactic, the lineout drive to exert pressure on the Biggar line then they may have sneaked the win. Instead however the tap penalty option was preferred and as they went through the phases it was Jamie Orr who rounded off a cracking game with a priceless turnover to end the contest.
Exciting or nerve racking? Both and in equal measure!
Biggar made a couple of changes to the side which opened against Hill Jills. There was a change at centre where Gregor Stewart returned after injury to replace Craig McDonald and at scrum half where Davy Reive replaced David McArthur.. In the pack Andrew Dunlop moved up to 2nd row to replace the injured Zander Lyon while Duncan Withers took his place in the back row albeit for just the first half due to a prior engagement.
Colt Andrew Nimmo made his first step into senior action as he came off the bench, the youngster showing up well and making some decent hits. He is also to be congratulated on making the next cut for the Scotland U18 squad who take on England at Peffermill on Sunday.
In a whirlwind start, this much to do with the fact that the game was played on West’s 3G pitch, Biggar ran West ragged and allowed them barely a touch of the ball and this only after Jardine opened the scoring with a neat chip and chase.
David Paterson, who had a very positive and very industrious day in both attack and defence, made the break for the next score although it was opposite winger Sinclair who rounded off the move with try in the corner. Paterson showed some real flair with this run which saw him round and hand off no fewer than 4 defenders before feeding Sinclair. Having missed the first conversion from a relatively good angle Jardine saw his next effort from virtually the touchline rebound off the upright. 10-0.
A series of good carries ended as Withers was left isolated and the resultant penalty gave west the chance to use their driving maul to good effect to take play into Biggar’s 22. Their pick and go’s looked to have done enough for a score but the referee blew for a knock on instead although the scrum saw Biggar penalised and west regain the initiative. A couple of phases later and their centre crashed over for a score which took the score to 10-7.
Undeterred Biggar came right back into things with a try Donald Voas, the prop tracking a dynamic charge from Ross Jackson. When tackled Jackson presented well and gave Voas the chance to pick and go for the last 8 metres.
Barely three minutes elapsed before Ewan Sanderson crashed over after another assault on the West line. Jardine’s conversion put Biggar ahead at 22-7 and also gave Biggar the 4 try bonus.
Stewart’s try just short of the half hour was set up by Robbie Lavery whose run took him through the first West line of defence. His pop pass was gratefully accepted by his fellow centre who was able to get the ball down despite the attentions of the West cover. Jardine added the points for the 29-7 half time score.
Biggar almost added a 6th try as Jackson intercepted off West in the Biggar 22. The youngster set off for the line but a cracking cover tackle from the West fullback did just enough to prevent the off-load tp the supporting Paterson and the attack came to nought.
Biggar don’t have a great track record for regularly running up large scores but such was their dominance of the first half proceedings - save perhaps for the driven line which West used to good effect – that had they managed another score shortly after half time, things might have been very different.
That was not to be however and a combination of errors and an increase in confidence of the home side conspired to give West the initiative. Their scrum half nipped over from an early attack and the conversion took the score to 29-14.
West will rue the missed chances they had in the game and which would have given them the win had they been converted. Twice they lost control of ball over the line although this was also due in no small part to some excellent cover defence from Biggar’s back 3 of Sinclair, Paterson and Steele who tracked back well on both occasions to prevent the score.
On the first of these the score was merely delayed as a mix up off the scrum base, an area which Biggar generally controlled well, led to possession being lost by Stewart who could only watch as the West centre pounced to score the try. 29-21!
A penalty and kick to the corner preceded the next West try, which happily from a Biggar point of view at least, was not converted. But at 29-16 the match was set alight for a nerve-jangling 10 minutes.
As the game progressed it became evident that the errors from both sides were going to be influential. While Biggar showed up really well in defence – Orr, Sanderson, Stewart just three who tackled tirelessly throughout – it was West’s errors which prevented them from claiming the lead.
Biggar’s attacks were rare occasions and these too ended with errors which allowed West further attacking opportunities. One such opportunity came as West lost ball in attack. Showing some great skills Biggar passed the ball wide to Lavery who made ground before passing to Paterson who took off on another run. There is a time to pass and a time to run and on this occasion Paterson held on for a fraction too long, the off-load to Orr just not suite going to hand.
Just minutes later however and Biggar were awarded a rare penalty which Jardine slotted for 32-26.
As the clock ticked on Biggar tackled manfully and then came the last turnover from Jamie Orr which brought the final whistle.
Players breathed heavily from their efforts while the Biggar spectators breathed heavily in relief! Ex-Biggar man Angus Thomson again showed up well form his adpoted club, leading form the front and tackling well throughout.
Coaches Mercer and Wilson were left scratching at their heads in an effort to understand quite what changed after half time. Nevertheless, this was an important win and one which should set the squad up nicely for their next match which sees them back in Glasgow at Whitecraigs.
Thomas Steele, Alistair Sinclair, Robbie Lavery, Gregor Stewart, David Paterson, Aird Jardine, David Reive (C), Donald Voas, Ewan Stewart, Dan O'Connell, Andrew Dunlop, Jamie Orr, Duncan Withers, Ewan Sanderson, Ross Jackson. Reps: Andrew Orr, Calvin Henderson, Andrew Nimmo, Craig McDonald.
The 2nd XV hosted Lasswade in a match postponed from a fortnight ago.
Able to field a strong XV Biggar recorded another excellent win by 41-3.
There was a 4 try bonus point with Alan Warnock notching a fantastic 4 try haul himself while Douglas Notman, Craig Frame and Alan Todd also scored, the last two both scoring from what was their first touches of the ball!
Gary Morrison (2) and Jack Warnock (2) shared the kicking duties.
With Kelso winning a tight match by 19-17 at Edin Accies, but without the all important bonus point, Biggar now return to the top of the East reserve league table by just 1 point.
Well done boys!
Story date: 01/02/2017