Hartree Mill Sports Grounds, Biggar ML12 6JJCharity Number: SC 047700

Biggar win top of the table battle

Highland 10 Biggar 12

In what will never be classed as a classic game of rugby, at the end of the day this was a massive performance from Biggar against what is undoubtedly a very good side and one which put Biggar under more pressure than any other side so far this season. With all involved making uncharcacterstic handling errors and with neither side getting the control they would have wished, Biggar did enough to hold on to a small 2 point lead to secure their 16th win of the season. The result sees Biggar stretch their lead at the top of the table to 16 points with Stewarts Melville leapfrogging Highland into second although the Inverness based side still have two games in hand.

 

This was an emotion-charged match at Inverness with the Highland club still in some shock after the passing of one of their coaches and Highland RFC stalwart Alistair ‘Porky’ Wymess. He was a rugby character who was well-known to many from Biggar. The 30 seconds of silence and 30 seconds of applause in his memory which preceded the kick off, plus the fact that ‘his’ No 3 jersey was rested for the match were all very fitting tributes and although Porky’s beloved Highland lost out, this was a contest he would undoubtedly have thoroughly enjoyed with no quarter asked and no quarter given.

 

Biggar travelled north in the knowledge that while their opponents had not played in some 6 weeks they would nonetheless be fired up to perform for their club and determined to maintain their impressive unbeaten home record which stretches back to Oct 2017. In preparation for the match on Highland’s new artifical pitch Biggar had trained at Lanark Racecourse 3G midweek although the conditions at Inverness with a partially frost-covered pitch made conditions for both sides – particularly with regard to handling as the ball was seemingly constantly wet and slippy - very difficult.

 

Highland fielded their strongest XV of the season with Biggar pretty much in similar shape and so the scene was perfectly set for a top-of-the-table clash, the result of which could yet determine the promotion places if not the championship itself. One who did not make thr trip was veteran Alan Warnock who remained at home with mum to be Emma.

 

Having played strongly to repel the first Highland foray Biggar opened the scoring with a very typical Conor Lavery try, the stand-off’s angled run taking him (far too easily from a Highland point of view) through the Highland defence. Matthew Stewart added the conversion to a score which clearly settled the Biggar effort. 7-0.

 

That Biggar scored a second try after just 8 minutes was astounding. This was a long lung-bursting run in for winger Ross Bradford who latched onto a loose pass from Highland stand off Iain Chisholm (members will remember Chis was Biggar DO in 2017-18) to run almost the length of the pitch to cross in the corner– a score almost identical to the one he scored at Falkirk a fortnight ago.

 

Euan Bogle who had come onto the pitch while Robbie Lavery received treatment for a cut head, took the touchline conversion but pulled the kick across the face of the posts. 12-0.

 

That it was all going to be as easy was very quickly dispelled as Highland came right back into the match, their forward effort – especially on the touchline where they won their own ball with ease and disrupted Biggar’s lineout with almost as much ease – pushing Biggar back into their own half where a string of handling errors only increased the pressure felt by the team and the Biggar support.

 

A couple of penalties gave Highland field position and with their lineout drive, the host side took play to within 5 metres of the Biggar line. Referee Smith had signalled for another penalty as Biggar tried to halt the drive but two further drives to the line eventaully saw big centre Rob Eatough barge over – almost up-ending referee Smith in the process. Chisholm was off target with the kick but his side were rigbt back in the game at 12-5.

 

Biggar have played an expansive game all season with players running and passing and using creative off-loads throughout. This has been a strategy which has led to them scoring the most points ever and which has made games very exciting to watch. On Saturday however, with the slippy ball and cold hands contributing, errors were commonplace with the side unable to escape from their own 22 and then when they did so, unable to press home attacks. There were more such errors in this one game as in almost all other matches put together. Indeed Biggar will never make as many handling errors again and yet still win a match. This certainly added to the excitement during the match but did absolutely no good at all for the nerves of the Biggar supporters!

 

This it has to be said was also a factor for the home XV who also struggled to retain possession and who suffered in similar fashion.

 

Biggar’s attack has been devastating this season and this speed and distribution almost provided a 3rd try. An initial attack had been thwarted but ball popped to Robbie Lavery saw the centre move the ball left to Matthew Stewart who broke past the initial cover. With players in support but perhaps just out of sight he opted to go for the line himself and almost got there save for a very good cover tackle from Highland fullback, Fijian Rupeni Rokoduguni.

 

There was however a lack of the usual control in Biggar’s play with the pressure of the occasion clearly telling. This again led to Highland gaining possession and in keeping Biggar out. The half ended with the home side very much on the ascedancy, a series of penalties, several of which they opted to run (this an unusual decision given the effectiveness of their lineout) taking them ever closer to the Biggar line. A lineout spawned good ball again and while Biggar managed on this occasion to halt the drive, Highland spun the ball wide. With Chisholm and Eatough again involved ball was taken by winger Rorry Cross who crashed over for their second try. While the try was scored closer to the posts Chisholm was again just wide, but as it was half time the match was as evenly balanced as it had been at the start of the match. 12-10 to the visitors.

 

Biggar were forced to make a change at the break, scrum half Davy Reive retiring with a hip injury. His replacement was centre Robbie Lavery, with Ryan Moffat introduced at centre. Declan Dinnen was another to soon make an appearance, Andrew Peacock who again showed up well coming off.

 

Biggar almost opened the half with a try, Matthew Stewart looking to be free on the left wing only for play to be halted for a forward pass.

 

Minutes later and another break through the centre after Bradford latched onto another misdirected pass from Chisholm that could well have led to a try was also halted but this time illegally by Highland lock Stuart MacDonald. The penalty and subsequent yellow card reduced Highland to 14 men. The lineout yielded possession but an error led to Highland snaffling a turnover to clear their lines.

 

That Biggar did not manage a try during the following 10 minutes when they had an extra man was donw again to a number of errors but also to some dogged defence from the hosts who managed to keep Biggar out.

 

Highland also managed to put together a number of phases despite being short-handed. A series of pick and goes and then another peanlty which saw them tap and go had Biggar on the back foot. It was a massive defensive effort to keep Highland out but this Biggar managed with a huge effort which saw attack after attack repelled with some excellent individual and two man tackles. Any yards gained were won via sheer hard work from Highland but each attempt was met by a solid wall of black and red.

 

A stramash between almost all of both teams was given little time by referee Smith and happily this was the only such incident in the match which was played in great spirit.

 

That there was no scoring in the whole of second half was unusual but there were loads of very close run things, the errors providing opportunities for both sides but with the cover and scramble defences up to the mark on each occasion.

 

For Highland that saw centre Eatough almost through before fullback Robbie Orr saved the day. This just one of several such incidents when the youngster tidied up loose ball. For Biggar perhaps the best chance came from a neat chip ahead by try scorer Lavery. Having secured possession from his own chip he fed flanker Chris Mulligan who looked set for a long run in to the line. The cover got back but possession was retained and fed to Ewan Stewart who also looked set to score until a try saving tackle from Chisholm saw ball spilled into touch just 5m short of the try line.

 

As the game played out and with just 2 points seperating the teams it became evident that whichever side scored would most likely go on to win the match. But which side would it be? Both continued to make advances but lost possession or had ball turned over.

 

Biggar won a penalty some 35 metres out and rather than go for the points elected to kick to the corner but again they failed to get good quality ball from the lineout from which to press home their attack.

 

With just a few minutes remaining Highland won a penalty to the left of the posts and some 30metres out. Given their control at the lineout it was again perhaps surprising that they didn’t opt to go for the corner and a driven line. Instead replacement Ruaridh NacDonald stepped up with Chisholm, who had missed both previous kicks, at his side.

 

There was a complete silence around the packed ground as the youngster took the kick. Fingers were crossed and breath held by both sets of supporters but the kick was short and pushed to the right of the posts. The danger was not over for Biggar however and it took a great catch from Matthew Stewart to set up the ruck ball. Guy Kelly provided an important pass to Lavery who, knowing that this would be the last play, thumped the ball over the deadball line. The whistle was the cue for celebrations for the Biggar XV to begin.

 

Massive disappointment for all at Highland but they were particularly gracious in defeat. There were several who were in the mix for man-of-the-match. Prop Donald Voas just came out in second to eventual winner and fellow front rower Ewan Stewart who won several very important turnover balls at crucial times in the match and who bravely played on despite a corker of a black eye!

 

A huge thank you from the squad to the fantastic Biggar support! Over 60 made the 380 mile round trip to support their team while dozens of others made good use of Highland’s ‘streaming’ of the match.

 

Special mention to 2nd XV coach Andrew Howatson who, after finding out that his own game was postponed, jumped in the car and headed north by himself to witness the match. Not content with being there he immediately helped out with touchline duties. Fantastic Biggar spirit!

 

Great too, to catch up with former BRFC Treasurer Bill Mitchell. As touch judge for a 2nd XV match between Highland and RAF Kinloss to be played after the 1st XV match, Bill and his pal offered to run the line for the 1st XV match as well!

 

Biggar now prepare for this weekend’s match against Glasgow Accies. They are much bruised from the Highland encounter but as sore were the numerous friction burns from the 3G carpet with knees, elbows and hips all scraped. Check the match photographs for the detail! Preparations were put on hold following Tuesda's snow. Fingers crossed the weather relents before the weekend....

 

 

Biggar

R. Orr, R. Bradford, M. Stewart, R. Lavery, R. Stewart, C. Lavery, D. Reive, F, Carrosi, E. Stewart, D. Voas, J. Orr, A. Peacock, E. Sanderson, C. Mulligan, R. Jackson.

Reps: G. Kelly, D. Dinnen, R. Moffat, E. Bogle

 

Biggar’s 2nd XV suffered a late cancellation of their match against Cartha with the Glasgow sides pitch failing a second pitch inspection at 10am.

The Colts match against Currie was cancelled on Friday evening.


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