The 1st XV will compete in Tennent’s National 1 after being crowned champions of National 2 in March 2019 and earning promotion to second tier of Scottish club rugby.
The team will be coached by David Wilson, Dougie Fleming and Craig Borthwick.
Exciting times lie ahead for the 1st XV on the back of last seasons promotion and we will again be looking for your support come the start of the season at Hartree Mill.
For extra info – Ian Notman – Senior Playing Convener
07899803916 – email@example.com
Match Report: 12th January 2020
Dundee 5 Biggar 52
Biggar opened their 2020 account with a resounding 8 try win over bottom of the table Dundee. The high winds and heavy rain led to the cancellation of many matches at the weekend, including Biggar’s 2nd XV match against city side Heriots. There was concern over the Mayfield grounds but an inspection on Saturday morning declared the pitch playable and while the journey north featured driving rain and winds, the weather in Dundee was much more pleasant. Indeed virtually the whole match was played in dry overhead conditions.
Following the draw against Border side Gala prior to Christmas Biggar were looking for a return to form and a solid 80 minute performance. The first aim was achieved easily, the second not so convincingly, as the control evident earlier was lost and which contributed to a scrappy passage of play. Symptomatic of a side which has not played for 3 weeks and suffering from the Christmas/New Year festivities.
Donald Voas and Rowan Stewart who have featured in all previous matches were absentees due to skiing holidays while the lurgy which has been prevalent throughout the holiday period ruled out Rory Hutton. From the Gala starting line up their places were taken respectively by Paul Davidson, Ross Bradford and Robbie Lavery. Luhann Kutze made a welcome return to the squad after injury, starting on the bench alongside Andrew Peacock, Alan Warnock, Lewis Stewart, and James Barr.
Dundee have had a very testing season to date with just two wins although as these were from their last 3 pre-Christmas matches it was felt that they were perhaps gaining some form. Theirs is a very young side however and they found the physicality of the Biggar squad very challenging.
It took just 3 minutes for Biggar to open their account, Ross Bradford rounding off a forward line drive. Jardine’s fiorst conversion put Biggar 7-0 up.
Dendee were on the receiving end of a string of penalties from referee Robbie wilson and this did nothing for their cause, Jardine sending them scurrying back into their 22. Ewan Stewart scored his first try after the pack took and controlled a forward drive well from a position gained from one such penalty.
Shortly afterwards Dundee lost possession in contact No 8 Ross Jackson ripping the ball free as Dundee were in possession. This tunrover got Biggar back onto the front foot and another penalty put Biggar back into the Dundee 22 where Stewaert was on hand once again to round off the driving maul with a try. Jardine had been successful with the first of Stewart’s brace but he was just off target with his 3rd attempt.
Dundee then scored their only try this coming as Biggar tried to run ball out of defence. The sticky pitch made this difficult but it makes for exciting play. In the event a pass from Conor Lavery to his left was well read by Dundee centre Chad Ward who sprinted clear of the Biggar cover from some 20 metres out. The conversion was missed but it gave Dundee reward for their efforts.
Biggar were not to be outdone however and a series of good carries from both backs and forwards saw Biggar awarded another penalty in the Duindee 22. Opting for the scrum rather than the kick to touch it took the pack two attempts before Ross Jackson trundled the ball over the line from a pushoevr try. Conversion added by Jardine made the score 26-5.
Biggar were taking good ball from the lineout where Sanderson was almost unchallenged at the tail and they were pretty much dominant in the tight scrum where the Biggar 8 out muscled their hosts. A series of positive Biggar plasy saw them put the dundee defence under severs pressure but a couple of fumbles and knock ons deprived them from adding to their tally, half time then at 26-5 with the 4 try bonus secored.
The second half started in similar fashion to the first with Biggar’s next try coming just 3 minutes into the half, Euan Sanderson with the touchdown. Jardine converted for 33-5.
Biggar had run some great lines to commit the hosts defence and this continued via the back row of Mulligan, Jackson and Sanderson all of whom made inroads to and then through the first up tackling of Dundee. When Dundee sought to kick clear, ball was tidied well by the visitors with Bradford in particular taking some good catches whilst under pressure. A foray into the Dundee 22 saw winger Bertram latch onto a neat inside pass from Reive. His pace took him past the Dundee cover for a try under the posts which Jardine again converted for 40-5.
This was Reives last contribution to the action as he was replaced by Kutze. Lewis Stewart also took to the field as he replaced Sanderson.
The following 15/20 minute middle section was the untidiest part of the match as neither side gained sufficient control on possession to turn this into points. There was a passage of aerial ping pong and while both sides played some enterprising and entertaining stuff, errors proved costly and so Biggar failed to add to their tally until some 6 minutes before the end of the match. By this time Biggar had made all their changes with Peacock replacing Jackson, Barr for Conor Lavery and Alan Warnock for Craig Borthwick.
For Dundee’s part, although they held onto ball better than they had in the first half they found the Biggar close quarter defence giving very little away. Even when under severe pressure and with Dundee spending a good deal of time within the Biggar 22, the hosts found the door to the try line well and truly locked.
Biggar’s 7th try went to winger Bradford who was on hand to take full advantage of a quickly taken tap penalty. A fitting finale to the match and one which led to beating the 50 point barrier, saw Andy Jardine scamper home for Biggar’s 8th try. His conversion gave him an excellent personal 17 point haul.
Plaudits then to all with Jackson’s rip in the first half matching Borthwicks lineout steal and Orr’s very astute play which saw the big man leap back into play to cleverly and bravely secure possession in the face of the onrushing Dundee feet. As is their desire there will be several areas for immediate improvement but its hard to be too critical when the score is so convincing.
R. Orr, M. Bertram, R. Lavery, A. Jardine, R. Bradford, C. Lavery, D. Reive, P. Davidson, E. Stewart, R. Bassett, C. Borthwick, J. Orr, C. Mulligan, E. Sanderson, R. Jackson. Reps: A. Peacock, A. Warnock, L. Stewart, L. Kutze, J. Barr
And so Biggar will now prepare for the visit on Saturday of Kelso. The first meeting finished in quite bizarre fashion as the Border side lost control, with several yellow cards and a 1 red seeing them finish with just 11 players on the pitch. It is highly unlikely that there will be a repeat and with a decent win over Gala, Kelso will be in fine form and confident mood for the Hartree Mill side. A big crowd would do so much to encourage the squad and so once again if you are able, please try and get along. KO 2pm.
As recorded the 2nd XV were left without a match as the Hartree Mill pitches were unable to rid themselves of the heavy rainfall which had left them already swamped on Thursday. The Colts match was also cancelled.
Match Report: 22nd December 2019
Biggar 22 Gala 22
Biggar rounded off the calendar year – one that will long be remembered as being a quite extraordinary 12 months period – with a deserved draw with Border rivals Gala. In so doing they preserved their 2019 unbeaten home record at Hartree Mill and also their lead at the top of National 1. There was a maximum 5 points on offer and while the match was drawn Biggar claimed 3 points courtesy of their 4 try bonus. The Cartha/Heriots match was postponed due to a flooded Cartha pitch and so Biggar lead their Edinburgh rivals by 10 points. Were Heriots to take the full 5 on offer, they would still be 5 points adrift from the top spot.
The League now takes a winter break and the senior squad will have the opportunity to relax and recharge their batteries in preparation for the resumption on 11th January when the 1sts travel to take on Dundee High while the 2nds host Heriots. They began their R and R with a senior players Christmas lunch on Sunday which the squad fully deserved, the 2nd XV having recorded a hard-fought win over local rivals Peebles.
There were only a couple of changes to the Biggar squad to that which defeated Ayr the previous week. Chris Mulligan was unavailable and so Ewan Stewart started again at hooker. Craig Borthwick came back into the starting XV with the dogfight in the back row ending with Euan Sanderson on the bench to the starting trio of Jamie Orr, Lewis Stewart and Ross Jackson. The backs were the same as those which were fielded against Ayr.
Biggar have no divine right to win matches against anyone and as their winning run continues the pressure to perform grows at exactly the same rate as the motivation of their opponents to end that winning run. Pressure, pressure! It’s a great place to be however and not even the most optimistic amongst the Biggar faithful would ever have predicted a 10 point lead by Christmas at the top of the Division!
The Lanarkshire side was under no illusions that this would be a real test, their experiences in the first match indicating that the Border outfit were a very difficult side to play. That first encounter at Netherdale ended with Biggar deep in defence as they tried in desperation to maintain a slender 3 point lead. That they did so was down primarily to a water-tight defence but also to the fact that Gala chose to go for touch on 3 occasions rather than the kick at goal which would, if successful, have given them a draw. It was really ironic therefore that in this latest encounter and with just a couple of minutes remaining on the clock, Biggar, faced with a similar option, elected to go for goal to win the game, opinion amongst coaches, players and support split as equally as had been the case in October as to whether this, or a kick to touch and line drive, was the better option.
It is over and done now but in hindsight a draw was probably the fairest result, both halves ending in a 17-5 score – the first to Gala and the second to Biggar after a determined comeback. That Biggar made more errors in this contest than they have almost all season was compounded by the fact that their opponents were able to make capital of those errors and streak into a 17-5 and then a 22-10 lead.
The opening exchanges were fairly fraught as both sides sought to gain control of the match. Biggar fell foul of referee Duncan’s interpretation of the scrum laws and while they have been dominant in this area in recent weeks – and that the same referee gave Biggar a penalty try against Cartha 3 weeks previously – Gala were able to benefit despite the general feeling that they were clearly the ones under pressure.
Both sides looked full of running and with the Hartree Mill pitch in good condition despite the recent heavy rain, this made for an engrossing contest. The Gala pack, with prop Terry Logan and Ozzie Cody Roman to the fore (neither of whom played in the first encounter) had Biggar under pressure while the strong running of centre Rex Jeffrey was also causing problems. For Biggar, the pack, bar from the problems in the set piece, looked up to the challenge with the back three of Robbie Orr, Rowan Stewart and Mark Bertram as usual looking dangerous.
The deadlock was broken on the 20 minute mark when Ross Cooke landed a penalty awarded as Biggar crept offside in defence. This lead lasted just a few minutes however as Biggar pressed home an attack from the restart. Bertram had made a darting run on the blindside from a scrum and the big man featured in the very next phase as he took an inside pass from Conor Lavery to slice through the initial line of defence. His pass found centre Andy Jardine who crossed for an excellent score but one which he just failed to convert.
Another Biggar offside gave Cooke another opportunity for points but this fell short and was well cleared by Orr. Gala’s next attack was initially well tidied by Orr but in his attempt to counter attack his wide pass evaded Bertram and Gala stand off Ruairi Howarth was on hand to hack forward and score a try which Cooke converted for 10-5.
Quickly back on attack and whilst trying to put together a number of phases Biggar unusually ceded possession on a handful of occasions which gave Gala respite. Having cleared their lines Gala were then back down into the Biggar half where another penalty, this from just about half way proved to be again just outside the range of kicker Cooke.
In a see-saw match Biggar then proceeded to put pressure on the Gala backs, Bertram’s interception setting up another passage of play in the Gala 22. Another error however, this from Rory Hutton who missed his target with a pop pass saw the ball drop to the ground. Cooke was onto the ball first and in a 75 metre chase he was just able to elude the tackle of Orr to score a try under the posts which, when converted took Gala into a 17-5 lead and the half time break.
To be behind at half time is not a familiar position for Biggar. Indeed it is over a season and a half since they were last in this position. There was little to be said other than to put pressure on the visitors and to try and eliminate the mistakes.
Biggar’s lineout had shown some inconsistency in the first period and this was also the case with the first of the second period but when ball is won it opens up all sorts of avenues and having won a penalty and then the subsequent lineout Biggar opened up with a high speed driving maul which took play some 20 metres upfield and was only halted as Gala infringed. Another penalty from Jardine took play to within 10 metres of the Gala line where the catch and drive was employed once again to such an effect that prop Donald Voas crashed over for a score. The big man had already put in some terrific runs and some thundering tackles and thoroughly deserved the try.
With 6 minutes gone this looked as though it might signal a Biggar fightback but this was derailed somewhat when just a few minutes later Gala scrum half Fergus Johnston ran a beautiful line to carve through the midfield defence. Although the conversion was missed, Gala led 22-10 and Biggar had it all to do again.
The Biggar pack were now gaining ascendancy however and this began to tell. Sanderson replaced Jamie Campbell and having forced Gala to concede another couple of penalties Jardine again kicked Biggar to the corner. At this point and with a try in the offing Gala prop Logan brought the line drive down illegally and referee Duncan had no hesitation in showing him a yellow and 10 minutes in the bin. Biggar pressed home their one man advantage by opting for a scrum and by completing a pushover try credited to No 8 Ross Jackson. Jardine was just wide with the conversion but with some 15 minutes left there was now just one score in the game.
Biggar had made a change in their backs with Rory Hutton clearly in discomfort replaced by Robbie Lavery. Shortly afterwards Ross Bradford came on for Bertram.
A long passage of play with Biggar on the front foot had Gala firmly on the defensive and a series of big carries by among others Jamie Orr, Lewis Stewart and Sanderson took their toll on the Gala legs and strength. Hooker Easson was the next to depart and this gave Biggar another advantage on the touchline on the Gala throw as it was their No 8 Dods who was forced into the unfamiliar role.
There was a Biggar lineout error in the Gala 5 metre line and a speculative pass by Jardine to touch for the Biggar support to endure before they scored the try which, when converted, put the sides on equal terms.
The position had again been won from a penalty and kick to touch and the driving maul was this time converted by prop Richard Bassett. Jardine’s conversion did the trick and the match was all set for a superb climax.
There was of course the very real possibility of a penalty deciding the contest and Biggar hearts soared as the Gala restart was kicked too long and which therefore led to a Biggar scrum on half way. This put Biggar back on the attack and sure enough with just injury time remaining Biggar worked their way into the Gala half and won yet another penalty which heralded the debate described previously.
In the event the kick at goal was chosen and a hush as has rarely been witnessed descended on the Hartree Mill pitch. While well struck the ball flew wide and referee Duncan blew for full time.
A cracking contest and one which both teams should take pride in. There was barrowloads of good honest endeavour and it was clear both teams were out to play open rugby and to go for broke. The mistakes Biggar made, and these have been rare in number this season, were pounced upon by Gala. Given their form on Saturday it is a bit of a wonder that the Border side is sitting as low as 6th spot, having won just 6 games. Injuries have played their part and if fit they are very likely to cause problems for other sides as the league progresses.
A massive thank you to all who have been down to Hartree Mill so far this season. Saturday’s crowd, swollen by a very welcome large Gala support have been royally entertained. It makes a big difference to the side on the pitch.
All at Biggar RFC offer their thanks for the support of the Biggar community and wish all those connected to and associated with the club a very Happy Christmas!
R. Orr, M. Bertram, R. Hutton, A. Jardine, R. Stewart, C. Lavery, D. Reive, D. Voas, E. Stewart, R. Bassett, C. Borthwick, J. Campbell, J. Orr, L. Stewart, R. Jackson. Reps: D. Voas, A. Peacock, E. Sanderson, R. Lavery, R. Bradford.
The 2nd XV had a toughie against local rivals Peebles and owe their win to a huge defensive effort with many showing a real grit and determination to hold their line intact. Loads of credit to all but with the Barr boys (James and Finlay) deserving particular praise.
Match Report: 14th December 2019
Ayr 14 Biggar 43
Biggar retained their top spot in National League 1 with a 7-2 try win over Ayr which saw them breach the 500 point mark while reaching 60 league points. Heriots in 2nd spot maintained their challenge with a 26-0 win over Stirling while the Highland/Gala match was postponed following the untimely death of one of Highland’s senior players.
There was a right royal cuffuffle surrounding the venue for this match. As Ayr were hosting a Super 6 game alongside the Nat 1 contest and wished both matches to be played at Millbrae, Biggar had agreed to play their match after the Super 6 game with a 4pm kick off. The rainfall midweek was such that few in Biggar felt that there was any chance of the game going ahead at Millbrae as the surface is not the best on a dry day. Ayr were determined to delay the decision until they were absolutely certain one way or another as to the suitability of the home pitch. Indeed Biggar had arrived at Millbrae while their support was en route before the decision was taken and in reality only then because a power cut in the Millbrae threatened to derail the whole afternoon. Happily the Super 6 game was completed while the Biggar match took place at the Queen Margaret Academy astro turf facility. The only saving grace was the availability of mobile phones which allowed messages to be exchanged during travel. Even then there was a delay to the scheduled kick off of 4pm as the Biggar bus was hemmed in at the Millbrae ground and could only be moved after a number of car owners, all in attendance at the Super 6 match, had been alerted to the issue.
All fun and games but not particularly satisfactory when a National League fixture appears to be so far down the pecking order when taken alongside the Super 6 fixture.
In the first game Ayr were brushed aside 62-15 by a rampant Biggar. That Ayr would improve was never in doubt but they still struggled to contain the Biggar XV who, apart from a couple of pretty much self-inflicted errors, were in control for large periods of the match. It is difficult to perform consistently week on week and so good had been the performance the previous week against Highland that there was always a very real chance that Biggar would drop off the pace a touch. Add in the very different playing surface from Hartree Mill grass to Academy astro turf and errors are a virtual certainty. These were roundly punished by the Ayr side but such was the pressure exerted by Biggar in all other aspects of the game that Ayr only ever got marginal relief from any penalties won. So in short, another 5 point tally without ever really playing as well as potentially the side can.
There were several changes to the squad for this match. In the pack, Ewan Stewart resumed at hooker with Skipper Chris Mulligan moving to the back row. Ross Jackson started on the bench with Lewis Stewart moving to No8. Jamie Campbell who played for Scotland U19 last week against Wales and who has missed 4 weekends, came in at lock with Craig Borthwick moving to the bench.
In the backs Conor Lavery came back into the side at stand off with Andy Jardine moving to centre where he partnered Rory Hutton. The casualities with this selection were James Barr and Ross Bradford, neither of whom had done much wrong the previous week against Highland.
Typically, there was a strong wind which swept the length of the pitch and although initially the referee had confined spectators to the pitch ends, it was not long before the touchline was lined. This created a cosy atmosphere on what was otherwise a bitterly cold afternoon/early evening.
Biggar had the breeze in their faces in the first half and popular opinion suggested that they would spend the bulk of the game in defence in their 22.
A tough opening salvo kept Biggar in defence but as has so often been the case this (and last) season, Biggar’s defence was more than a match for anything Ayr could provide.
In the tight scrum Biggar again dominated their hosts with every scrum seeing Biggar on the front foot. At lineout time, Jamie Orr took a whole lot of quality ball while the Ayr effort was inconsistent and somewhat laboured.
On the 10 minute mark, having weathered the Ayr attack, a penalty kicked by Lavery to the Ayr half, saw the pack win good ball before setting off on a line drive straight into the Ayr 22. A couple of dunts by Lavery and then Bertram freed centre Jardine who cruised over for the opening score. Unable to convert the try meant Biggar led 5-0.
A similar attack just minutes later ended with an uncharacteristic fumble by the ever-present Lewis Stewart and this with the line at his mercy.
Bertram rounded off the next foray into Ayr territory with the pack providing inroads before the big winger was set free for the line. He had a profitable day and made good yards with every carry. Unconverted Biggar were 10-0 up but this lead was quickly reduced following an error by veteran Davy Reive. A pass into ‘space’ ceded possession to Ayr with their prop needing no second invitation to score. The conversion put Ayr right back into things at 10-7.
Although the restart from Lavery failed to go the requisite 10metres Biggar regained possession and with Donald Voas set free on the left and taking play deep into the Ayr half, possession was then swept right with Jardine making a breenge before finding fullback Robbie Orr who rounded off the move with a try.
Ayr replied well after this latest restart but they gifted possession with a kick to the Biggar line which Biggar then took to go through the phases to take play out of the danger area. Having worked their way upfield and out of their half Biggar launched another attack before the half time whistle. Voas appeared again on the wing to advance play before the ball was again swept right with Lavery providing the scoring pass to skipper Mulligan who crashed over for the bonus point winning try. Jardine added the conversion and so the half time score was 22-7 to Biggar.
The wind seeemd to drop a little at the start of the second half but it was still sufficient to give Biggar the opportunity to clear their lines quickly although they were happier in taking ball forward via close quarter drives and by keeping the ball in hand.
Ayr managed to pick their game up at this point and they seemed to put Biggar under much more pressure than had been the case prior to the break. Only another massive defensive effort managed to keep Ayr out and then, in a flash, Biggar scored their 5th try. A kick donwfield saw Biggar get a lineout some 15 metres out. Although it appeared that ball had been lost Ewan Stewart managed to regain possession and with a head of steam well and truly up, the hooker bulldozed his way to and then over the line for the try.
Biggar have not been guilty of conceding too many penalties this season but of course every referee sees things differently and so for whatever reason Biggar were then penalised on a host of occasions and all in quick succession which culminated in Lewis Stewart collecting a yellow card and forced to take a 10 minute break.
With Biggar now understrength, it was hardly surprising that Ayr were able to capitalise and this came through a second try and conversion to take the score to 29-14. Would Ayr be able to mount a fight back?
This was answered almost immediately as the Biggar pack took control once again, and this with just 7 men. Jamie Campbell was replaced by Craig Borthwick while Voas sustained a nasty head cut and was replaced by Paul Davidson. The new starts were quick to make their mark, the next series of scrums putting the Ayr 8 under significant pressure. After one massive drive the referee awarded Biggar a penalty try, the third such award in the same number of weeks and emphasising the strength of the Biggar pack. A yellow card was issued to the Ayr prop and as the conversion is granted automatically, Biggar drew ahead again at 36-14 and with a quarter of the match remaining.
That Biggar managed just one more try in the third period is a telling factor and one which points at a reasonably strong Ayr effort as well as a series of unforced errors from Biggar which saw them unable to gain the consistency they sought.
Ewan Sanderson was the last to dot down. Picking up at the base of the scrum he feinted a pass to Reive before straightening up and gliding through a massive gap as the Ayr cover was posted missing. Jardine added the conversion for 43-14. Biggar introduced the rest of the bench with Euan Bogle replacing Reive, Ross Bradford replacing Lavery and Jackson for Lewis Stewart.
The last 12-15 minutes were a tad scrappy and they also featured a massive scuffle between the sides after an errant Ayr boot found a Biggar body. Happily the referee was content to issue warnings rather than issue any other sanctions.
Biggar gained the maximum 5 point reward from the match but again they were left rueing errors which in another game might prove much more costly. The next test, a home match against Gala will be uppermost in their minds. Gala were a resolute outfit back in September and had they made better choices towards the end of the first match they would surely have shared the spoils if not won the game. This is the last match of 2019 and should they win the match Biggar will have lost just the one league match from 22 starts in those 12 months! Not a bad return! A defeat would take some of the tarnish off that stat, so all good luck to the squad on Saturday.
In addititon to the 1st team, our 2nds are also at home. Away to Musselburgh last Saturday the 2nds conceded 17 points before getting into the game. At the end a Drew Brewster try meant that Biggar ran out victors by 22-20! A fantastic achievement, especially when Musselburgh were 2nd top and this was an away match. Well done lads!
If you can spare an hour and a half, please get down to Hartree Mill to cheer the senior squads on. . KO’s are both at 2pm
R. Orr, M. Bertram, R. Hutton, A. Jardine, R. Stewart, C. Lavery, D. Reive, D. Voas, E. Stewart, R. Bassett, J. Orr, J. Campbell, E. Sanderson, C. Mulligan, L. Stewart, Reps: P. Davidson, R. Jackson, C. Borthwick, E. Bogle, R. Bradford.
Match Report: 8th December 2019
Biggar 31 Highland 0
In very taxing conditions Biggar recorded a bonus point win on Saturday over 2nd top Highland with what many spectators believed to be one of their most complete performances of the season.
This was rightly billed as a top of the table clash but incorrectly as a championship decider; there are still 10 games to be played and literally anything can happen. The win does cement Biggar’s place at the top of the division however with Heriots in second spot, 7 points adrift. Highland are in 3rd but have played an extra match. Two matches remain before the Christmas break: Ayr away and Gala at home. To be top of the table is a position few would have believed possible but it is a tribute to the efforts of the senior playing squad and coaching team who should all be extremely proud of their contribution.
For this contest Biggar fielded a pack on very similar lines to that of recent weeks while in the backs Davy Reive returned to top team action following injury to Luhann Kotze while James Barr came back in at centre.
In their pre-match build up Highland had hoped for a dry pitch. Unsurprisingly, given the midweek rain, Hartree was anything but dry though possibly still drier than was the case say 10 years ago. Overhead conditions were little better with a strong wind and sweeping rain greeting spectators and players as they took the field for this clash. That there was still a very healthy support is testimony to the fact that the side is playing good rugby and winning being the bonus. A big thank you to all who turned out, including of course the band of supporters from Highland who made the long joureny south.
Biggar opened with the wind on their backs and from the kick off to the final whistle dominated both territory and possession, the visitors scarcely able to register a toe hold in the Biggar half never mind the Biggar 22. All credit to the Highland squad however, who maintained a solid defence and managed to restrict Biggar to 5 tries when other sides, in the face of such a relentless display, would surely have crumbled.
It was assumed that the match would be one of two halves with the bulk of play deep in the clubhouse end of the pitch and so it proved at the start of the match, Biggar quickly on the attack and giving note of their intention to make things difficult for their visitors at every opportunity. Highland were given neither time nor space – facing an onslaught from the Biggar pack in attack and then requiring gritty determination to scramble ball clear when in defence. In the tight scrum Biggar had almost total dominance and time after time Highland were to be found on the retreat. Indeed Biggar’s 2nd try was a penalty try on 35 mins and came as referee David Changleng found fault with the retreating Highland pack.
The opening exchanges featured some punishing carries from the Biggar pack. Highland were forced into defence as the aggression, power and control from Biggar seemed to be on a different level as the side sought some recompense for the defeat they suffered in Inverness back in September.
Given the conditions it was no surprise that there were errors but though this at times gave possession to Highland, such was the ferocity of the offensive defence, combined with the wind, that the visitors had real problems in clearing play beyond their 22. Add in the pressure exerted at scrum time and the energy of the Biggar lineout and Highland were in difficult times.
A series of probing runs from the pack saw play confined to the Highland 5 metre zone before Robbie Orr appeared to score following a neat pass from Andy Jardine. The pass was adjudged to have been forward however and so there was some relief in the Highland camp. This relief was short-lived as another attack saw Biggar on the offensive, Jardine’s grubber kick just too long for the support. Another series of driving plays took Biggar back into the Highland 5m area and after a patient build up was thwarted by some stout Highland defence, prop Richard Bassett managed to crash over for the opening score, converted by Jardine for 7-0.
Lock Craig Borthwick was next to almost score, before the penalty try which took Biggar to 14-0 and then to compound matters for Highland, referee Changleng gave a yellow card to Highland’s loose head prop as the scrum continued to creak.
Half time saw both sides scurry to the changing rooms for shelter and a fresh set of strips while spectators made for the tea cabin and a hot drink. Thankfully, from a Biggar point of view at least, the wind and rain both eased for the second half. Coach Fleming felt that Biggar needed a strong 15/20 mins to break the Highland resolve and this he got. Thoughts of the game being played in the Biggar half were almost immediately dispelled as Biggar took play directly into the Highland half. The determination shown by the pack to provide Reive with options to right and left forced Highland back again and again and hard though they tackled, this was a strength sapping period especially when they might have hoped to have been on the front foot.
Very unusually, this was a game with few penalties. Before the match referee Changleng had suggested that he would keep the game as open as he could and whether this was a factor or whether the sides were more disciplined than usual is not certain but Highland had conceded only a few before the break – perhaps no more than 5 or 6 however – with Biggar escaping the whistle until the opening passages of the second half. Maybe a record?
A couple of errors, down to the weather and perhaps slight over-complication, provided a let off for Highland who were quick to kick downfield out of defence. As has been proven on many occasions however, any ball falling into the hands of Biggar’s back three sees them quickly return to the attack. The support shown to the runner means that Biggar were able to quickly secure possession and return to the offensive.
Another passage of play which had Biggar knocking on the door of the Highland line was rounded off by Ross Jackson who drove over from close range to take Biggar to a 19-0 lead.
Jardine had had a productive afternoon at stand off with some very determined forays into the Highland defence but it was from one of the these that he picked up a shoulder injury – ironically he injured the same shoulder in the first Highland match. He was replaced by Barr with Rowan Stewart moving into centre and Mark Bertram coming off the bench.
It was the ‘new’ centre who scored the bonus point winning try. Rory Hutton, whose footwork and caused Highland some problems previously, created space with another mazy run and with some options available it was Stewart who snapped up the pass to cross in the corner.
The game was now almost out of Highland’s hands but they continued to press forward and for almost the first time in the match they were able to retain possession to pose some problems for the Biggar defence. In this capacity Biggar were again up to speed, one very brave tackle from Barr on the powerful Rokoduguni being a perfect example of how the side was playing for each other and determined not to concede a point.
The introduction of the rest of the Biggar bench – Euan Bogle, Andrew Peacock, Paul Davidson and Ewan Stewart – gave Highland no respite, each filling the shoes of those that had gone before and asking all sorts of similar questions.
The final try, the last play of the afternoon came from a lineout. Ball won by Orr was quickly shifted by Bogle to Peacock who, as he has done oft before, cruised through a big space to dot the ball down. Bogle’s conversion took Biggar to 31-0 and the success also marked the end of the match.
There was massive satisfaction gained from the performance and the manner of the win. The conditions dictated that it was never going to be an open, free-flowing spectacle never mind that none of the 3 previous matches had been try fests. To beat the second top side is a great achievement. To record a bonus point and to keep the line intact is even more impressive. Many congratulations to all.
It is really hard to find fault with any of the squad. All made their mark and while the pack took the game to Highland, the backs did absolutely everything that was asked of them, despite being virtually frozen due to the conditions. There was a man of the match and this went to prop Bassett who carried ball and made yards at every opportunity and who combined that with some bone shuddering defensive efforts.
R. Orr, R. Stewart, R. Hutton, J. Barr, R. Bradford, A. Jardine, D. Reive, D. Voas, C. Mulligan, R. Bassett, C. Borthwick, J. Orr, E. Sanderson, L. Stewart, R. Jackson. Reps: E. Stewart, P. Davidson, A. Peacock, E. Bogle, M. Bertram
This coming weekend Biggar travel to take on Ayr. There is a clash of fixtures at Ayr because their Super 6 side is also in action. Initially, the plan was for Biggar to play on the 2nd XV pitch but this is in poor condition and so the match is now to follow the Super 6 match and will kick off at 4pm. Parking at Millbrae is notoriously bad and given that they would expect a large crowd for the Super 6 match please make travel arrangements which will allow time to park and walk to the ground.
Match Report: 24th November 2019
Cartha QP 26 Biggar 43
The 5 points won on Saturday at Cartha brought to an end the first half of the league season; this a near perfect series of 11 games for Biggar with 50 points garnered from a 55 point maximum and with the defeat by Highland the only blemish. Other results in the division went pretty much with form on Saturday and so Biggar retain their 7 point lead over Heriots (43 points) at the top of Divsion 1 with Highland in 3rd (on 40 points).
The second half of this campaign sees Biggar travel to Boroughmuir on Saturday before hosting Highland on the 7th December. There are of course no easy games with Biggar’s table-topping exploits providing added incentive and motivation to all to try and be the team to take the leader’s scalp.
There were a couple of enforced changes again for the starting XV with Robbie Orr sitting out after taking a head knock against Watsons. His place was taken by Robbie Lavery while Conor Lavery returned at centre. In the pack, fit again Ewan Stewart returned at hooker with Chris Mulligan moving to the back row with Paul Davidson giving way to Richard Bassett at prop. Another very strong bench included Davidson, Zander Lyon, Lewis Stewart, James Barr and Ross Bradford (who dropped to the bench after mid week games for the Scottish Police).
The Cartha pitch has a high spot on half way with the ends of the pitch slightly lower, all of which perhaps contributing to the impression that the pitch is shorter than most. Throw in the only American style goal posts in the country and this provides an unusual setting for the travelling side and support. One of course the Cartha XV are very familiar with however and it was clear from the outset that the boot of stand off and skipper Wayne Burrows would be a signficiant factor in the game. That he consistently found long touch finders meant that Biggar were soon back on the defensive when they lost possession in attack or were set back into their own 22 when Cartha had possession of their own.
This tactic is all the more rewarding when ball is controlled up front, but in this match Cartha, who have often relied on their big, stuffy pack found the going very challenging as Biggar’s pack took the game to them with considerable force.
The opening minutes saw Biggar get off to a dream start with a penalty kicked by Conor Lavery to the Cartha 22 followed by a text book driven lineout. This swept the Cartha pack back at an unhealthy rate, referee Matt Duncan taking no time to penalise Cartha as they collapsed the maul by awarding Biggar a penalty try. There is, nowadays, no need to kick the conversion, this being awarded as part of the penalty try and so Biggar found themselves 7-0 up without really breaking sweat.
On the 10 minute mark Biggar stretched their lead to 14-0 when Jamie Orr rounded off another lineout, which he himself had won, by crashing over at the back of the pack as it once again drove to the Cartha line. Jardine added the conversion.
Unfortunately Biggar then ‘gifted’ their hosts a first try. An error on the restart saw Cartha gain the intiative while a couple of slipped tackles allowed them to gain a foothold in the Biggar 22. It was their turn to use their pack and so they did, Burrows converting the try for 14-7.
In a tit-for-tat 8 minute spell Biggar scored their third try almost directly from the restart. Another series of forward drives featuring some tidy work at the breakdown created a gap for Craig Borthwick who dived over from close range, Jardine again on target with the conversion. 19-7 to Biggar!
Given decent ball Borrows was able to control things a bit better but Biggar again ceded both territory and possession after another couple of unforced errors gave Cartha hope. Their 2nd score came after a defensive mix up gave winger Sam Harrison and then full back Graeme Docherty far too much space which they exploited well to create a try for the latter, this under the posts and making Burrows’ conversion a formality.
While Burrows again cleared his lines with another long raking kick this respite was relatively short lived as another penalty to Biggar saw Lavery kick to the Cartha 22. The familiar forward orientated option was taken again and ball was moved via some good work by Borthwick, Ewan Stewart and Ross Jackson ever closer to the Cartha line. On this occasion however, play was swept right with Rory Hutton latching onto Jardine’s inside pass to cross under the posts. Jardine added the conversion to this bonus point try and then to Biggar’s 5th after Chris Mulligan crashed over for a try which had almost been scored a moment earlier as Bassett seemed to be over the line.
Referee Duncan brought the half to a close at 33-14 to Biggar. A handsome and deserved lead.
The second half was a very different affair, as despite their first half play and usual ability to push on and really punish teams, Biggar seemed to fall of the pace and loose control of proceedings.
Cartha of course deserve credit for their efforts as they strove to get back into the match. Their pack, rather than tire, upped the pace and their belligerence was rewarded by ‘winning’ the second half 12-10 and also by recording a 4 try bonus. It is over a season and a half since Biggar last conceded a 4-try bonus and this is something not lost on either the players or coaching staff and which will most likely feature fully in training this week.
Things had begun pretty well though with Ross Jackson rounding off another patient passage of play when Biggar took their time after creating a good attacking piosition in the Cartha 22. A number of pick and drives had the Cartha defence in all sorts of trouble before Jackson rounded off the play with the score. Jardine was just wide with the conversion.
The restart saw Biggar return to the offensive with Mulligan, Ewan Stewart, Jackson and then Mulligan again taking play deep into the Cartha 22 where only a knock on from Hutton deprived Biggar another try.
This heralded the longest passage of play without a score being added, Biggar’s efforts failing as they over-complicated things or tried to go it alone and as Cartha worked hard to first of all frustrate Biggar’s play before creating their own attacks. Play was generally much scrappier than had been the case before the break with neither side able to gain the control they sought to create and convert possession into points. Both sides were given opportunities via penalty awards to get into promising positions but handling errors, interceptions and sound defence prevented any further scoring.
Cartha had made a few changes to personnel as a result of injury while Biggar made just the one, Lyon indirectly replacing Ewan Stewart in the pack.
The stalemate was eventually ended as the half hour mark approached. Another scrappy passage of play ended as Hutton took the ball on the right hand side of the pitch and on roughly halfway. A chip and chase saw the centre do just enough to out-pace the Cartha defence for the score. At 43-21 the game was all but done but Cartha kept plugging away and were rewarded as they gained a penalty in the Biggar 22. Despite being under pressure at scrum time Cartha opted for an attacking scrum and although they were pushed back they were able to retain possession and launch one final attack, this seeing Burrows chip over the advancing Biggar back line to win the chase to the touchdown in very similar fashion to Hutton a couple of minutes earlier. Burrow’s drop kick conversion was virtually the last passge of play although the game did end with Biggar deep in the Cartha 22.
The trip to Glasgow had all the hallmarks of being a possible banana skin for Biggar, the city side having proven to be very tough opposition in previous matches and especially as they have already recorded some very good results this season including wins over both Kelso and Melrose. That Biggar gained another ‘full-house’ was therefore deemed as being a great result, albeit in retrospect one over-shadowed by the concession of 4 tries. Biggar retain the best defensive record in all the divisions but games are easily lost and this was, as coach Davy Wilson quickly pointed out, not at all representative of the standards set by the coaching staff or senior playing group.
Biggar now travel to Boroughmuir. The first match ended with Biggar winning by 50-7 in what was a pretty much one-sided affair. There are no illusions that the Edinburgh outfit have improved considerably since then however while previous trips for Biggar sides to Meggetland have never been particularly rewarding! Game on!
R. Lavery, R. Stewart, R. Hutton, C. Lavery, M. Bertram, A. Jardine, L. Kutze, D. Voas, E. Stewart, R. Bassett, C. Borthwick, J. Orr, E. Sanderson, C. Mulligan, R. Jackson. Reps: P. Davidson, Z. Lyon, L. Stewart, J. Barr, R. Bradford
Match Report: Saturday 16th November 2019
Biggar 40 Watsonians 7
For the penultimate match of the first half of this League campaign, Biggar welcomed the 6th Super 6 Club side, Watsonians, to Hartree Mill.
There were several changes in the Biggar squad. Ewan Stewart was struggling with a neck injury sustained against Stirling and unfit and was replaced by Chris Mulligan who moved up while a fit again Euan Sanderson took his place in the back row. Conor Lavery who had been away on business and therefore unable to train all week was replaced by Andy Jardine at stand off with Robbie Lavery partnering Rory Hutton in the centre. The bench featured Fin Barr who was making his first appearance in the 1st XV squad after some excellent performances in the 2nds.
Interestingly, and a direct result of Super 6 recruitment, with Craig Borthwick in the pack and Rory Hutton and Mark Bertram in the backs, Biggar had more players from Watsons 1st XV of last season (2018/19) than Watsons!
Atop the League having lost just one match to date, and facing a side in 9th place, Biggar were favourites for the win but nothing is ever a certainity in sport and so the visitors from the capital were given every respect, especially as they have a very proud tradition of expansive, running rugby.
Such are the expectations of the Biggar support however that there was some discomfort that the scoreboard had not been troubled in the first quarter. Folks are too quick to forget that Biggar, as league leaders, are regarded as a top scalp and that their opponents have a squad of 20 and coaches who are all motivated and equally keen to win!
The opening exchanges were as tough as any encountered this season. The Watsons XV did more damage to Biggar’s lineout and won more quality ball on their own put in than has been the case at any point to date. They did struggle in the tight scrum though, with ex-Biggar lad Guy Kelly, while enjoying the match, having a testing time and finding Biggar’s Donald Voas to be a tough host.
The opening exchanges were fairly equal, Biggar’s attacks being well dealt with by a stuffy Watsons defence. Ball was uncharacteristically dislodged in a number of tackles and position and possession lost as a result.
In reply, Biggar’s defence, which is by far the most frugal within the league system, ensured that the Biggar line was not breached or on those rare occasions when Watsons did get a toe hold, that this was quickly stifled.
Watsons have favoured kicking in previous matches and Saturday was no exception, scrum half Finlay Broomfield using this option to pop the ball into Biggar territory on a regular basis. Biggar have a talented, speedy and elusive back three however in Robbie Orr, Rowan Stewart and Ross Bradford and so this tactic was rarely successful. One such riposte featuring Hutton, Lavery, Stewart and Orr ended as Orr was pushed into touch but only after some 40 metres had been gained.
A couple of kicks did see Biggar scrambling back but these were, by and large, comfortably dealt with.
In attempts to break the Watsons defence down, Biggar opted to speed the game up, scrum half Luhann Kutze taking quick tap penalties when given the opportunity. Having created a good attacking position deep in the Watsons half, it was Kutze who rounded off a solid penalty scrum with a darting dive which took him under the Watsons defence for the opening score. Andrew Jardine kicked the conversion for 7-0.
Five minutes later and on the half hour mark, Biggar notched their second score, this falling to Lewis Stewart who was able to dive over after the pack had taken control at a lineout in the visitors 22. Jardine added the conversion from an acute angle.
Lewis has continued to develop his game and is becoming a livewire in the Chris Mulligan mode, one passage of play seeing the youngster make a huge carry into, through and then under the Watsons defence in what amounted to, in footballing parlance, a (human) ‘nutmeg!’
Paul Davidson who was suffering from a bad cold was forced off after another impressive performance, his deputy being Richard Bassett who had been on the bench and looked to be the epitome of the coiled spring. Any apparent relief felt by the Watsons front row at the departure of Davidson was quickly dispelled at the next scrum which saw Biggar drive and then win the ball on the Watsons put in.
To score as half time is close is always a big boost and so it proved as Biggar mounted another attack. Having taken play to within 20 mteres of the Watsons line a typical Kutze/Rowan Stewart move provided the winger with another clear run under the posts. Jardine’s conversion took Biggar ahead at 21-0.
Conor Lavery had replaced Hutton at the break and as Biggar turned to play towards the clubhouse they were soon back on the attack. Having made good ground towards the Watsons 22 Biggar saw another lineout malfunction, Watsons creating pressure on the catcher to dislodge control. This and then an interception as Biggar carried ball forward via Jamie Orr saw Biggar fullback Robbie Orr come to the rescue.
A penalty award then gave Biggar another opportunity in the Watsons 22. On this occasion ball was retained and after play was advanced toward the Watsons line Euan Sanderson barrelled his way over for the all important bonus point-winning try. Jardine was just off traget with the conversion.
This was the start of a purple patch for Biggar as within a 10 minute period this and another 2 tries were scored to take Biggar into an unassailable 40-0 lead.
Rowan Stewart was replaced by Bertram and shortly afterwards Andrew Peacock replaced Donald Voas, the prop having made another explosive performance.
The 5th try was credited to Sanderson, the flanker making a fantastic pick up off a slightly wayward Kutze pass. Jardine added the conversion to this try.
A yellow card to visiting hooker Callum Lauder gave Biggar an important one man advantage which they used well. The next score was a somewhat bizarre try, created and scored by Mulligan. Having taken the Watsons kick off Mulligan almost dropped the ball. He managed to salvage the situation however by somehow kicking the ball ahead. The fact that he was going full tilt forwards put him ahead of the advancing Watsons line. Mulligan won the race to the bouncing ball, hacking it forward and over the line before winning the next race to dive on the ball for the try. Coming as it did from what appeared to be a most unpromising start struck a blow in the Watsons ranks.
There was still some 20 minutes remaining however and ample time therefore for more scores.
Fin Barr replaced Sanderson at this point, the teenager immediately in on the action in a defensive role.
The next 10 minutes or so saw Watsons enjoy their best passage of play as they managed to retain possession and work through a series of phases. This resulted in them working their way to Biggar’s 5 metre line to which they laid seige. Biggar’s defence held firm for a prolonged period but eventually the Edinburgh outfit found a space and centre Thomas Klein managed to sqeeze over for a deserved score and one converted by Lucca Rosso.
To the surprise of all who were recording the matches progress referee Craig Clark then blew for fulltime. This was totally unexpected as to most at least 7 minutes remained on the clock! Nevertheless the referee is sole judge of everything and so the usual courtesies were extended as the teams trooped from the pitch.
The final score of 40-7 virtually matched this season’s average of 38-12. Challengers Highland who occupied 2nd place prior to their match at Melrose lost out by 32-14 and so Biggar’s lead at the top is now 7 points.
The league leaders travel to Glasgow this weekend in the hope that they will be able to round off the first round of matches with a played 11 won 10 record. Cartha have had a very inconsistent season to date with a couple of big wins mixed in with a couple of equally surprising defeats. Their home form is better than their away form however and so Biggar will need to be at their best to defeat a side which, with a big pack, has always offered a real challenge.
R. Orr, R. Stewart, R. Hutton, R. Lavery, R. Bradford, A. Jardine, L. Kutze, D. Voas, C. Mulligan, P. Davidson, C. Borthwick, J. Orr, E. Sanderson, L. Stewart, R. Jackson. Reps: R. Bassett, A. Peacock, F. Barr, C. Lavery, M. Bertram.
Match Report: Saturday 9th November 2019
Biggar 31 Stirling County 15
Another win and another 5 league points which, with Cartha’s defeat of Melrose, gives Biggar a 5 point advantage at the top of National 1.
This was as hard a fought match as any bar perhaps Highland and Gala with the visitors proving to be a tough nut to crack. Having scored two early tries it looked as though Biggar might run away with the match but a strong comeback which saw Stirling enjoy possession and territory promised much. Biggar’s resilience and defence was the difference however and try as they did Stirling could manage just two scores, one in each half, while Biggar collected their 8th try bonus (from 9 matches) to retain their No1 spot.
Richard Bassett, Jamie Campbell and Ross Bradford were all out of the starting line up for this match, the first two having picked up injuries against Heriots while the 3rd was still having issues with a hamstring injury sustained in the Melrose game. Their replacements were Paul Davidson (who later was awarded the man of the match award for a great afternoon’s scrummaging and a devastating 25 metres burst through the Stirling line), Lewis Stewart (Jamie Orr moved from the back row to cover lock) and Mark Bertram (who returned to the side after missing last weeks match because of a wedding).
Stirling have been playing inconsistently to date and before the match sat in 6th spot with a 50% success record. A proud club drawing from a massive geographical area with a big population however they were never going to lie down. One of their number was hooker Andrew Orr who moved north from Biggar to facilitate his Uni studies and he, for one, was determined to give a good account of himself on his old home turf. He did!
Kicking off up the ‘slope’ Biggar could not have had a better start when, within two minutes, they opened the scoring, Bertram set free by Lewis Stewart to cross under the posts. Andrew Jardine converted this and was on target again some 5 minutes later to add the conversion to Biggar’s 2nd score, this from Chris Mulligan. This try, conming from a scrum and featuring a No8 pick up from Ross Jackson and a mazy run from the elusive Robbie Orr was far too easy for this level of competition.
Having barely begun to sweat, Biggar could have been forgiven for thinking that it was going to be all plain sailing so easy were these two scores and especially as Stirling had hardly had the ball. This feeling was quickly dispelled however as the visitors, enjoying their first real possession, managed to string a few phases together and to put Biggar on defensive chores. A penalty kicked by Craig Robertson was their first score, this after Jamie Orr was penalised for not releasing the man. 14-3 to Biggar.
Biggar’s cause was not helped by an injury to hooker Ewan Stewart (Mulligan moved up from the back row while Alan Warnock came into the side from the bench) and because of an unusually high penalty count against them; referee Fergus Collins finding fault on a number of occasions for a variety of offences. This culminated in Jamie Orr being shown a yellow card just at the start of the second quarter.
Now with a one man advantage Stirling were quickly back on the attack via some good hard runs combined with some great running lines and angles which took them into the Biggar 22. The Stirling pack were a robust lot and with Orr in the van it took all of Biggar’s legendary defensive effort to repel the Stirling attack. This they did well until, that is, the half hour mark, when a rhino-like charge from prop Benjamin Mace resulted in their first score. Stand off Robertson added the two points from the conversion.
Biggar had had their fair share of possession during this period and had made some good ground but a series of errors had also disrupted their flow. What was needed before the half time whistle, was another score and with the clock approaching the 40 minute mark they duly obliged, Luhann Kutze initiated the score after he collected a loose Stirling clearance to begin a counter attack. His run created space but his vision to throw a pass to Rowan Stewart saw the winger take the ball at almost full speed and around the stretched cover defence for a try which Jardine again converted for 21-8 and half time.
Now playing towards the clubhouse, the general feeling was that Biggar would be able to open out as the Stirling effort waned. Not so however as the visitors maintained their dogged approach. In fact the first 10/15 minutes of this second period saw Biggar restricted to their own half as Stirling managed to retain possessiona and to constantly run at the Biggar defence. The home side were also guilty of a series of poor passes which, as had been the case in the first half, led to possession and territory being surrendered.
A number of timely interceptions, some good solid tackling, allied to some equally poor decisions from the Stirling side when in possession, contrived to keep Biggar ahead.
An injury to Rory Hutton saw Robbie Lavery enter the fray while Conor Lavery then gave way to Ross Bradford. With some 30 minutes of what had become a fairly bland period of play Biggar kicked a penalty for 24-8 (by Jardine) which crucially put them ahead by more than two scores.
Almost immediately and clearly spurred on by this, Stirling hit back with their second score, credited to replacement George Breese who was in possession when a driven maul took Biggar back and over their line. Robertson added the conversion for 24-15.
With less than 10 minutes remaining the two questions posed were 1. could Stirling mount suficient attacks to cross for further tries and 2. could Biggar gain another score to claim their 4 try and bonus winning point?
In the end the question was answered by a wonderful slieght of hand from Kutze. Biggar had worked their way into the Stirling 22 and had created a ruck almost in the middle of the pitch. Having retained possession the wee scrum half broke to his left, but rather than feeding to his outside backs, he popped a pass out of the back of his hand to Rowan Stewart who hit the line at cracking pace and into a gap to cross untouched from some 20 metres out. Jardine added the conversion for 31-15 which also brought the contest to its conclusion.
In the end another great result, though a little scrappier than had been the case against both Melrose and Heriots. The surprise defeat of Melrose by Cartha was a big ‘lift’ for Biggar as it allowed them to increase their lead at the top of the division (to 5 points from 3).
Watsons provide Biggar with their next home match before the first half off the season is rounded up with a trip to Glasgow to take on Cartha.
R. Orr, R. Stewart, R. Hutton, A. Jardine, M. Bertram, C. Lavery, L. Kutze, D. Voas, E. Stewart, P. Davidson, C. Borthwick, J. Orr, C. Mulligan, L. Stewart, R. Jackson. Reps: A. Warnock, A. Lyon, A. Peacock, R. Bradford, R. Lavery.
Match report Saturday 20th October 2019
Biggar 55 Melrose 12
This match was rightly billed as a top-of-the-table clash with the visitors, Melrose, atop the league and with with a record of 6 wins from 6 starts while the hosts Biggar were sitting in 3rd place with 5 wins from 6 starts.
At the end of the match, league positions were swapped after Biggar who, following a number of faltering performances, chose the perfect day to put together an unrelenting 80 minutes of play that had the Melrose team on the rack. This included a blistering start which saw Biggar score their 4th try and collect the bonus point after just over half an hour of play.
The Melrsoe support will point to the fact that they have picked up a number of injuries and were forced to field a very young side but with a couple of notable exceptions Biggar’s squad is peppered with teenagers and others in their early 20’s. The bonus for the home side is that they have had a season’s experience of playing together and have got into a winning habit. With a week off, the group must now focus on their next challenge and another similar task when they travel to take on 2nd placed Heriots at Goldenacre (2nd November KO 2pm).
In Biggar’s pack, Chris Mulligan returned at hooker after a holiday to the exclusion of Douglas Voas, while Craig Borthwick started at second row for his first run out since the Highland match, Andrew Peacock dropping to the bench.
In the backs Rory Hutton began at centre with Mark Bertram on the bench and Rowan Stewart shifting to the wing from centre.
Overnight rain had rendered Biggar’s pitch 3 unplayable and so the Colts midday match against Musselburgh had been cancelled but the main pitch was good to go and held up well throughout what was a dry afternoon. It was great to see a large travelling support with Melrose which made for a bumper crowd of around 500.
Kicking off towards the clubhouse Biggar suffered a blow as Ross Bradford picked up a hamstring injury after his first run on the wing and with just two minutes played. Bertram, who probably expected a restful first half, was pitched right back into the action.
Biggar’s cause was then helped when Melrose’s Thomas Brown was shown a yellow after referee Sam O’Neill adjuged that the lock had illegally collapsed a Biggar driving maul. Biggar took immediate and full advantage of the extra man to score a pushover try, with No8 Ross Jackson credited with the touchdown. Andrew Jardine who, having been with Melrose for a year and who was particularly keen to put one over on his old team mates, was wide with this conversion and the next one after Mulligan crashed over on the 10m minute mark. The build up to this had Bertram running a great line off stand off Conor Lavery. With yards gained and space created, Mulligan ran an equally good angle to make the line despite the attention of a couple of Melrose players.
Just minutes later Jardine anticipated well to collect a Melrose pass and then show the cover defence a clean pair of heels to score under the posts. This he then converted for 17-0.
Both sides employed the boot to put pressure on their opponents and while this did not always work it made for an intriguing contest. There were some excellent scraps for possession with players from both sides being adept at tidying up ball to regain possession or to make turnovers. Play was largely confined to the Melrose half however as Biggar continued to exert pressure on the visitors.
Mulligan, Richard Bassett, Lewis Stewart, Rowan Stewart and Donald Voas were all to the fore in this respect. A big factor in the match was that Biggar’s pack, still with the one man advantage made life really difficult for the Melrose side who were shunted back on almost every scrum. That their No8 Grant Runciman tidied ball well on a retreating scrum saved them on several occasions.
A Lavery touchfinder from a penalty saw Biggar come close to scoring from a well managed driven lineout, Melrose’s defence in the end doing just enough to prevent the try. The resultant scrum was won and with scrum half Luhan Kutze feeding Lavery, the stand off popped the ball to winger Rowan Stewart who ran in untouched for the 4th try. Jardine converted for 24-0.
There was just less then 10 minutes of the half remaining and for the first time much of that spell saw Melrose in attack. Biggar conceded a handful of penalties and must have been in danger of conceding a yellow. Referee O’Neill was not moved by the visitors protestations however and then right on half time Melrose crossed for their first try. After several good attacks on both flanks scrum half Douglas Crawford exploited a gap on the blindside of a ruck close to the Biggar line to nip around the cover. This was converted by Donald Crawford for 24-7 and half time.
Biggar prepared for a Melrose onslaught at the opening of the second half and while the visitors opened well and were given a boost when Hutton was shown a yellow in the early exchanges, there was not the required firepower or drive to upset the home side. Try as they did with the man advantage they could not add to their tally and Biggar survived Huttons’ absence without conceding a point.
Kicking was again a favoured option but, with Biggar in particular possessing a great counter attacking back 3, kicks had to be accurate and this was not always the case. There were some more great skills on show with some great pick ups and feeds under pressure maintaining the excitement.
With the match approaching the end of the third quarter Biggar then produced a hammer blow of two tries scored within 2 minutes of each other and putting the match beyond any doubt.
Another Melrose scrum was disrupted and with a Lavery penalty kick to the corner, Jackson crashed over from close range for his second try which Jardine converted for 31-7.
The kick off was collected by Bertram who made a fantastic run out of defence for some 40 metres. Having found a massive amount of space he then fed Hutton who drew the cover before freeing Rowan Stewart for a run to the corner. Jardine was off target with his conversion and having picked up a knock he gave way to Robbie Lavery.
From 24-7 the score was now 36-7 and with Biggar in confident mood, there was an expectation of more tries.
It was now almost all Biggar, Melrose living off scraps of possession as they struggled to contain the Biggar side and to maintain possession in the face of a very committed Biggar defence which continues to be extremely frugal. Indeed in the Premiership and National Leagues, only Dumfries have conceded fewer points; their 85 just one point less than Biggar’s 86.
Another assault on the line by Biggar saw Ewan Stewart (who had just come on for Jamie Campbell) go close off a pick up. His efforts were rewarded shortly afterwards as he was on hand to touch down following another driven scrum. Conorl Lavery added the conversion for 43-7.
Having earlier kicked the restart to Bertram the Melrose re-start should probably have been kicked away from him, but instead he gathered the kick and began the process once more. Though a score didn’t come directly from his run, possession was maintained and play swung from left to right and then back before space was created for Robbie Orr who sprinted over.
Bertram’s involvement in this score led to the only scuffle of the match, he and Melrose hooker Richard Fergsuon have a tug-of-war with each others’ shirts. The Melrose man might have been much better advised helping his side out in defence!
Peacock had replaced Jamie Orr by this juncture and Paul Davidson was soon to replace Richard Bassett, the wee man having put in naother fine performance in both tight and loose play.
With the minutes ticking by Robbie Orr notched his second of the day and his 12th of the season, Hutton again providing the scoring pass.
This was to be Biggar’s final try but there was time for Melrose to score a second. A passage of play deep in the Biggar 22 was such that Biggar were forced into defensive chores, Peacock being yellow carded for foul play at a ruck.
Now a man up Melrose plugged away at the Biggar line until a gap was created on the blindside which centre Connor Spence was able to exploit for a deserved score. Crawford’s conversion was pushed wide and although there was time for the restart the next stoppage ended the contest.
This was an excellent result but more importantly, a much better performance from Biggar. There was general satisfaction in a job well done and this was all the greater when news came of Heriot’s defeat at the hands of Kelso which promoted Biggar into top spot.
There is much work still to be done however and this was to the fore in the post-match chat when Borthwick noted that the two scores conceded, while well taken, were as a result of sloppy defence which on another day might prove costly. Congratulations to lewis Stewart whose workrate saw him identified as man of the match.
This coming weekend is a Cup weekend and Biggar therefore, at both 1st and 2nd XV level, are without a game.
The preparations now begin for the Heriots match. As was the case with Melrose, Biggar were last pitted against the Edinburgh outfit when the sides were in the Premiership together way back in season 2005/06. Goldenacre is not a familiar venue therefore and Biggar will need to be at their best against a side which will be desperate to rid memories of their Kelso defeat.
A very interested attendee at Saturday’s pre-match luncheon and on the touchline was Gary Parker. A Melrose favourite as a player and coach, Parker was also proud to coach at Biggar during those premiership days and he was quick to remind friends of matches and events from games. Now resident in Melbourne, Australia, he devotes his spare time to coaching not rugby but soccer, a game which he also played professionally with Hearts. Unsurprisingly he was very complimentary about Biggar’s performance on Saturday but with a foot in both ‘camps’ he was measured in his words!
R. Orr, R. Stewart, R. Hutton, A. Jardine, R. Bradford, C. Lavery, L. Kutze, D. Voas, C. Mulligan, R. Basset, C. Borthwick, J. Campbell, L. Stewart, J. Orr, R. Jackson. Reps: E. Stewart, P. Davidson, A. Peacock, R. Lavery, M. Bertram.
Match Report: 13th October 2019
Kelso 5 Biggar 29
This was another match which will perhaps be remembered more for what happened during the final 10 minutes than for the score.
In short, this last 10 minutes saw Kelso finish the match with just 11 on the park, referee John Shaw finding fault and showing yellow to 3 of their number (Frankie Robson, Blair Robertson and Andrew Ford) and then issuing replacement back Dwain Patterson with a straight red. As if that was not enough there was a final yellow issued to flanker Kevin Dryden after the final whistle!
Bizarre circumstances indeed and an incredible follow up to last week when the Dundee match was finished early following injury to the referee.
The fact that Biggar returned from the Borders for the second time in 3 weeks with another 5 points in the bag is of course the best of news for Biggar, particularly when the side failed again to play to its potential. Managers and coaches of many sports have stated that it is only a good side which can win when playing badly and this is definitely the message from the Biggar coaching team, but there is equally no more obvious a fact that the squad will need to up their game considerably for this Saturday when they entertain league leaders Melrose who have, to date, swept all before them.
This promises to be a real cracker of a match and with the 2nds also at home, Hartree Mill will be the place to be on Saturday. If you haven’t already witnessed a ‘big’ match at Biggar, then this is your chance. KO 3pm – we’d love to see you there!
Biggar made 2 changes to the side which defeated Dundee. In the pack Chris Mulligan was unavailable and so Andrew Peacock came off the bench and into the second row while Jamie Orr moved back to cover flanker. In the backs Andrew Jardine replaced Robbie Lavery who dropped to the bench.
Kelso have had a particularly inconsistent start to this campaign. A massive 98-3 defeat by Cartha would have indicated a side in meltdown but the very next week they lost to Highland by the odd point 27-26. They have yet to win a game however and on paper it still looked as though Biggar should cruise to a 5th win from 6 starts.
That this was not the case was down to another struggle for form by the Biggar squad who again made heavy weather of things, a batch of unforced errors and wrong options meaning that ball was dropped or attacking opportunities lost. Throw a belligerent Kelso XV desperate for points into the mix and it was there for all to see.
Kicking off with the wind on their backs Biggar should have opened their account early on when Jardine went for the line when an outside pass might have produced a score. Biggar maintained their position within the Kelso half however with some decent play and carries from among others Richard Bassett, Lewis Stewart and Jamie Orr. A penalty, initially awarded to Kelso was reversed by Referee Shaw who took umbrage at the reaction of Kelso after the whistle. This gave Biggar an attacking platform within the Kelso 22 and the lineout – which incidentally held firm throughout the match – provided good ball for the backs. Mark Bertram made the first incision through the Kelso defence before popping the ball to Jardine who accelerated through the remaining cover for a try close to the posts. His conversion was misssed but Biggar had a toehold at 5-0.
Biggar then suffered as some back chat saw them marched back 10m at a penalty. These two incidents (penalty reversal and added yards) should have been warning enough for all but subsequent events indicated that the lesson had fallen on deaf ears.
Biggar as has been the case recently were again in control in the tight exchanges, driving Kelso back to disrupt ball at the scrum and taking good ball at the lineout. Add in the sides usually stout defence and the ability to attack from anywhere, and it looked to be only a matter of time before they would again breach the Kelso line. The Border outfit had other thoughts however and with some equally uncompromising defence they sought to mess things up, disrupting Biggar possession whenever and however they could. Biggar made things hard for themselves as they sought to rush passes and kicks, ball too frequently failing to go to hand.
It took a full half hour for Biggar to notch up their second score, this falling to fullback Robbie Orr who rounded off a sweeping backs move which had seen ball swept from one side of the pitch to the other before Orr crashed over at the posts for a try converted by Jardine for 12-0.
This signalled a much better period of play although Biggar were unable to add to their account. Half time then and turning to face the breeze, the question was whether or not this slender lead would be sufficient. In additition Biggar had conceded penalties at far too high a rate, with a half time ‘score’ of 7 conceded to 3 by Kelso.
Ewan Stewart made a return to action for the second half. Within 3 minutes Biggar got their 3rd score, a crucial one given that Kelso had looked to strike quickly. Luhann Kutze with some dancing feet made ground before freeing Jardine in the middle. Jamie Orr supported well to take the scoring pass. Jardine added the 2 points for 19-0.
A series of promising attacks broke down again as passes were less accurate than the norm and as others were dropped. In the thick of the action up front, Bassett continued to impress with some solid carries as did Jamie Orr (who won the man-of-the-match award for a great all round display), Donald Voas and Lewis Stewart. In the backs all contributed well, Bertram always making the gain line and with Rowan Stewart, Ross Bradford and skipper Conor Lavery all making ground and defending well.
Kelso did manage a try in this period, winger Gareth Walker nipping over for a score which was just too wide for Hastie to convert, well though he had kicked at other times.
Biggar made another change with Hutton replacing Bertram, this seeing Rowan Stewart move to the wing. Peacock was then replaced by Warnock. Biggar had a couple of decent attacks without ever really getting close to the Kelso line.
It was as the game entered its 4th quarter and with things relatively evenly balanced, that events turned for Kelso. A penalty to Biggar on the Kelso 10m line was advanced not just once but twice (20m gain) as Kelso skipper Hastie offered the referee some advice. This gave Lavery an easy kick to the corner but although ball was won, Biggar were unable, at this point, to increase their lead. Biggar made their final changes with just over 5 minutes to go: Paul Davidson came on for Bassett and Robbie Lavery replaced Jardine.
A 5m scrum ended in disarray as a real ‘all in’ stramash ensued. Quite what the referee saw is not clear but whatever it was was sufficient for him to yellow the Kelso centre and hooker. Biggar disrupted the next scrum and won a penalty which Kutze elected to run. He was immediately pole-axed by the Kelso prop who joined his team mates on the bench.
Now down to 12 Kelso were strung out and gaps quickly appeared, Hutton able to take full advantage for his first try in Biggar colours. With Jardine off it was left to Conor Lavery to kick the conversion but he was just wide with this first effort.
The drop kick restart was taken well by lock Jamie Campbell but Kelso’s replacement Patterson mistimed his approach and Campbell was spun in the air prior to landing on his back. Fortunately he was able to get straight back up and although there was no malice whatsoever in the challenge this is nowadays a straight red card and Kelso were now down to 11, just one more than is required before a game is abandoned.
Just a couple of minutes remained but such was the imbalance of numbers that Biggar were able to run in their 5th try, this created by Robbie Lavery who drew the defence before off-loading to Jamie Orr for the try which rounded off an excellent afternoon for the flanker.
It was a difficult match to judge. Biggar had gained another 5 points, not something they have ever before managed at Kelso and yet there was little real celebration in the camp, the last few minutes bringing a sense of unreality to proceedings.
A pleasant surprise came with the news that close rivals Highland had lost their match at Watsonians. That leaves Biggar in 3rd spot, 4 points clear of Highland and 3 behind Melrose.
Efforts this week and prior to the visit by Melrose will be to concentrate on the basics and the pace of play whilst also reducing mistakes.
R. Orr, M. Bertram, R. Stewart, A. Jardine, R. Bradford, C. Lavery, L. Kutze, D. Voas, D. Voas, R. Basset, A. Peacock, J. Campbell, L. Stewart, J. Orr, R. Jackson. Reps: E. Stewart, P. Davidson, A. Warnock, R. Lavery, R. Hutton
MOM: Jamie Orr
Match Report: 6th October 2019
Biggar 50 Dundee 7 (Match Sponsor: Bryson Tractors)
Dundee’s first appearance at Hartree Mill will be remembered for long and weary but not for the reasons either Biggar or Dundee would prefer.
A hamstring injury to RFU exchange referee Kristian Garland threatened to end the contest after some 57 minuites had elapsed and led to a lengthy delay while the respective management teams, coaching teams, SRU assessor Dave Kerr, SRU rugby supremo Tappe Henning, ex-referee Jim Yuille and anyone else within earshot debated the options. In the end Mr Garland agreed to continue for as long as he could and certainly until the 60 minute mark had been reached, this the time required by the rule book to allow the match result to stand.
As it was he managed another 10 minutes in which time Biggar recorded and 8th try and 50 points whereupon it was decided to end the contest. From Biggar’s point of view they had secured the full 5 points and were therefore able to gain nothing else from the match other than a better points differential and potentially injury while from Dundee’s standpoint their depleted squad had already conceded 50 points from just two thirds of the match and were going to get absolutely nothing else other than perhaps a far worse points differential and most probably further injuries.
Up until this season National 1 rugby had involved 3 SRU appointed match officials but a lack of officials, combined with a change in SRU policy, means that this season the SRU provide just the referee with clubs responsible for touch judges. Injury to an official is not a particularly common occurence but it has a fairly major impact when it does, this the main topic of conversation in the clubhouse after the match.
The result and the fact that Highland lost their unbeaten record to visitors Heriots means however that Biggar move up one place, albeit just on points differential over Highland, to 3rd spot behind leaders Melrose and second placed Heriots.
An element of frustration pervaded Biggar’s post match huddle with the fact that most of the bench had gained next to no game time, this of particular reference to the returning Andy Jardine and newcomer Rory Hutton both of whom had literally just taken their places on the ptich when the game was brought ot its premature conclusion.
With Craig Borthwick unavailable and Euan Sanderson suffering from concussion Jamie Orr started at lock while Lewis Stewart made a return to action after missing the last two matches. As mentioned earlier, Jardine and Hutton were on the bench alongside Andrew Peacock and Ewan Stewart another two happily recovered from injury. Dundee, who traditionally rely on a big student presence have not had an easy time this season with injury and unavailablity a huge factor in their results which means that they are stuck at the bottom of the table with just one league point from 5 matches. One of their number however who gave his all to the cause was ex-biggar man Danny McGinn who ahs been part of the Dundee set up since his Uni days. His was not the happist of return visits but he can be proud of his efforts.
The match began in much more pleasant conditions than had been forecast although with the wind coming from the east there was a suspiscion that conditions might quickly deteriorate. This in fact was not the case and the match – all 60 minutes – elapsed without rain.
The respective league positions suggested that this might be an easy win for Biggar and while that was ultimately the case, Biggar’s pack totally dominat in almost every aspect, the visitors did stick gamely to their task and provided a challenge for Biggar. Added to that the Biggar squad lacked the patient build up that any game demands their play often a little too hurried with players making ambitious off-loads from the start which gave possession away or which conceded territory. That said there were another coupple of sweeping plays which took play from one end of the pitch to the other and which had the visitors chasing shadows and at sixes and sevens.
The match opend with both sides using the boot to turn their opponents though without particular success, ball being fielded and the return kick and chase more often the not giving possession away.
Mark Bertram, who ended with another hat-trick was the first to cross, ths coring pass delivered by fullback robbie Orr who made a break in midfield. Conor Lavery added the conversion, this the first of 5 successful kicks in the game.
Bertram nothced his econd after 15 mins, Ross Bradford’s inrusion doing much to create the space for the big winger to exploit.. Just 6 minutes later and Lewis Stewart scored Biggar’s 3rd try another midfield break, this time from centre Rowan Stewart splitting the Dundee defence.
Haviong scorched into a 19-0 lead Dundee unsurprisingly took a hand in the next passages of play and they opened their account with a trywhich somehwat irnoically came from a retreating Dundee scrum – this a feature of the game and one which saw Dundee suffer badly as Biggar’s 8 took full advantage of the visiotrs weaknesses.
On this occasion however ball won by Dundee was advanced by scrum half McGinn who found team-mate Tim Brown in support, the back rower crossing for a try converted by Kieron Scoular for 19-7.
Just after this score, which should have given them a boost a yellow card to centre Sean Gauld (this perhaps a tad harsh as he seemed to just miss out on an interception) and an injury to No 8 Donald Sangster added to Dundee’s woes.
The score had also acted as a spur to Biggar who scored their 4th and bonus point winning try when Conor Lavery exploited a gap created by a neat backs move to go over under the posts. Having converted this try the stand off was on target again, this a much harder kick from the touchline after No8 Ross Jackson had made the most of another retreating Dundee scrum.
With just a few passages of play remaining referee Garland blew for half time.
The second period began ominously for Biggar as Jackson was shown a yellow. They made light of this imbalance in numbers however as Conor Lavery probed the corners and touchlines with some well angled kicks to pin the Dundee defence back. Having manufactured another midfield breenge Rowan Stewart put in a long pass to fullback Robbie Orr on his wide right who, having made more ground found Bradford with a wonderful ‘out the back’ pass. The winger cruised over at the corner for a try. Lavery was short and wide with the conversion.
Biggar had begun to make changes, Ewan Stewart maing a welcome return to action after injury and there were further changes to the side with Donald Voas and Jamie Campbell making way for Paul Davidson and Andrew Peacock.
A slightly frantic passage of play ensued as again errors crept into Biggars’ play, everyone keen to make their mark as Dundee faltered. Jackson resumed after his yellow while Bertram steadied the ship with his third try. The winger rounded off a sweeping move which saw play moved right to the touchline and then back left via Rowan Stewart, Robbie Orr and Robbie Lavery who delivered the scoring pass to the winger with no fewer than three other players available in support. Bertram’s hat-trick ‘reward’ was to be immediately replaced alongside Robbie Lavery with Jardine and Hutton their replacements. Hutton’s first touch saw him make a promising break down the rigbt touchline with the cover just able to push him into touch. This was the beginning of the end as it was at this point that the referee was injured.
A prolonged debate ensued to discover what the protocol in such situations was and what options were available. This included an appeal for assistance from one of the Colts officials who had been on duty earlier but who was on his way home. He agreed to return but as described the Mr Garland was able to resume for the required spell to allow the result to stand.
In that time Rowan Stewart ran a great angle off scrum ball, Luhan Kutze provising the perfect flip pass inside to allow his team mate to cross between the posts for a try converted by Conor Lavery for Biggar’s 50.
As suggested there was a deal of frustration in the Biggar camp but with no injuries and a hefty win this means the full squad is available for selection for a testing fixture away this Saturday to Kelso. This has never been an easy trip and while the Border side, like Dundee, are not having the best of starts to their season they ran leaders Melrose close at the weekend. They should never be underestimated and so Biggar will need to be at their best to maintain their current run of good form.
R. Orr, M. Bertram, R. Stewart, R. Lavery, R. Bradford, C. Lavery, L. Kutze, D. Voas, D. Voas, R. Basset, J. Orr, J. Campbell, L. Stewart, C. Milligan, R. Jackson. Reps: E. Stewart, P. Davidson, A. Peacock, A. Jardine, R. Hutton
MOM: Richard Bassett
28th September – Gala
Gala 21 Biggar 24
On three occasions and with just minutes left on the clock Gala opted to go for the lineout and try rather than the penalty at goal, 3 points and a deserved draw. Biggar however, stuck to their task and time after time were up to the mark defensively, demonstrating a determination to hold their line intact as belies a side which last season had the best defensive record in the league. A 4-try bonus point win then at Netherdale is a fantastic result and ensures Biggar retain their 4th place slot behind Melrose, Highland and Heriots.
Biggar were without Lewis Stewart for this match, the youngster, who has been in great form having picked up a leg knock midweek. His place was taken by Chris Milligan who moved to the back row from hooker, with Douglas Voas coming in as Milligan’s replacement. The backs showed one change, James Barr dropping to the bench in favour of Robbie Lavery at centre while Jamie Orr returned to the squad on the bench.
On the Netherdale turf Biggar endured a torrid start to the match as Gala threw everything at them, their big pack making inroads into the Biggar half and then the 22 and with stand off Dean Keedie orchestrating things well with some deft off-loads and some very accurate angled kicks. It was from one such forward drive from a lineout and then a great cross kick which gave Simon Fairbairn the opportunity to take and cross for the opneing try, this coming within the first minute of the match. While Keddie missed the conversion and a penalty just minutes later – this a great effort which saw the ball rebound off the upright – he was on target in the 11th minute with a penalty to put his side 8-0 up.
At this stage the game had barely moved from the Biggar half and it looked as though it might be a very long afternoon for the Biggar side. Gala’s play was full on, their option to tap and go off penalties causing some havoc, but there were Biggar errors to compound things and this made the task all the more difficult; a lineout error and soft penalties allowing the home side to maintain their stranglehold on the game.
The law of averages suggested that things should change however and so they did, a mark and kick to touch by Ross Bradford giving his side the opportunity to control possession. A penalty award taken quickly by Luhann Kutze and Biggar were off and running to take the game for the first time into the Gala 22. Some great handling which swept play right and then left stretched the Gala cover and created just enough space for Robbie Orr to draw the cover before feeding Mark Bertram who crossed for a cracking opening try. Conor Lavery missed the conversion but this try gave Biggar some heart – a score from what was virtually their first attack.
Gala replied with Gregor Mein at centre pushing Biggar back into their 22 but a blindside break featuring Robbie Lavery and Kutze took play back into the Gala half. Conor Lavery kicked a penalty to within 5metres of the Gala line where a textbook take by skipper Euan Sanderson gave Biggar a great chance. Having learned a harsh lesson at Currie whom Biggar met in the Cup, Sanderson turned as Gala stood off the lineout, exploiting the space to drive over the line for a score which put Biggar ahead at 10-8 and, as importantly, served notice that with 2 tries in effectively 2 attacks, Biggar would be a match for the Border outfit.
The half was not quite over however and an offside gave Keddie the chance to regain the lead for Gala at 11-10.
Despite now having the benefit of the breeze Biggar found themselves almost immediately back in defence for the opening minutes of the second period, their defence and the intervention of two timely turnovers giving them both space and time. The first saw Robbie Lavery kick deep to push Gala back while the second, coming from a poor pass gave Mark Bertram the chance to take ball upfield. Although tackled, he found Rowan Stewart in support, the centre making a great run into the Gala 22. His lateral run then created space for the ever-present Milligan and the neat ‘out-the-back’ pass saw the backrower over and almost under the posts for a crucial score. And one converted by Conor Lavery.
Another restart error ended with a Gala penalty which Keddie kicked to keep his side in touch at 17-14. In what was fast becoming a really entertaining contest Gala then regained the lead after another series of errors from Biggar which saw Douglas Voas forced to concede a 5m scrum. Now deep in the ‘red area’, the initial thrusts to the Biggar line by the Gala pack, with captain Euan Dods looking almost certain to cross for a try were repelled by some really stout offensive defence as all Biggar’s players stood up to the charges. The line had to break however and a converted try, a second for winger Fairburn put the homeside ahead at 21-17 and this with some 25 minutes remaining.
Both sides had begun to ring the changes, Orr on for Craig Borthwick and then Alan Warnock for Sanderson. Paul Davidson would soon enter the fray for Douglas Voas. Gala had already been forced into changes as their injuries again mounted up. Neither side could quite gain control of the match at this stage as both erred to cede possession when in attack. Penalties were awarded as referee Michael Todd found fault, both sides equally guilty as they crept offisde trying to cut down space. An accidental offside from one such penalty kicked deep into the Gala 22 and after Biggar had built up a head of steam was a frustration, especially as real attacking opportunities were few and far between.
The winning try came from what was essentially a defensive scrum on Biggar’s 10m line. The pack had been a match for the Gala 8 and ball won was then passed swiftly through the hands to Orr who, having committed two men, found Bertram with an off-load. The winger put in a neat grubber kick which had Milligan on a chase which he very nearly won, Gala replacement Struan Mitchell just getting control of the ball as it bobbled toward the Gala line. From the resultant lineout a forward drive was halted but a neat backs move – not, mind you, the one intended – saw Conor Lavery find Orr with a wide pass, the fullback staying strong to carry the ball over the line for a deserved try which the stand off kicked for 24-21.
There was now just under 10 minutes remaining and what a fraught 10 minutes they turned out to be as both sides did their utmost to win the game, Gala in possession and Biggar more often the not in defence. Biggar had to make another change as Richard Bassett took a nasty cut to his ear and at exactly the same time as Warnock was shown a yellow card for a high tackle.
The last minutes were played out as previously described, the Border side eschewing the kick at goal and possible draw for a try and a win. Time and again they ran at the Biggar defence but it did just enough to hold firm.
A pulsating contest, one which the home side will rue as having got away and one which the visitors will delight in recounting for some time to come. For the record this was the first meeting between the two sides in almost 10 years, Gala winning that encounter by 27-25 so there is clearly still not much between the two teams.
Chris Milligan deservedly picked up another Man of the Match award while there is good news regarding the Gala winger Fairburn who was injured in the last play as he made for the line. Though requiring an ambulance he has a concussion and a perforated eardrum which, although very unpleasant, is not as bad as had been envisaged. The club wishes him a speedy recovery.
Biggar will now regroup and prepare for the visit of Dundee. The Tayside club are not enjoying the best of starts to their season and are currently propping the table up with no wins. Amongst their number are the McGinn brothers, Danny and Rory, who both hail from Biggar so they will doubtless enjoy a return to their home club!
R. Orr, M. Bertram, R. Stewart, R. Lavery, R. Bradford, C. Lavery, L. Kutze, D. Voas, D. Voas, R. Basset, C. Borthwick, J. Campbell, E. Sanderson, C. Milligan, R. Jackson. Reps: P. Davidson, J. Orr, A. Warnock, J. Barr and E. Bogle.
MOM: Chris Mulligan
21st September 2019