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: 1st March 2020
A packed clubhouse courtesy of Club Sponsors Halls of Scotland, a big enthusiastic support, a top of the table clash, an extremely hard fought contest………but one played out in what must surely have been equal to, if not worse conditions than those experienced at Murrayfield for the Calcutta Cup match in February.
The bright, dry, windy and cold conditions of Saturday morning gave way, not as was forecast at 3pm, but at 2.55pm(!), exactly at the point when the players came out onto the pitch to observe a 1 minutes silence in respect of former club members Alan ‘Mick’ Wilson and Dougie Telfer. From that point on and for virtually the rest of the match a snow storm swept across the pitch from south to north and which made watching, never mind playing, a real test.
All credit then to the two squads for their efforts but also to the ball boys, the officials and of course the spectators for braving the elements.
The result was the lowest scoring match of the season but a win for Biggar nonetheless and one which takes them another step closer to a second League championship and title. Mathematically however, Heriots can still catch Biggar and while the odds are stacked against that happening, it is still a possibility and therefore Championship celebrations must remain on ice until those last two points (one in fact would probably be enough) are secured. To stop Biggar, Heriots would have to win their remaining 4 games with 4 try bonus points and Biggar would need to lose all 3 of their remaining matches all without recourse to a losing bonus.
Biggar were without Donald Voas for this latest contest, the prop having damaged a calf in that game. Robbie Lavery who also came off injured had recovered but Rory Hutton was unavailable due to illness. Other than these there were few changes to the starting XV with Andrew Peacock filling the prop berth and Robbie Orr returning to full back although sadly his game lasted barely 5 minutes after he picked up a shoulder injury which could preclude any further involvement this season.
The gale force conditions favoured neither side, it was certainly not the weather either team would have chosen, and in short this was an arm wrestle between the forwards with the (poor) backs left as bit parts and to trying to remain warm, yet still ready to join the fray whenever required.
Biggar got off to a dream start which was to prove crucial. A take by Robbie Orr from a Heriots attacking kick set play up on the right hand side of the pitch. Ball was transferred left with Robbie Lavery making ground before offloading to Peacock. He gained important yards before passing to Luhann Kutze who sprinted clear to the line for a try which Andrew Jardine converted for 7-0, and this with barely 2 minutes on the clock.
Bertram replaced Orr with Rowan Stewart moving from wing to fullback.
Heriots enjoyed a large passage of play but with their attack stifled by Biggar’s defensive efforts they were able to gain only marginal yards. They also fell foul of referee George Pounder’s interpretation of their line-out drive, with several penalties denying them the opportunity to maintain pressure in the Biggar half.
With some 25 minutes on the clock Biggar seemed to have stretched their lead with a well taken driven maul. Unfortunately however, the maul broke apart short of the line with half of the players involved spilling into touch. Refree Pounder blew for a lineout but had missed the fact that the remaining players, mostly in the black of Biggar, were still in control of the ball and had gone on to ‘score’ a try. A genuine mistake and one which fortunately didn’t have any material effect on the outcome. The resultant line and scrum looked odds on for a try as well but a knock on in the pick up denied Biggar the score.
Conditions never let up and kicking was never an easy option with the ball flight at times resembling that of a bent banana! Add in the fact that a straight lineout throw was an almost impossibility and play was, unsurprsingly, a tad scrappy.
Biggar used their pack to carry ball and this proved successful in that yards were gained and the Heriots defence was tested to the max. As usual, the whole side made their presence felt with Messers (Lewis) Stewart, Mulligan (who spent many seasons at Heriots before returning to his home club) and Bassett to the fore with Craig Borthwick another to make inroads.
The game moved to half time with all players and officials beating a hasty retreat to the relative warmth and shelter provided by the dressing rooms. Ross Jackson who had been unwell for most of the week was replaced at half time by Alan Warnock.
The second half opened with Heriots on the attack and able for once to maintain possession and territory in the Biggar half. As had been the case in the first half, getting play upfield was a major task and a combination of some good ball retention and some neat chip kicks kept Biggar pinned down although when given the opportunity to run the ball back, Biggar’s back three looked eager for the task – grateful of course for the opportunity to run and create some body heat! At times and particularly at scrum time the backs could be seen doing 10m shuttle runs whilst the packs prepared to scrummage, this in a vain attempt to create some warmth!
At the start of the 4th quarter, Heriots finally breached the Biggar defence.
The Heriots score came from a catch and drive at lineout. Whichever side got a push on put their opponents under great pressure and so, having got the maul moving toward the Biggar line, the addition of several of the Heriots three quarter line took the ball over for the try.
In reality, this is the first try created and scored by an opposing team for many moons; tries for the likes of Gala, Kelso and Melrose all emanating directly from Biggar errors, and often whilst Biggar were in attack. The try was right on the touchline and so although the conversion attempt was well struck by Heriots scrum half Graham Wilson the ball fell short. Biggar still ahead by 7-5. There was a just a score in the match however and all was to play for.
Ironically, the fact that Heriots scored gave Biggar an ‘advantage’! The restart from Conor Lavery was kicked into the Heriots half, an area of the pitch which had seen sparse action and as a result was firmer and which made running marginally easier.
The score also seemed to galvinise the Biggar effort and they were rarely back in their own half for the remainder of the match. The winning score came just 5 minutes after the Heriots try and was inspired by a neat midfield break by Jardine. The position created put Heriots onto the back foot and having retained possession on a handful of phases, play was taken to the Heriots line with prop Richard Bassett the man credited with the try, his 4th in just three matches! Jardine calmly stroked the conversion over to give Biggar a 14-5 lead and one which also denied Heriots a losing bonus which, on balance and given their efforts, few would have begrudged.
The rest of the match saw both teams manfully continue to play although there would surely have been no complaints had referee Pounder decided to end the match early because of the conditions, which never for once let up. Rowan Stewart was replaced by James Barr and later his brother Fin came on for Mulligan.
There was a tangible sense of relief from everyone at the match – both on and off the pitch – when Kutze lashed the ball into touch followed by Mr Pounder’s final whistle. Players and officials still managed to observe the post-match formalities however though by this time player identification was in itself quite a challenge.
Andrew Peacock, Euan Stewart, Richard Bassett, Craig Borthwick, Ross Jackson, Chris Mulligan, Lewis Stewart, Euan Sanderson, Lohann Kotze, Andy Jardine, Rowan Stewart, Conor Lavery, Robbie Lavery, Ross Bradford, Robbie Orr. Reps Andrew Muir, Alan Warnock, Finlay Barr, James Barr, Mark Bertram
Biggar travel to take on Stirling County this Saturday in the knowledge that just one point would, should all else go belly up, give them the title on points difference. Two points would remove that possibility and would give Biggar the title. There must be a doubt over the match however, as Stirling’s match on Saturday was postponed because of a water-logged pitch.
Match Report: 16th February 2020
Melrose 10 Biggar 42
This was a first!
In 3 previous attempts, stretching back to 1993/94, Biggar have never before won at The Greenyards. They came really close in season 2004/05 when in their first Premiership visit they were ahead 19-13 going into the last minute only to concede a converted try to lose 20-19, but they have never come away with a win….until Saturday that is when in a hugely compelling second half, the Lanarkshire side dominated proceedings to score 4 converted tries and to run out convincing and deserved winners.
What a result and what a performance! This bonus point result ensures that the Biggar side keep their 15 point advantage at the top of National 1 with the biggest game of the season to come on 29th February when second placed Heriots are visitors to Hartree Mill. While even a full 5 point win in that match would still not be sufficient to give Biggar the title, it would go a very long way to that goal.
To the match….
Biggar fielded an almost unchanged XV for the trip to Melrose save that is at lock where Jamie Orr, injured at Boroughmuir, was replaced by Ross Jackson.
Storm Dennis had made itself felt throughout Friday and Friday night. This resulted in the rest of Biggar’s weekend fixtures being cancelled and made the trip down the overflowing Tweed to Melrose one of massive puddles and sheets of spray. Conditions in the game, bar for the first 10 minutes, deteriorated quickly with rain being driven the length of the pitch and making things incredibly challenging for players, officials and spectators alike, save that the latter group were ensconced in the Greenyards stand!
As had been reported in the press, Melrose were out to avenge a savage 55-12 defeat suffered at Hartree Mill back in October and with a number of players back from injury and following a set of decent results, the Border side posed a real threat. Melrose’s preparations on their new astro turf pitch were in sharp contrast to that of Biggar who aside from being reduced to just a couple of sessions in the past fortnight also had to contend with the absence of 4 of their number who were all starring in Biggar YFC’s annual concert.
Having lost the toss Melrose were forced to play with the gale in the first half and were soon on the attack, earning an early penalty as they kept Biggar in their half. Fullback David Colvinne kicked well for 3-0. Biggar’s defence stood up well to these initial forays by the home side who although retaining possession well were unable to get any real forward momentum.
When Biggar had the ball they were able to get that go-forward and with the pack in fine form, picking and driving play was taken into the Melrose half and then their 22. Only a couple of handling errors denied them an opening score. The forward exchanges were fairly even at this point although Biggar had the Melrose scrum in some trouble. Biggar’s cause suffered a setback when at the end of the first quarter, prop Donald Voas fell to the ground after a scrum. A calf tear was diagnosed and he was replaced by Andrew Peacock who was himself carrying a knee injury but who went on to make a huge contribution in the match. Voas’s injury is a harsh one as he has played a pivotal and crucial role in this season’s play – and he had started this game well, carrying deep into Melrose territory and putting in his usual timely and solid tackles when in defence.
Undaunted by this change however, Biggar laid siege to the Melrose line from a lineout and after a couple of forays by Ewan Stewart and Chris Mulligan, Richard Bassett was on hand to dive over from close range for Biggar’s opening try. Andrew Jardine, making a return to the ground where he played two season’s ago, stroked the first of six successful kicks for 7-3.
The wind was playing havoc with any ball kicked – much as had been the case the previous week in the Scotland/England debacle – and it was from one such kick that Melrose scored their try. A chip ahead appeared to be covered by scrum half Luhann Kotze but the youngster dropped the ball, and then, to compound matters, he flung the ball forward in frustration. Playing the advantage, South African referee Craig Clark dodged the ball which then fell to Melrose prop Jake Fairley who made good ground in open space before passing to winger Aidan Cross for what was really a gift of a score. Always play to the whistle!!
Having managed a really good score to take the lead Biggar were now behind at 10-7.
A number of errors – hardly surprising given the conditions – prevented any further scoring for the next 15 minutes or so and until the dying minutes of the half. In another strong passage of play Biggar probed at the Melrose defence and having won a penalty, Kutze, desperate to make amends for his earlier error, took a quick tap penalty only to find his way illegally barred by Melrose lock Tom Brown who was shown a yellow card for his efforts.
This provided an ideal platform from which to attack although Biggar’s first effort at a driven line ended in disappointment as the ball was knocked on in the transfer. Under great pressure the Border side only managed to scrape the ball into touch, this giving Biggar one final opportunity in the half. The throw foiled all jumpers but the ball fell invitingly for Bassett who, in showing the defence a clean set of heels, set off for the line some 20m distant. He managed to secure the score with Jardine’s second conversion bringing the half to an end and signalling a sprint by both teams to the shelter of the dressing rooms.
Ahead at 14-10, Biggar now resumed with the wind on their backs, Melrose coming out to find the wind ever stronger and making things equally more difficult.
Melrose were still a man down and it is always key to make the most of any numerical advantage.
This Biggar did, just at the end of the 10 minute suspension, although their cause was helped by some chat which led to referee Clark overturning a decision which gave Biggar a penalty which took play back into the Melrose half. Chris Mulligan rounded off a concerted effort by the pack with several of their number forcing Melrose to make tackle after tackle. Biggar showed great patience however and that was rewarded by Mulligan’s try and Jardine’s 3rd conversion.
Things were now going increasingly Biggar’s way with Melrose infringing in their desperation to stem the black tide. At each opportunity, Biggar pushed Melrose back deep into their half and it was from another kick that Biggar took play deep into the Melrose 22. Another dominant scrum and then a carry by Conor Lavery, Kutze whipped the ball out to Euan Sanderson who weaved his way through a weak Melrose defence to secure Biggar’s 4th and vital bonus point try. Jardine slotted the kick for 28-10.
There were still errors as Biggar looked to finish their hosts off but given the amount of possession they enjoyed and the still dreadful conditions, these were hardly surprising. Melrose were unable to make the most of these errors as any ball kicked was held up in the wind and swiftly returned. Biggar rang a couple of changes, Rowan Stewart making way for Mark Bertram although Stewart was soon back into action after Robbie Lavery sustained aknee injury.
The Border side then made things even more difficult for themselves as their repeated indiscipline saw decisions overturned giving Biggar the chance to mount repeated attacks. Some ill-advised comments to referee Clark ended with stand off Donald Crawford being shown a yellow but worse was to follow as replacement hooker Richard Ferguson was shown a straight red for verbal abuse. Down to 13 men and without a recognised front row, scrums were then uncontested. Biggar quickly replaced prop Bassett with Alan Warnock while Finlay Barr took the field for Peacock.
A poorish pass from Mulligan menat that another score was shunned but Robbie Orr ran in for try number 5 and then shortly after that, and with just seconds to go, another series of forward surges was rounded off by Ross Jackson who bundled his way through a tired Melrose defence and over the line for the 6th try. As had been the case at half time Jardine’s kick brought the half and indeed the match to its end. This was a significant effort for Jardine who was returning to the Greenyards after a largely unsatisfactory spell there.
There was much delight amongst the Biggar contingent – players, coaches and spectators alike – who recognised this as being a huge performance in the most trying of conditions and against a proud Border side. Great credit to all who took part with best wishes to Donald Voas and Robbie Lavery for a speedy return. Their absences may well have a profound effect on the games to come.
There is no 1st XV match this weekend due to the 6 Nations programme so Biggar have a fortnight to prepare for the Heriots match on the 29th.
As suggested, that is now the biggest match of the season and so a plea to the cluib membership to mark the date in your diary. Please try and get along to the match and give the boys your support!! It promises be a fantastic occasion!
Match Report 27th January 2020
Boroughmuir 0 Biggar 26
Biggar continued their 100% start to 2020 in Tennents National 1 following a trip to a blustery Meggatland in the capital on Saturday afternoon.
Biggar travelled to face Boroughmuir on the back of two handsome bonus point wins to start their year, while Boroughmuir have struggled in this year’s competition, sitting in 11th place and scrapping for survival.
It would be fair to say that the form book suggested that an away win would be a safe bet, however those in sport and with a penchant for a gamble understand that the form book is often deceptive.
Biggar kicked off into a gusty wind on the back pitches at Meggatland, with the first XV pitch unavailable due to a Scottish cup fixture involving Tynecastle FC who ground share with the Edinburgh side. The fact that the game was rearranged due to an earlier postponement in November ensured the pitch was not available prior to the rearranged date being agreed.
From the early exchanges it was easy to see the team who were fighting for survival, as Boroughmuir came flying out of the traps, showing a tremendous energy ensuring a lion’s share of early possession and a disruptive influence on Biggar possession. This resulted in an early penalty attempt on goal for Boroughmuir stand-off Calum Anderson, who pushed his effort on goal wide from 15m out.
A see saw battle ensued in the lead up to half time with Biggar starting to exert more dominance on proceedings thanks to the hard running of their pack and dominant scrum, counteracting Boroughmuir’s use of the gusty wind at their backs, with the game remaining scoreless at half an hour.
More sustained pressure led to a Biggar scrum in Boroughmuir’s 22. Biggars backline took advantage with Connor Lavery feeding Ross Bradford, the winger offloading to Andy Jardine who coasted in for the first points of the day. Jardine converted his own try to leave the score 7-0 at half time.
The Second half continued in the same vein as the first, with both sides making errors that disrupted the flow of the game, but with Biggar taking more advantage of opportunities that presented themselves in comparison to their hosts.
On 55 minutes after further carrying from the pack, Biggar found themselves camped within Boroughmuir’s 5m line. Numerous Carries were repelled by the home defence, before the ball was fired wide to Rory Hutton who crossed on the left hand touchline once the ball had been released to the backline. Andy Jardine once again added the extras to double Biggar’s tally.
It was not long before Biggar once again found themselves deep in Boroughmuir territory. A characteristic barnstorming run by Donald Voas (not his first of the day) punched Biggar deep into Boroughmuir’s territory. An infringement led to a lineout 7m out from the home team’s line. An effective catch and drive took Biggar close to the line, with Hooker Euan Stewart peeling off the maul carrying two would be tackles over the line with him.
There was time for one further score with further forward pressure leading to Richard Bassett driving over from close range under a pile of bodies not for the first time this season. This ensured the crucial bonus point try with 15 minutes remaining. Jardine again added the extras to take the score to 26-0 and that is how it finished in front of another brilliant travelling support, despite Boroughmuir’s best efforts to breach Biggar’s line in the final minutes, solid defence keeping them at bay.
An Important win on the road for Biggar who now find themselves 20 points clear of Heriots at the top of the table, albeit having played two games more. Particularly pleasing will be the shutout although this was harsh on Boroughmuir, who battled manfully up front, disrupting Biggar’s flow, with a highly effective lineout set piece to boot. They certainly contributed to the encounter far more than the score line may suggest.
Biggar now face a 3 week hiatus before they face Melrose at the Greenyards on 15th February 2020, another game which is critical to the Lanarkshire side’s Tennents Natonal 1 title aspirations.
Biggar: Donald Voas, Euan Stewart, Richard Bassett, Craig Borthwick, Jamie Orr, Chris Mulligan, Lewis Stewart, Ross Jackson, Lohann Kotze, Connor Lavery, Rowan Stewart, Andy Jardine, Robbie Lavery, Ross Bradford, Rory Hutton. Replacements – Andrew Muir, Andrew Peacock, James Barr, David Reive, Mark Bertram
Match Report 19th January 2020
Biggar 52 Kelso 6
For the second week in a row Biggar recorded 8 tries (4 in each half) and 52 points in their National League match! This takes their ‘points for’ total beyond the 600 mark, a quite fantastic achievement. As nearest rivals Heriots were beaten by Gala, Biggar now have a 15 point lead at the top of the table. This is slightly misleading however as Heriots have a game in hand and are likely to get 5 points from that match (against Dundee). The lead then is 10 points and with 5 games remaining there is still plenty of scope for strange things to happen.
Biggar were able to select from a full strength squad as once again there were no injuries sustained in the Dundee clash the previous week – an undoubted factor in the past two campaigns. Donald Voas returned to the starting XV, Paul Davidson forced to withdraw following a nasty car accident on Friday which, thankfully, he escaped from unscathed. Euan Sanderson – more of him later! – was at a wedding and so Lewis Stewart resumed on the flank. Rowan Stewart joined Rory Hutton, Andrew Peacock and Luhann Kotze on the bench with the 5th spot going to Andrew Muir who was making a return to Biggar colours after a sojourn at Marr.
In the first encounter at Kelso the home side imploded towards the end of the match, ending the contest with just 11 players on the pitch. The general feeling was that the Border side would come out all guns blazing as only a Border side can, with pride in the town and in their performance foremost on their minds. That was the case for the first quarter when their kick and chase tactic, combined with some clever lineout ploys had Biggar struggling. These factors, allied to referee Calum Worsley’s interpretation of the lineout rules which had Biggar dumbfounded led to the visitors taking an early lead via a massive penalty kick by Craig Dods which founds its mark from the half way line.
Kelso elected not to contest the Biggar throw at lineout time and while this tactic has been employed before (by Gala for example) Biggar fell short of dealing with it and this saw them penalised on a number of occasions. Other infringments allowed Kelso some respite as they were able to kick clear, although with Biggar’s back three as always looking full of running, this respite was short in length.
Dods added a second close range penalty after 10 minutes as Biggar were still unable to get to grips with the match. There was soon some light however as at scrum time the Biggar 8 were in dominant form and able to cause havoc for the visiting pack. This extended to possession from Kelso lineouts which Biggar stole almost at will and which put Kelso under real pressure in both attack and defence.
On the 20 minute mark Biggar struck. A rare penalty to the hom,
e side gave Andy Jardine the chance to take play into the Kelso 22. Kelso stood off once again but on this occasion hooker euan Stewart took advantage of the delay to turn and drive at the Kelso line. This was successful and with jardine kicking the conversion biggar found themselves ahead at 7-6 and all after just their first real attacking opportunity.
Some 7 minutes later and Biggar sctretched their lead. A lineout steal on the Kelso throw gave Ross Bradford and Euan Stewart a chance to test the Kelso defence. While the initial thrusts were repelled, a powerful run on a good angle by Mark Bertram took the winger over the line.
Biggar’s dominance up front was beginning to pay off. Their tight play was particularly effective but the influence of their forwards in the loose was also a big headache for Kelso who were stoic in defence but who took some battering. One such run of 40m plus by Voas is worthy of mention while the carries of the ever-present duo of Mulligan and Lewis Stewart aided by Ross Jackson, Richard Bassett and Jamie Orr were telling. With a handful of minutes of the first half remaining Biggar swept play from left to right with Bradford on hand to cover the last few yards to the line for a try converted by Jardine for 19-6.
There was barely time for the restart but Biggar made the most of it to claim their 4 try bonus. Another tunrover, this time by Bassett provided ball for the backs and some swift passing by among others Jardine created space for the flying fullback Robbie Orr to cross in the corner. Jardine rounded things off with his 3rd conversion. Half time and Biggar were 26-6 ahead.
Conditions, though cold, were so much better than the previous week and this did much to make the contest an entertaining one for the very pleasing large Biggar support at least!
Biggar opened thr half in fine form and were very quickly on the attack deep in the Kelso 22. Some desperate Kelso defence was all that stood between Biggar and the Kelso try line. Infringements led to penalties and soon the penalty count, which had once been 6-1 to Kelso, began to even out. A series of collapsed scrums as the Kelso pack continued to toil might have ended with a Biggar try but an error at the scrum base prevented Biggar from turning this pressure into points. Indeed this and an interception by the Kelso centre as Biggar ran ball in the Kelso 22 saw a chase which was inevitably won by Robbie Orr who not only made the tackle but got up to challenge for possession was a great piece of play. Assisted by replacement scrum half Luhann Kotze who had taken over from Davy Reive created (yet another) valuable turnover.
Biggar then lost the services of Conor Lavery who was shown a yellow for what appeared to be an innocuous tackle but one which was deemed by referee Worsley to be dangerous. Given the pressure Kelso were under both in scrum and lineout it was no surprise that on this occasion they opted to tap and go and run the ball but the attack foundered on a Lewis Stewart turnover. Another driven line ended with a try for the ever industrious Richard Bassett. This score also signalled an evening up of numbers as the Kelso 7 Fergus Common was shown a yellow as the players stood toe to toe after an altercation begun by Kelso’s combative scrum half Andy Tait. In addition to the yellow card Biggar were awarded a penalty on the restart to the game. Jardine meanwhile had added the conversion for 33-6.
Mark Bertram and Robbie Lavery then made way for Rowan Stewart and Rory Hutton, both players into the action quickly with Stewart scoring with his second touch of the ball. A position deep in the Kelso half had been won by a great charge from Euan Stewart who had benefitted from some good work by Lewis Stewart and Craig Borthwick. On the front foot Rowan Stewart took a pass from Lavery to romp over under the posts. Jardine’s conversion took Biggar to the 40 mark.
More was to come as almost directly from the restart Biggar forced a scrum close to the Kelso line. Another massive shunt forward from the pack and a scrum collapse gave Mr Worsley little option and he awarded the penalty try. Euan Stewart was replaced by Muir while Peacock came on for Borthwick.
In typical fashion Peacock marked his appearance with a try as he ran a lovely line off a Jackson breenge. The build up to this try included some fantastic handling from the Biggar backs who have great confidence and skills. Rowan Stewart’s pass out the back of the hand for this score was followed quickly by a very similar transfer from Robbie Orr.
There was still around 10 minutes remaining fo the contest but Biggar were unable to add to their tally. A desire to take things too quickly and to force passes when a slower more considered build up would have done the trick proved to be Biggar’s undoing but if this is the only criticism then there is not too much to worry about. That was not quite how coach Davy Wilson put it in his post match chat but given the comprehensive nature of the win these are the things which get the focus.
Biggar now prepare for a trip to the capital to take on Boroughmuir. This match was due to have been played in November but fell victim to the frost. The city side have not had a great start to 2020 but as with all Biggar’s opponents they will be eager to take the scalp of the league leaders.
R. Orr, M. Bertram, R. Lavery, A. Jardine, R. Bradford, C. Lavery, D. Reive, D. Voas, E. Stewart, R. Bassett, C. Borthwick, J. Orr, C. Mulligan, L. Stewart, R. Jackson. Reps: A. Peacock, A. Muir, L. Kutze, R. Hutton, R. Stewart
The 2nd XV travelled to play Currie in their league match. This is still a very young group and they have yet to match their potential. Having got themselves into a good position in the first half Biggar failed to deal with a Currie fightback eventually losing out by 41-16.
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