Peebles Over 35’s come to Hartree Mill
There was considerable disappointment at Hartree Mill on Saturday when first of all the 2nd XV match and then shortly afterwards the 1st XV match was postponed due to water-logged pitches at Cartha QP. These matches had been eagerly anticipated by all players as both sides were playing at the same venue with the prospect of some off the field bonding as we approach the Festive season and the break in league action.
The focus shifted quickly then to the Over 35’s match against Peebles. This is the 5th match in this series with home advantage proving the deciding factor up until now and this year was in the end no different, Biggar winning by 28-10.
Fielding a strong squad Biggar were pretty much in control throughout as Peebles were unable to field a representative front row which is normally a particular strength. The visitors responded well in the second half when they used the wind to good effect to run in two tries but Biggar managed to hold on and end the match with a try for skipper Ewan McAlpine – the flanker also converting to seal the match with the last kick of the game.
The match did not enjoy the best of conditions as the wind buffeted all present on both touchline and pitch making play against the elements very difficult.
Biggar opened the scoring with try from Alistair Browning who orchestrated the Biggar backs really well as befits someone who is assisting as a backs coach at senior level. His overall performance deservedly earned him the man-of-the-match award from the Biggar squad.
Jim Wallace was the second to score, the winger bravely playing on after a thundering tackle from Peebles player Colin Campbell. The Peebles man was voted as their man-of-the-match not solely because of this tackle but for a combative all round display.
Stuart Harrison was the next to score, the centre cutting a great line to cross close to the posts. Browning added conversions to all these three first half tries to give Biggar a commanding 21-0 half time lead and one which Peebles could not match.
Their two tries were great efforts however, the first off a well-placed up and under and the second as Biggar struggled to clear from their own 22.
This is a very popular occasion and the rivalry while intense is at the same time good natured and exemplifies all that is good with the sport. The post-match craic was good as several ‘oldies’ made a return to action. Andy Hunter has clearly lost none of his ‘go forward’ while in true spirit both Jason King and Neil Wolfendene played for both sides as Peebles ran out of replacements within minutes of the kick off.
A very similar match will take place this Sunday (27th) when GY’s Snowmen take on JB’s Santas. An interclub match will see loads of club members don their boots for a festive frolic……or at least that is the intention!
Story date: 21/12/2015
Anyone not already involved and who would like to play should contact GY or JB asap. Kick-off is 1.30pm and there is no requirement to play the full match.
Biggar in control against PL
Biggar 26 Preston Lodge 10
Biggar returned to winning ways on Saturday when the defeated Preston Lodge, a side which had given Biggar a real thumping back in September.
Both sides showed several changes to those squads listed back then – Biggar had 8 changes to PL’s 11 – but Biggar, who in the first match had endured some real bad luck with the bounce of the ball rarely going their way, profited this time round as PL were slow to come out of their blocks and then made numerous errors in what was a poor first half display. They were of course given little time on the ball by a Biggar unit who were clearly out to redeem themselves and to maintain a winning home run.
The opening exchanges were all Biggar and with handling errors costing them possession and territory PL were rarely able to get their hands on the ball. Play was confined to the PL half and Biggar had numerous attacking opportunities. That they took the lead via penalties from Francois Nel (2 mins, 6 mins, 25 mins and 35 mins) meant that they were looking good for a 12-0 half time lead. The half was rounded off however by a somewhat rare occurrence, namely a try from skipper David Reive, the scrum half nipping over from close range and under the posts for a try converted by Nel. Biggar 19-0 up.
Until that point Biggar had enjoyed some great passages of play as, among others Aird Jardine, Richard Peacock, Graham Jamieson and Robbie Lavery all took the game to the visitors. One particular phase began after Alasdair Sinclair engineered a great turnover as PL attacked in Biggar’s 22. The winger pinched the ball, sprinted up the line and then fed inside to Nel. The move was continued by Ewan Sanderson and then Andrew Peacock both of whom again had excellent games (the former winning the man-of-the-match accolade). Possession was retained then moved to Craig Bachurzewski who embarked on a 40 metre burst upfield leaving defenders and supporting players in his wake. More of this please! Unfortunately, while the ball was freed to Richard Peacock, Sanderson and then Warnock PL managed a try-saving turnover. They were unable to properly clear their lines however and another attack, initiated after a wonderful diving catch from Andrew Peacock, might also have led to a try but Sinclair was bundled into touch on the wing as the scramble PL defence covered across.
It seemed only time until Biggar would score a try but in fact they had to wait until the last minute of the half for Reive’s effort.
PL’s main attacking threat, aside for a couple of promising looking attacking runs which too frequently ended with dropped passes or knock-ons, was via the pack which consistently drove well from lineouts and mauls. On one occasion play was advanced some 40 meters upfield as Biggar were unable to halt PL’s progress. Instrumental in these plays was ex-Biggar prop Colin Arthur who was at the heart of many of these mauls and whose pace onto the ball served his side well.
Biggar turned round then with a healthy lead and in control, their scrummage on top and their open play more productive.
The first 20 minutes of the second half was PL’s best spell however, they clearly responding to their coaches prompting and encouragement. They came out looking much hungrier and, in complete contrast to the first half, began to control play.
Awarded just a couple of penalties before the break PL were more successful in these opening exchanges as referee Michael Milner penalised Biggar on several occasions, forcing the home side onto the defensive.
A long range penalty miss from Nel was all Biggar had to show from this period but PL scored their first try after some 12 minutes. Two penalties gave them field position and both lineouts were driven forward to the Biggar line, the second of these rounded off by Arthur for an opening score.
Less than 10 minutes later and they had scored again, James Burns nipping over following another penalty awarded against Biggar. The wee scrum half elected to tap and go and finding the Biggar defence slow to react he crossed on the left hand side of the posts. Had kicker Brash been on target with these two conversions the score at 19-14 would have led to a tight last quarter of the match but his failure to score meant that PL still needed two scores for the win.
As it was, aside from another driven lineout which Biggar held up, their effort quietly petered out as Biggar finished more strongly, the offensive defence of Jardine, Cairns, Stewart, O’Connell, Falefa, Henderson and Peacock all ensuring that PL were confined to defensive roles.
An excellent Nel cross kick almost led to a second Biggar score, Richard Peacock just unable to take the catch. This would have been a show stopper but Biggar were at least able to maintain the pressure from the scrum.
Some minutes later and within sight of the final whistle a scrum which was tidied by Williams saw Reive feed Nel. His grubber kick behind the PL defence obligingly bounced up for Douglas Voas who had replaced Sinclair. Voas in turn fed Lavery and the wee centre sped over for the try which Nel then converted for 26-10.
Altogether a really good win and one from which the squad can and should take great satisfaction. The fact that Biggar spurned 3 scores will however irk coach Gavin Blackburn. Biggar could have done with 4-try bonus points in their games against Lasswade and PL and these would have been taken them that little bit closer to their ‘40 points by Christmas’ target. This is one target which they will not now reach and with a tough match coming up against Cartha who will be keen to maintain their promotion challenge Biggar will have to settle for 6th spot at the break, their current total insufficient to see them get ahead of PL regardless of the score this Saturday. Having said that this is a much healthier position than they might have expected given the poor start to the league campaign which saw Biggar in the relegation spots through September and part of October.
Well done to the whole squad all of whom played their part on Saturday in difficult conditions, the post-match pics reminding many of what conditions at Hartree Mill were like through the ‘early years’ when the pitch had a much muddier surface.
R. Peacock, A. Sinclair, G. Jamieson, R. Lavery, A. Jardine, F. Nel, D. Reive, C. Bachurzewski, E. Stewart, L. Falefa, A. Cairns, A. Peacock, E. Sanderson, A. Warnock, K. Williams. Reps: D. O’Connell, Douglas Voas, Donald Voas, C. Henderson,
Colin Devenney (who teamed up with Duncan Hodge of Hodge Plant as match sponsor) has been ever present at Hartree Mill throughout the summer as he has been busy undertaking the work for the pitch development. Perhaps less well known is the fact that he has been quite ill and following an appeal by partner Aileen a collection was taken to provide funds for the Christie Charitable Foundation which carries out research into the causes of and cures for cancer. Many thanks to all who contributed on the day with a magnificent £1,000 total realised. This is a massive total and will aid the work of the charity.
The 2nds journeyed to Currie where they took on the top side in their division. With several regulars unavailable Biggar were unable to field a complete front row and so were forced to concede the points although by playing the fixture they should receive league points nevertheless. Scott Chapman scored Biggar’s only points but it was a much better decision to fulfil the fixture after last weeks enforced postponement.
Story date: 21/12/2015
The Currie backs who would most probably have tested the 1st XV unit controlled proceedings although coach Doug Fleming was very positive about the effort shown by his charges.
Senior sides record wins
Biggar 2nds 12 Stewarts Melville 10
A ‘double’ on Saturday when the 2 senior XV’s recorded wins made for deserved celebrations at Hartree Mil. The 2nd XV result in particular was warmly received by all involved with the club. This season has seen Biggar 2nds struggle and there will be several challenging games ahead but this was one to savour and epitomised the grit and determination that Neil Wolfendene, John Bogle and now Dougie Fleming wish to see to the fore.
In very difficult conditions on a wet and muddy 2nd XV pitch the Biggar lads tackled their hearts out in the face of a well-drilled and pacy Stew-Mel outfit and soaked up a barrage of attacks in their 22. In the second half the youngsters came out fighting and with the wind behind them managed to engineer positions from which they scored twice through Stuart Alder and Andrew Orr (who after 3 weeks on the 1st XV bench deservedly won the man-of-the-match allocade). Gary Morrison kicked the all-important conversion.
In the last couple of minutes a penalty conceded by Biggar gave Stew-Mel a chance to steal the match. As the Biggar XV and each spectator crossed their fingers the kicker mistimed his effort which flew wide of the target. A couple of phases later and the match was ended with a Stew-Mel knock on, cue wild cheering for the Biggar support.
This was the sides’ second win of the season but given the relative league positions is easily the better of the two – Stew-Mel are in 4th spot while Biggar were in bottom spot prior to this match. They should now move up to 11th.
Biggar 19 Lasswade 9
After a hefty defeat in August when the recently promoted Lasswade ran rings around the recently relegated Biggar, there was much anticipation surrounding this match and whether Biggar could redress the balance with a home win or whether Lasswade could record a notable away win.
Biggar eventually triumphed although the game was in some doubt until Biggar scored their second try, this credited to Craig Bachurzewski who made a return to Biggar colours after a sojourn with Boroughmuir and as a contracted Edinburgh player.
Until that point Biggar ‘enjoyed’ a 5 point lead and were keenly aware that had the Lasswade kicker been on his game they would have been beaten. A reversal under similar circumstances to that of last week when Biggar stole the match in the dying seconds was on the cards but happily things again worked out in Biggar’s favour.
That Biggar are enjoying a winning run can be attributed to a whole host of factors. Among these are a developing and very welcome increase in team spirit, a growing self-confidence amongst individuals, a growing confidence as a squad and a largely settled squad. Some will also cite a lot of good luck but as Gary Player once claimed ‘The more I practice the luckier I get’ and this too is part of the answer. Players are working hard on the training pitch and hard at game time.
There will be defeats to come there is little doubt but with a total of 30 league points they are edging clearer of the relegation spots.
Jamie Orr and Dan O’Connell were unavailable for this match and so last week’s try-scoring hero Andrew Peacock was at lock and Calvin Henderson made his first start of the season. Replacements were just two in number, Douglas Voas and Bachurzewski. Had they filled the bench with four, the second XV would have been short-handed.
Kicking off in miserable conditions and with the wind on their backs Biggar were soon on the attack. Within 3 minutes they scored their first try, Kiwi prop Louis Falefa rounding off a textbook lineout drive to crash over. The take from Andrew Cairns was tidied by Peacock who set off for the line. Held up a metre short Falefa picked up and squeezed over at the corner. All so easy and controlled. If there was a frustration it is that the side were unable to capitalise on their driving play which made so many yards but which seemed to come to grief for a variety of careless plays.
The conditions were difficult and Lasswade had similar problems so the dropped passes were in many cases excusable but on another day Biggar would have been much more severely punished.
As it was biggar were prevented from any further scoring as they also fell into the trap of conceding penalties at an alarming rate. Referee Rob Dickson was quick to penalise where Biggar were slow to learn the mitigating factor being that given the conditions Lasswade were largely unable to kick far out of defence.
Visiting stand-off Matt Smith had a trying day with ball in hand but he did kick 2 penalties to give his side the lead at 6-5 with 20 minutes on the clock. Davy reive was making life difficult for Lasswade Jed Smith although the link between Reive and Karetai Williams was also exposed on occasion. Biggar’s best yardage was gained as Falefa who had easily his best game to date carried ball both well and often into contact. A promising attack featuring Falefa, Nel, Henderson and Peacock ended with a knock on which should have provided Lasswade with a means of relieving the pressure but an error at the scrum base led to a Biggar penalty which Nel kicked for 8-5. A couple of minutes later and the same player kicked another penalty for 11-6. Returning to the offensive after the restart another good passage of play the front row of Falefa, Henderson and Ewan Stewart take play forward where Lasswade conceded another penalty but this time Nel pushed the ball wide.
Would a 5 point lead be enough? Few believed so, particularly if Biggar were to be as profligate with their penalty count.
In fact and after a few home truths from skipper Reive, the hosts tightened up considerably and only gave Lasswade a couple of kickable chances in the second period, Smith on target with just one and this late on.
The half began with a series of Biggar attacks which culminated in a third Nel penalty to stretch Biggar’s lead to 14-6. An excellent breakout after the restart and featuring the tireless Alan Warnock, Falefa and Cairns promised much but a loose pass gave Lasswade the chance to counter, the day saved only by the textbook tidying of Lavery who, alongside centre partner Graham Jamieson, put in some excellent defensive work over the 80 minutes.
On the 50 minute mark coach Gavin Blackburn made a couple of changes, Henderson and Aird Jardine, who as winger, had had few opportunities to shine, making way for Bachurzewski and Voas.
Biggar had begun to get the better of their opponents in the tight scrum and Bachurzewski’s introduction only increased that advantage, Lasswade pushed back on several occasions and meaning that their back division was put under even more pressure.
Smith missed his first attempt at goal after some 26 minutes of the half played which, had it been successful, would certainly have made things far more difficult for Biggar. With 5 minutes to go he did manage to find the target to put his side a converted try away from victory but the restart which saw Biggar win a scrum led to the second try. Jamieson and hit up on inside pass before Warnock took play to the Lasswade 22. Nel took the ball on the blind side and made a great break through the Lasswade line before off-loading to Lavery with a 2 on 1. Lavery might have made the line but he popped the ball unselfishly inside to the supporting Bachurzewski who was able to get slightly closer to the posts, though not close enough for Nel to add the conversion, the ball bobbling about in the wind before Jamieson held it steady.
Another win and another 4 points. That is 3 on the trot and 5 from 6 so the side could be in no better shape for their visit to league leaders Hamilton who have had a couple of tricky weeks with a surprise and comprehensive defeat by Falkirk followed by a narrowish win over Ardrossan.
Story date: 30/11/2015
R. Peacock, A. Jardine, G. Jamieson, R. Lavery, A. Sinclair, F. Nel, D. Reive, C. Henderson, E. Stewart, L. Falefa, A. Cairns, A. Peacock, E. Sanderson, A. Warnock, K. Williams. Reps: C. Bachurzewski, D. Voas.
Biggar 1sts last minute victory.
Ardrossan 13 Biggar 17
Recognise the scoreline?
For the second week in succession Biggar recorded a 17-13 victory albeit in very different circumstances after they clinched the win with what proved to be the last move of the game and in all honesty following their most dynamic passage of driving play all game.
Ardrossan were justifiably frustrated at the outcome, their angst mirroring that of Biggar a fortnight ago when they lost out to Hillhead Jordanhill in the dying minutes having been ahead for a similar time span and in clear sight of the finishing line.
The win puts Biggar into 6th place yet just 6 points from the second bottom spot, the league still a fairly tight affair with the surprise result of the day seeing Falkirk comprehensively defeat the hitherto unbeaten league leaders Hamilton.
Biggar were forced into just one change from the side that played last weekend, Jamie Orr starting at lock in place of the injured Zander Lyon.
With the Ardrossan pitch heavy and wet and with the cross-pitch slope a real feature Biggar were unable to impose themselves much for the first 10 minutes as the Ayrshire side opened strongly confining Biggar to defensive roles. This period saw Ardrossan centre Anderson kick the opening penalty. Biggar’s only scoring chance came with a Francois Nel penalty and while this drifted right Graham Jamieson was on hand to gather, his progress to the line and a try halted by some very good scrambled last ditch defence.
The game then settled down a little more as play moved from end to end, attacks ending as players made errors. The slope on the pitch made clearance kicks on the ‘top’ side very difficult for the visitors, ball which would normally have been dispatched to touch, dropping infield and giving the home side further attacking opportunities.
Nevertheless Biggar did have their moments one attack, a driven line off ball won by Orr ended as Davy Reive was penalised for using his feet in what was a maul rather than a ruck. With play only a handful of yards from the Ardrossan line this was their best attacking chance off their play.
Nel kicked an equalising penalty at the end of the first quarter to tie the scores and then again on the half hour mark after some promising and committed drives by Karetai Williams, Luis Falefa and Andrew Cairns. Biggar 6-3 up.
Ewan Stewart was to the fore again with some excellent tackling although his charge down, with his head, of Ardrossan Duncan’s clearance kick stunned the hooker and rattled his teeth!
A grubber kick by Nel out of defence and a swift chase from Alisdair Sinclair threatened a try but again Ardrossan engineered a very good ‘exit’ to clear the immediate danger.
With just 5 minutes to go to half time a similar kick from Nel, but one which on this occasion was picked up by home fullback Duncan was cleverly worked into the Biggar 22. For once Biggar’s tight defence eluded them and with tackles missed ball was advanced before a neat inside pass was taken by winger Rob Hunter who scooted over for the game’s opening try. Anderson converted for 10-6.
The restart saw Stewart up quickly to put real pressure on the Ardrossan catch, the result a penalty to Biggar which Nel converted to reduce the gap to 1 point at 10-9. Half time followed shortly afterwards.
Turning around to face the incline Biggar were immediately on the defensive as their hosts attacked. An excellent steel in the tackle from Orr came to nought as Dan O’Connell strayed in at the side of the resultant ruck, one of the few off-sides awarded all day, although the touchline support saw many more! Anderson kicked well and stretched his sides lead to 13-9.
Both sides had their opportunities in what was developing into a very evenly contested match, Biggar gaining a real edge in the tight scrum but yielding ball on the touchline as their lineout play lacked the control required. Ground gained from penalties, advanced by Nel into the Ardrossan half and into promising attacking opportunities was lost as possession was scrappy or lost. This was a frustration, as was Biggars reluctance to spread play wide, players opting to hit up through the middle which, while often retaining possession, failed to provide the line-breaks required to put real pressure on the Ardrossan defence.
Nel made a couple of promising breaks – the stand-off relishes the physical contact – but Biggar were unable to capitalise on these. Coach Gavin Blackburn made two changes as Andrew Peacock and Calvin Henderson replaced Andrew Cairns and Luis Falefa respectively.
Penalty awards punctuated the match at regular intervals and while some were dubious neither side fared any better than the other. Richard Peacock did all that was asked of him at fullback, his running out of defence relieving pressure as Ardrossan looked to make ground via the boot while a cleverly taken kick by Sinclair following his ‘mark’ was dispatched to touch by Nel. Coolness under pressure!
The next Ardrossan attack, initiated by livewire scrum half Dagledenis from a tap penalty, forced Biggar to regroup and with their defence stretched by some stirring pick up and drives, the No9 strolled over from close range for what would have been a match-winning score. The ease with which Dagledenis made the line was down to a crossing offence however and this was spotted by the referee. The subsequent penalty award to Biggar gave them a lifeline!
As Ardrossan made another concentrated attack in the Biggar 22, their pack again picking and driving off good front foot ball, a wide pass was intercepted by Biggar’s Richard Peacock in almost identical situation to last week. This time the fullback was under greater pressure from the catch however and while he delivered a quick pass outside the ball fell tantalisingly short of the outstretched hands of Aird Jardine to give the very slightest knock-on but which was correctly spotted by the lady ref.
The clock was ticking away and it was clear that if Biggar were going to get the win, they’d need to do something special. A long range penalty award with 5 minutes to go promised to reduce the Ardrossan lead but Nel, although kicking long enough was just off target. The long drop out was taken by Peacock and a series of phases with Williams, Sanderson et al to the fore ended with another penalty for illegal use of the hands.
A quick confab ascertained that there was just enough time to kick to touch for a lineout. Nel duly obliged and after Warnock secured possession from the line the pack drove well together, Ewan Stewart, McConnell, Warnock assisted by Orr gave Reive clean ball for the backs. Jamieson standing at stand-off spun the ball wide to Lavery who in turn fed Jardine. The young winger made for the line then cut back inside his opposite number before being hauled down just feet from the try line. The ruck which followed was not as tidy as Biggar would have wished but as the ball bobbled loose and out towards the support, Andrew Peacock arrived at pace to scoop the ball up with one hand before bludgeoning his way to the line and the winning try! Drama indeed. The big man will scarcely have scored a better try and his timing on this occasion was also fantastic. The plaudits he received from his team mates are perfectly captured in Nigel Paceys photos (see the club website). Nel was off target but at 17-13 the game was over and Biggar had engineered a great escape. Having said that the feedback from the team suggests a brimming confidence throughout that they would get the all-important score.
That is the end of the first half of the season and Biggar now await the visit of Lasswade to commence the return matches. The trip to Hawthornden in September proved to be a real shocker as the East Lothian side triumphed by 36-6. That result hurt all involved and so there is a real incentive for Biggar. The touchline support at Ardrossan was magnificent an many thanks to all those who travelled to the Ayrshire tow. A trip to Hartree Mill on Saturday to cheer the boys on would be very much appreciated as well.
R. Peacock, A. Jardine, G. Jamieson, R. Lavery, A. Sinclair, F. Nel, D. Reive, D. O’Connell, E. Stewart, L. Falefa, A. Cairns, J. Orr, E. Sanderson, A. Warnock, K. Williams. Reps A. Orr, C. Henderson, A. Peacock, D. Voas.
The 2nd XV hosted Hawick. The Borderers who are able to field several age group internationalists are top of the Reserve League table and have run in some big scores. Biggar lost out by some 60+ points but new coach Doug Fleming is acutely aware that the Biggar side, which is full of young players, has great potential. First thing is to ensure he gets a decent turn out at training so he has already been in touch with the squad and he has received a favourable response. Doug does need assistance however and anyone with time to spare midweek or on Saturdays is asked to get in touch asap.
Story date: 23/11/2015
1st XV slip up against Hillhead Jordanhill
Hillhead Jordanhill 14 Biggar 13
This was one which got away. 13-0 up at half time Biggar should have been in a good position to put the game beyond their hosts but, as was the case at Greenock a fortnight past, Biggar failed to add to their tally in the second half. On that occasion the whistle brought the match to an end with Biggar just on top but on Saturday Hill-Jills managed to scrape a win with a try 5 minutes from the end.
Biggar were the architects of their own downfall as they manged to concede penalties on a 2-1 ratio to those conceded by Hill-Jills this culminating in to two yellow cards which meant that for some 5 minutes of the second period they were playing with just 13 men. This provided an opportunity for the hosts and while Biggar were unable to score when the host side lost a man to a yellow just before half time Hill Jills stole a try after the Biggar scrum was wheeled close to their line.
How frustrating this was is difficult to put into words. Having had the best share of both possession and territory, having defended really well whenever they were asked and in the face of some stout attacks and having scored an absolute peach of a try in the first half, all the side had to show for their efforts was a losing bonus. This may prove vital but it is small consolation for their efforts.
Donald Voas and Craig McDonald were both casualties from the Aberdeenshire match and so Dan O’Connell and Aird Jardine started at prop and winger respectively, both putting in a great shift with Sinclair deservedly earning the Biggar Man-of-the-match award for some great attacking play and some solid defence.
After a morning of heavy rain conditions were not too bad as Biggar opened playing up the slope. They were soon in the ascendancy and taking play to their hosts whose set-piece, particularly at the touchline was shaky to say the least. This gave Biggar some added opportunities to play in the Hill-Jills half and this they were grateful to accept a combination of handling errors and good cover defence all that prevented them from scoring.
Francois Nel missed his first pot at goal on the 10 minute mark but opened the scoring with a penalty after 13 mins. There was then a sustained period of defence as the hosts benefited from a poor Biggar take on the restart. Hill-Jills scrum half A J McFarlane took a couple of quick penalties to keep Biggar on their toes but the Biggar defence was sound and ball was held up until a ball was dropped over the line giving Biggar a 22 drop out and some respite.
Jamieson was instrumental in gaining yards as he was used to take ball out of defence and brought into the attack, his gains giving Nel the time required to clear the danger and then to take play into the Hill Jills 22. A promising move came to nought as Biggar failed to deal with the wet ball after a couple of lineout steals.
The try of the match came shortly after that and began after some aerial ping-pong. Picking ball up in his own half Aird Jardine made his way infield to link with Nel. Looping around the stand-off Jardine took a return pass before finding Graham Jamieson coming at great pace in the centre. Jamieson’s burst split the Hill-Jills line and with the fullback to beat his well-timed pass, a classic two on one, saw the ball taken by Robbie Lavery who was able to cruise over under the posts. Nel converted for 10-0. All good.
Another period of Hill Jills pressure was relieved as they knocked on and biggar engineered a good exit. A promising attack involving Wwan Sanderson and Sinclair promised much but was halted with a forward pass but a rash challenge by Hill Jills Ritchie Graham was spotted by referee Jonathan McKinnon and a penalty and yellow card was the result, Nel kicking for a halftime score of 13-0.
After the break Biggar were able to use the slope to their advantage and kicking downfield were soon in the Hills-Jills 22, Sinclair showing the way with a superb driving run. A Nel penalty just slid past the uprights and then it was the hosts who began to gain some ground a series of penalties giving them yardage upfield. Biggar seemed to lose the earlier control and after a number of sloppy plays allowed Hill Jills to camp in the Biggar 22. Having thwarted a number of attacks Biggar eventually succumbed to a good lineout take by No 8 Theo Nwosu-Hope and a forward drive which saw a try scored by flanker Douglas Grove. McFarlane added the conversion.
Awarded a penalty from the restart Biggar opted to go for the corner instead of another 3 points and in the end, and with the advantage of hindsight, this was perhaps crucial. 16-0 would have meant that the hosts would have had to score 3 times to win but instead their two converted tries gave them the 1-point winning margin.
As it was a lineout error deprived Biggar of the possession required and while they drove well to disrupt the Hill Jills heel they Glasgow side managed to steer the ball into touch and relieve the immediate danger.
An error in attack and then another rash of penalties ended with a yellow for Sinclair the winger in no position to move but penalised in any event. Worse was to come as Douglas Notman, just introduced to the fray as he and Jamie Orr replaced Sanderson and Zander Lyon, was also shown yellow for a swinging arm tackle.
With a 2 man advantage Hill Jills were now in the ascendancy and with less than 10 minutes remaining it was clear that a score for either side would very likely win the contest. Despite being short of numbers Biggar’s first scrum held well but the second saw ball stolen by Nwosu-Hope who picked and dived from close range for the crucial score. McFarlanes conversion gave the Glasgow side a vital 1-point advantage.
There was time for the restart however and therefore just enough time for a possible reversal. Alan Warnock got hands to the initial clearance from Hill Jills and then an accidental offside, which could so easily have been seen as a crossing offence and therefore a penalty, saw Biggar awarded a scrum. A series of plays then just as easily could have ended with a Biggar penalty but instead the decision went the other way and Hills gladly kicked to touch to take the League points.
Huge disappointment then as Biggar could and should have won the match. There are always penalties in games which are open to interpretation and Saturday was no different but the 2-1 ratio of penalties awarded against Biggar suggests that there is a need for much greater control and patience. This has for long been seen as a Biggar weakness and it is something which must be addressed by both coaches and players alike.
This Saturday sees Falkirk journey to Biggar. The visitors are in 2nd place having lost just 2 games and so will provide a stern challenge for the Biggar squad. Having said that there is enough to suggest that they have the wherewithal to match most sides in this division. If the Biggar lads can maintain some consistency of approach and cut out the penalties then they will have chance. As always a big support would be very much appreciated.
R. Peacock, A. Jardine, G. Jamieson, R. Lavery, A. Sinclair, F. Nel, D. Reive, D. O’Connell, E. Stewart, L. Falefa, A. Cairns, Z. Lyon, E. Sanderson, A. Warnock, K. Williams-Paul. Reps A. Orr, C. Henderson, J. Orr, D. Notman
The 2nd XV faced a difficult task as they also journeyed to Glasgow to take on GHA. They were well beaten in the end but this young side will improve as time goes on.
Story date: 11/11/2015
1sts snatch win against Aberdeenshire
Biggar 20 Aberdeenshire 14
After a strangely muted performance the previous week when they stuttered to an unconvincing victory over bottom place Greenock, Biggar had to show they could compete against the better sides in this League with second top Aberdeenshire their next opponents.
That they did so is immensely encouraging and should give all concerned great heart and confidence for the coming weeks. To be almost ‘comfortably’ ahead, to then lose two tries to lose their advantage and then to regain the lead with what was one of the last plays is testimony to the grit which was evident throughout the Biggar squad and something which gave the Biggar support real reason to cheer.
This win takes Biggar into 7th spot. If the side can replicate this level of performance then they should be able to improve on that position, with a trip to Glasgow to play Hillhead Jordanhill a match they need to win to maintain momentum.
Coach Gavin Blackburn made a couple of changes to his starting XV. In the pack Ewan Stewart made a welcome return at hooker and replaced Kevin Anderson (who answered the ‘call’ last week and who was on the bench for this match) while Douglas Notman (knee) was replaced by Ewan Sanderson. In the backs Jack Warnock (calf) dropped out and was replaced by Aird Jardine who relinquished the scrum half berth as David Reive returned after suspension. That Jardine has shown he can play so well at 9 gives Blackburn options for the squad.
The conditions were fantastic for the time of year as the sun warmed the good support. The opening exchanges were error-strewn however and led to a stop-start match as neither side could seemingly hold onto the ball and as passes were dropped and/or knocked on. Lineouts too proved awkward with squint throws seeing possession lost. Indeed if there is a qualification needed for Biggars’ performance and success it is that they benefited on several occasions as Aberdeenshire coughed up chances which on another day they would surely have converted. This, among other things, clearly irked their coaching team, this one of the few occasions this season when thy have failed to score a 4-try bonus.
The first scoring chance fell to Biggar and stand-off Francois Nel, the South African striking the ball cleanly to notch a penalty after an offside from a weak clearance. Biggar were forced into an early change at this point as winger Craig McDonald succumbed to a recurrence of a hamstring injury. His replacement was Alistair Sinclair.
‘Shire had been running at pace from the outset and their bulky pack had caused biggar some problems with their direct running. Flanker Matthew Emmison (who would later collect his teams man-of-the-match award) was influential in this and he was the first to really break the Biggar line. Referee Burger Lategan spotted a forward pass however and pulled the ‘Shire attack up.
Minutes later and another lineout error resulted in the first try. An over throw was cleverly picked up by Nel who then somehow managed to run round and then through the ‘Shire cover defence for a great individual score which he then converted.
To be 10-0 up at this stage was great but there was no doubt that this would not be sufficient to win the match.
A neat blindside kick an chase by ‘Shire stand-off Adam Blake who linked with his hooker Calum Taylor came to shuddering end as Biggar hooker Stewart put in a cracking tackle. Minutes later and the same played brought another ‘Shire attack to a stop as he felled Emmison. At this point Sanderson left the field after sustaining a nasty cut to his brow – in the absence of medical cover this was incidentally very neatly repaired by local vet Kirsten Reive! Andrew Peacock came off the bench.
Half time then and Biggar turned to take advantage of what the breeze offered.
The visitors pressed hard again on the restart and their initial onslaught, if it could have been maintained would surely have made things really difficult for Biggar. As it was however, Biggar’s defence held firm although they were assisted again by some weak handling. ‘Shire were able to retain territorial advantage as a number of penalties were awarded. Obviously believing that they would indeed get the better of Biggar the most kickable of these penalties saw the visitors opt instead for the scrum. They did not count on the offensive defence of Reive however who again spoiled the pick-up. Some 15 minutes into the half and Nel made a much better job of a penalty award than he had of an opportune drop goal a few minutes previously. 13-0 Biggar – could they do this?
Biggar lost the services of Richard Peacock after a thumping tackle in midfield, his replacement being back row man Sanderson but fielded this time on the wing.
A miscued lineout throw paved the way for ‘Shires first points, Blake making the initial breenge and line break before finding the ever-present Emmison who ran under the posts for what was a well-deserved try, converted by Blake. At 13-7 it was very much game on.
A similar break again from Blake but this time off a turnover and one which again threatened the Biggar line was saved by a magnificent covering tackle by winger Sinclair, the youngster clambering all over the ‘Shire player and ensuring that the ball was dislodged – an added bonus!
An ankle injury to Karetai Williams-Paul looked pretty serious but following treatment the big man, who carried ball well whenever given the opportunity, was able to carry on.
A penalty to Biggar gave some relief from the attacking position ‘Shire enjoyed in the shadow of the Biggar posts but this was short-lived and Emmison was again set free for the line only to be pulled down by Robbie Lavery who was quick to track back, injured foot notwithstanding.
As the move continued Biggar were put under further pressure and while the attack to Biggars right hand corner was at first repelled ‘Shire pinched a ball against the head at the resultant scrum. With the Biggar defence sitting back the ball was quickly moved to centre Jason Laurich who, although tackled, showed great awareness to touch down on his back, arms outstretched over his head. Blake added the simple conversion to take his side into a 14-13 lead with some 7 minutes remaining.
The game then entered its scrappiest phase yet as both teams strove to get and keep ball and get another score which would surely win the match. While both teams largely failed to do so this did ensure an enthralling finish. Biggar had a great series of pick and goes by the pack but this attack faltered as ball was knocked on while ‘Shire too failed to get play far enough upfield to make the game safe.
Eventually, and with just three minutes remaining Biggar earned a penalty on their 10m line which Nel expertly kicked to within 5 metres of the ‘Shire line. A textbook lineout take by Cairns saw Biggar mount a line drive. Biggar haven’t often managed to convert this type of play but on this occasion they did so very well, flanker Andrew Warnock at the back and the player who touched down for the vital try. To make things that little bit safer Nel converted from the touchline for 20-14.
There was still just time for a great run by Williams-Paul and indeed a couple of penalties for ‘Shire but these were too deep to provide a score and so Biggar earned a really valuable 4 points.
Hillhead Jordanhill are next up and while Biggar’s record against the Glasgow side is not particularly good this would be a great time to get a win.
R. Peacock, A. Jardine, G. Jamieson, R. Lavery, C. McDonald, F. Nel, D. Reive, D. Voas, E. Stewart, L. Falefa, A. Cairns, Z. Lyon, E. Sanderson, A. Warnock, K. Williams-Paul. Reps K. Anderson, D. O’Connell, A. Sinclair, A. Peacock
The 2nd XV faced a tough ask against ‘Shire 2’s. With a good sized squad however it was hoped they would be able to record a much-needed win but this was not to be the pack failing to produce the form shown against Dundee.
The matches ended just in time for the players and supporters to gather in the clubhouse and to watch the World Cup Final. There was a cracking atmosphere with all enjoying the game which really came alight in the second half. With a fantastically cosmopolitan audience featuring players from both Cup Final teams there was no shortage of banter and support. A great afternoon for all and thanks to ‘Shire for staying to watch.
Story date: 01/11/2015
For the record the following players warned the man-of-the-match awards.
2nds Biggar Douglas Voas, ‘Shire William Parker
1sts Biggar Francois Nel, ‘Shire Matthew Emmison
First trip to Greenock
Greenock Wanderers 13 Biggar 16
Never having played at 1st XV level at Greenock before and in the poorest conditions so far this season could be levelled as excuses for this performance which saw Biggar scrape a result against a team which is propping up the table but in all honesty this was a disappointing display from the Biggar lads.
Indeed had Greenock been a little more streetwise then they should surely have won the game, their attempts to run out of defence with a gale on their backs not the best option and one which caused them problems throughout.
At the end of the day however, the side did win and did collect 4 precious league points and so from that perspective it was ‘job done’.
Without Ewan Stewart and Jamie Orr Biggar’s selection included veterans Andrew Cairns and Kev Anderson, the hooker drafted in from his dual registered club Birkmyre to ensure the 2nd XV were not disrupted for their trip to Aberdeen Grammar. Both newcomers Tareki Williams-Paul and Louis Felefa started the match with Dan O’Connell on the bench alongside Peter Miller, Craig Stewart and Ewan Sanderson.
The opening exchanges saw Biggar start well with the wind on their backs. An early drop goal from Francois Nel came as a penalty advantage and so although wide of the target Nel was able to open the scoring from the penalty.
Play was scrappy however – a feature of the match – and while Biggar engineered several threatening passages of play they were unable to convert as ball was dropped or possession lost. Greenock were struggling to get out of their 22 however and so although they had opportunities to kick clear they did not gain much relief. Up front it appeared that Biggar had the advantage in both scrum and lineout and it seemed that Biggar would soon score.
It took to the 18th minute before this happened. A series of plays had the home side under pressure in their 22 and a neat cross kick from Nel who had seen space appear, saw Greenock struggle to turn. Richard Peacock was up quickest and the fullback was able to touch down (was there a suspicion of a knock-on?). Nel converted for 10-0.
A number of penalties and stoppages for injury allied to the time spent waiting for balls kicked out of the playing area meant that the game was a fractured affair with neither side able to take control.
Greenock began to gain in confidence however as they tried to rid themselves of the memory of their previous weeks performance which had seen them concede over 70 points to local rivals Ardrossan.
Just after the half hour mark Nel converted a second penalty for 13-0, the feeling being that Biggar would need a decent cushion after half time when they would turn into the wind. The restart gave Greenock a toehold in the Biggar half however and a failure to clear their lines led to a penalty which Greenock kicked to the corner. A well-taken lineout saw an equally well driven maul which took the home side over the lien for a try. The angle was too wide for the conversion but Greenock had made up some lost ground at 16-5.
Almost directly from the restart which saw Nel kick well into the home 33 Biggar, were rewarded with another penalty. It looked like another relatively straightforward 3 points to maintain some space between the teams but instead Biggar opted for a scrum whereupon referee Gordon Galashan took exception to Biggar’s put in and awarded Greenock a free kick which they sued to clear their lines. Half time - frustrations!
Now playing against the wind Biggar started really well Donald Voas, Falefa, Anderson, Graham Jamieson and Peacock all combining well in dynamic fashion to take play deep into the Greenock half. In another attack the Greenock hooker Alexander made a clumsy challenge with his foot which gave referee Galashan little option but to show him a yellow card. The penalty which again appeared to be in a kickable position was then tapped and ran. Biggar made a good few yards before Craig McDonald was bundled into touch short of the Greenock line. They then managed to win a penalty which allowed them to clear their lines.
Anderson made one of his trademark bulldozing runs which took play back to the Greenock half but again a knock on gave the initiative back to Greenock. A fine run from Jamieson who then linked well with McDonald gave the Biggar support much to cheer about and while play was advanced further by Willams-Paul, Greenock eventually regained the ball to kick clear. This movement coincided with the return of the Greenock No 2 and so despite being a man to the good Biggar had been unable to add to their tally. There was still half an hour to go however and it was anticipated that the Greenock effort would wane as the game progressed.
In actual fact it was almost the opposite which occurred as Greenock, sensing a first win of the season began to take more control of the match.
They took full opportunity after a well-judged kick ahead put both Peacock and McDonald under pressure before Nel scrambled ball clear to the Biggar 22. A blind side move took play to the Biggar line before a try was awarded although there was a suspicion that the ball had not been properly grounded. This may well have evened things up after Peacock’s first half score. The Biggar XV and support breathed a huge sigh of relief as the conversion attempt, though well struck, bounced off the upright. 16-10 to Biggar. There was nevertheless still just one score between the sides and so with some 20 minutes remaining it was very much game on.
Sanderson then replaced Alan Warnock, this the second replacement made by coach Gav Blackburn after O’Connell replaced Voas earlier in the half. The flanker made an immediate impact as he took ball on well and in determined fashion.
Greenock then kicked their only penalty of the day to put the match on a knife edge at 16-13.
A breakout by Nel and Robbie Lavery promised more but Greenock won a crucial turnover and cleared the danger. Penalties were again needlessly conceded by Biggar and these continued to give Greenock some respite. Their preference to run rather than kick meant that they made slow progress upfield where a kick would have immediately turned defence into attack.
Happily Biggar managed to keep Greenock out and ended up winners by 16-13. The losing bonus point gave Greenock their only league point of this season and so while they felt that this was a game they probably could have won, the point was cause for some celebration.
For Biggar this was, ultimately, a disappointing display. It is only a few weeks since they trounced Kirkcaldy in a performance that was full of quality and pace. There is bags of talent and potential and so they must regroup and focus again on what makes the game – win ball, retain possession and make the most of scoring opportunities when they present themselves.
R. Peacock, J. Warnock, G. Jamieson, R. Lavery, C. McDonald, F. Nel, A. Jardine, D. Voas, K. Anderson, L. Falefa, A. Cairns, Z. Lyon, D. Notman, A. Warnock, T. Williams-Paul. Reps P. Miller, D. O’Connell, C. Stewart, E. Sanderson
The 2nd XV faced a tough trip to Aberdeen where they were to play Grammar 2nds. Travelling by bus they were virtually on the Forth road Bridge when they received a telephone call from their hosts to call off after torrential rain rendered the Grammar pitch unplayable. With the bus booked the squad redirected the bus to Greenock so that they could take in the 1sts XV match. This was a perfect outcome for both senior sides who got to socialise together post-match. Greenock were also delighted as it ensured a packed clubhouse for the World Cup semi-final twixt the All Blacks and South Africa!
Story date: 28/10/2015
1sts lose out to rejuvenated Whitecraigs
Biggar 15 Whitecraigs 34
Having won three from their last three outings the Biggar support might have expected better fare from their side as they entertained Glasgow side Whitecraigs whom they defeated last month in the BT Cup.
That Biggar didn’t deliver is in no doubt although the Whitecraigs XV which turned up on Saturday was vastly changed and much, much stronger than the one which travelled on cup duty. In addition Biggar lost the services of both hooker Ewan Stewart and lock Jamie Orr in the first half and with recognised hooker understudy Andrew Orr also injured that left Biggar struggling badly at the lineout. That said Biggar, on recent evidence, are a much better side than they showed in this match and coach Gav Blackburn must ensure the side comes out all guns blazing against Greenock on Saturday, a side which are currently propping up the division.
Biggar fielded a recognised starting XV although a warm up injury to Aubrey Horton meant that Jack Warnock came into the side from the bench and Alistair Sinclair was promoted from the 2nds who were also at home (to Dundee Titans).
There was also space on the bench for Kiwi newcomers Tareki Williams-Paul and Louis Falefa both of whom arrived earlier in the week and who, on their showing on Saturday, will play an important part in the rest of the season.
Starting off at a cracking pace Whitecraigs posted early their state of intent by taking ball at pace and right up the middle, Biggar forced onto the defensive and to play without the ball for the first 5-10 minutes.
In this time the visiting scrum half, Stuart Gillies kicked one penalty, and narrowly missed a second. Ewan Stewart was replaced after 10 minutes, Falefa coming on to pack down with Dan O’Connell and Donald Voas at hooker. This did nothing to disrupt the Biggar scrummage which was in control throughout the match. The game at this stage was a fairly fractured affair as injuries and resultant stoppages prevented any fluid passages of play.
Biggar were able to mount attacks but any error saw Whitecraigs erupt from their own area to ensure Biggar were immediately back on the defensive. This defence was largely very good with Francois Nel, Robbie Lavery, Richard peacock, Craig McDonald, Douglas Notman and others all putting in some gutsy hits.
Inevitably however the dam was breached and Whitecraigs’ new player (also a Kiwi) Jason Oloapu managed to make the most of a neat tight pass to burst over from around 10 metres. Gillies added the conversion for 10-0.
The last 10 minutes of the half saw Biggar on the attack and dominate possession and territory. A series of penalties which Biggar opted to scrum from such was their control might have led to something more than one yellow card and that to fullback Rob Andrews for not rolling away rather than one of the front row who it seemed were consistently being penalised. In the end and after several tilts at the line Biggar opted to kick a penalty, Nel converting for 10-3. This was effectively the last play of the half.
Biggar needed a good start but instead it was the visitors who opened the strongest, Gillies at the head of a breakout from halfway and from a stolen Biggar lineout which took play deep into Biggar territory. Despite being tackled he managed to pop the ball to ever-present No8 Stuart Pollock who took the ball over the line for a try which Gillies converted for 17-3.
Just minutes later and after a good challenge off the restart by Graham Jamieson which saw ball ricochet to Whitecraigs, the Biggar cover defence was found to be at sixes and sevens. Oloapu made a good distance before stand-off Stevenson put a kick through there being enough space for winger Gordon Berry to beat the defence to the touchdown.
Frustratingly these two scores came when Biggar were up against just 14 men, the restart seeing the return of Whitecraigs fullback Andrews.
Now definitely chasing the game and without a source of good lineout ball Biggar began to rush things and in such circumstances began to make errors. A quick lineout coughed up possession but Biggar were able to maintain possession for a few phases before Whitecraigs engineered a breakout. Though this came to nought and Biggar got back into ‘Craigs territory their inability to win clean ball was a massive factor, the Glasgow side able to defend relatively easily. Eventually however, following a series of probing runs by Williams-Paul and Notman ball was shipped wide and Lavery combined well with Peacock to create space for McDonald who crossed at the corner.
It was not long before ‘Craigs were back on the attack and while an initial driven lineout ended with an accidental offside they retained territory and after another clean ball advanced by fullback Andrews it was the fullback who nipped in to crash over from close range to collect his sides’ fourth and bonus point–winning try. Gillies conversion took the Glasgow into an unassailable lead at 31-8 with some 15 minutes remaining.
A Gillies penalty stretched that lead to 34-8 before biggar strung possibly their best series of phases together, Williams-Paul at the heart of many plays and his off-load finding the supporting Craig Stewart who crossed for an excellent, though consolation score. Nel added the conversion with what was the last kick of the match.
A bitterly disappointing result and one which could well be attributed to an over-confidence within the Biggar camp following the easy Cup win over the same side just weeks previously. A hard lesson to take but one from which this young Biggar side must learn. Plaudits to backs McDonald, Jamieson and Peacock and to newcomers Williams-Paul and Falefa both of whom got far more game time then had been intended.
Biggar now prepare for the aforementioned trip to Greenock. This is a ‘must win’ in order to restore some confidence.
R. Peacock, J. Warnock, G. Jamieson, R. Lavery, C. McDonald, F. Nel, A. Jardine, D. Voas, E. Stewart, D. O’Connell, J. Orr, Z. Lyon, D. Notman, A. Warnock, A. Cairns. Reps: L. Falefa, T. Williams-Paul, A. Sinclair.
The 2nd XV was the only other side in action at the weekend. Dundee titans were the visitors and with a large squad in attendance there were hopes that Biggar might manage another win. This was almost the case as with some 10m minutes remaining Biggar were right in touch with just 5 points separating the teams at 12-7 to Dundee.
Story date: 19/10/2015
Fatigue played its part however and Dundee ran in a couple of tries to win 24-7. The visitors were very complementary about the Biggar effort however so again a step up for the 2nds!
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Story date: 25/08/2011