Biggar struggle against Stewarts Melville
Stewarts Melville 44 Biggar 5
What a difference a week makes! Against Watsonians Biggar had exuded commitment and passion and, cheered on by an enthusiastic crowd, they had largely managed to stifle opponents Watsonians. On Saturday however that same passion and pride was sadly lacking, Stewarts Melville, competent though they were, being given both space and time to do much as they pleased. The absence of Craig Bachurzewski, Giles Boland and Lewis McLachlan undoubtedly made a difference, while injuries to David Paterson (with just 10 minutes gone), to Graeme Hunter (after a quarter of the match) and in the second half to Jamie Orr meant that there were enforced changes but this does not really excuse the performance which was well below that which is required at this level.
Edinburgh sides are always fast onto the ball and usually possess good handling skills and so it was but on Saturday Stewarts Melville, in the face of some weak defence, were allowed to develop their game and grew quickly in confidence as a result.
The Stew-Mel 44 point tally came via four first half tries and another three after the break. The opening exchanges saw Biggar in defence as the hosts opened strongly to put Biggar under pressure. This the visitors coped with although they were unable to fully escape as kicks to touch fell short allowing Stew-Mel to immediately hit back. An early penalty by Stew-Mel 10 Nick McCashin caused panic amongst the Biggar defence after it rebounded off the upright. The Edinburgh side should probably have scored from this but Biggar’s scrambled defence held them out although Biggar flyhalf Graeme Hunter appeared to aggravate a leg knock in the process.
The try was merely stalled however, centre Neil Bowie exploited not one but two turnovers and this after Biggar had cleverly driven the Stew-Mel pack back from a lineout take. McCashin kicked the conversion to this and to his own try, scored just 5 minutes later after he galloped through a stretched Biggar defence.
It was clear Hunter could not continue and so he was replaced by flank forward Jim Simpson, Biggar’s other replacement back, Danny McAllister having come into the fray after Paterson picked up a leg injury. This led to a change in the three quarters with Scott Swankie moving to stand off and Mark Bertram coming in to centre. Neither player has appeared in these positions this season so this definitely had an impact on Biggar’s ability to defend, the third try coming just after the half hour mark seeing McCashin exploit another gap to slice through midfield. 19-0.
With the Stew-Mel pack now in the ascendancy and giving the visitors a difficult time a fourth try was scored by winger Matt Morrell (another who played for a time at Hartree Mill) after a Biggar failed to take clean lineout ball.
Simpson had a tilt at the line and took play to within metres of the hosts line and just as Biggar looked about to open their account – and what better time to do so than just before half time – an attack which saw Jamie Orr gather clean line out ball before McKenzie Pearce, Edlyn Serge and Andrew King advanced play forward, eventually floundered as Swankie had the ball stripped from him when in sight of the line.
At the break Callum Taylor replaced Serge and Michael Dunlop came on for Calvin Henderson.
Ste-Mel continued from where they had left off, a well-controlled and dynamic line drive seeing Biggar marched back before the maul collapsed over the line with prop Rhys Morgan claiming the touch down. McCashin failed with the conversion.
To add insult to injury the restart was kicked directly into touch – the scrum on half way just what Stew-Mel were looking for and the last thing Biggar needed. Ironically this heralded Biggar’s best passage of play as Davy Reive took a quick tap free kick to turn the Stew-Mel defence. His yards were added to by an injection of pace by Simpson from a penalty and with some much more positive work from the pack with Donald Voas in the frame. Ball was passed out but frustratingly and unusually King knocked on to allow Stew-Mel another reprieve.
Bertram made his presence felt as he took over the kicking duties, two exceptional efforts turning Biggar defence into attack as he found both distance and accuracy to take play into the Stew-Mel half. Andrew Muir took over from Ewan Stewart at hooker.
To give the Biggar support something to cheer about, King had a good chase down after Reive had managed to disrupt the Stew-Mel scrum, this eventually seeing Bertram produce another long kick to take play to the Stew-Mel 5 metre line. Ball was moved infield to Swankie who set up the ruck before play was then moved back to the blindside where prop Voas took over the youngster driving over from about 5 metres. An excellent debut try. Bertram was just wide with the conversion.
Unfortunately the restart saw Biggar panic and concede a soft penalty which McCashin kicked for 34-5.
This coincided with Orr’s back injury and his replacement by Serge. Another uncharacteristic error by King was followed by another great piece of defensive work by Simpson to halt another Stew-Mel foray. With 10 minutes remaining and the game won/lost depending on which team you supported, the game was pretty much over as a contest, Biggar trying their best in what had become a damage limitation exercise and Stew-Mel lacking the composure that they had enjoyed earlier on. Very unusually Biggar were now on the right side of some tight calls by referee Dunx McClement – the penalty count in this half virtually 2-1 in Biggar’s favour – unheard of!
They were unable to take any real advantage from these awards however and as Stew-Mel ran again and again onto the Biggar 22 it was almost inevitable that they would score again, lock Callum Hunter-Hill the try scorer as he rounded off a good piece of handling. Despite some great work by Simpson on the wing Biggar were unable to capitalise as a series of lineouts went awry, their only joy coming from another quickly tapped penalty by Reive although on this occasion the support play was not in place.
The hosts rounded the game off with their seventh score, this going to McCashin who benefited from his team mates good accurate passing.
A real disappointment then and a result which, with Marr picking up yet another valuable losing bonus point, means Biggar drop into second bottom spot, level on league points with the west coast side but behind on points differential. There are however 5 pints separating 5 sides so a couple of wins would make whole world of difference. Biggar need to rediscover their form and face a ‘must win’ match this Saturday when Aberdeen Grammar make the trip to Hartree Mill. They are not having a great start to their season and are currently on 14 points and two places ahead of Biggar. A big support – which was a huge factor against Watsons - would help lift the players, so please, if you can make it, get down to the club for the 3pm kick off!
Michael McKeand, Mark Bertram, Scot Swankie, Andy King, David Paterson, Graham Hunter, David Reive, Donald Voas, Ewan Stewart, Calvin Henderson, Edlyn Serge, Jamie Orr, Alan Warnock, McKenzie Pearce, Craig Simmons(Captain)
Reps: Michael Dunlop, Andrew Muir, Danny McAllister, James Simpson, Calum Taylor.
Very disappointingly Biggar 2nds were left without a game after Kelso were unable to field a full XV.
Story date: 21/10/2014