Biggar defeated by Aberdeenshire
Biggar 24 Aberdeenshire 29
Biggar had been desperate to start off 2017 with a more positive result than had been the case at the end of 2016 but yet again they came up short, gaining only a losing bonus point for their not inconsiderable, efforts.
This makes it a really disappointing run of 6 defeats but all the more frustratingly when no fewer than 4 of these have been lost by one score or less. In games of such small margins Biggar’s propensity to collect yellow cards is becoming ever more significant with another 2 players shown yellow on Saturday. It is a difficult enough task playing the game with equal numbers but all the more difficult when the side is a man, or as was the case again on Saturday, 2 men down for close on 6 minutes. Not surprisingly Aberdeenshire took full advantage to score once and then again just after Robbie Lavery returned after his 10 minute rest.
It’s really difficult to know why Biggar suffer so often but to date the side has collected double the number of cards than have been shown to their opponents; close to 2 full games with a man down. Each one can be described unlucky or down to referee’s interpretation but currently Biggar are suffering and must do something to address this issue.
Biggar’s starting XV was without Alisdair Sinclair who was unavailable and Jamie Orr who was ruled out after injury at Kelso. This meant a call up for Craig McDonald on the wing and a switch in the pack with Andrew Dunlop at lock and Ewan Stewart at flank forward. Andrew Orr was retained at hooker after a very strong showing at Kelso.
Opening towards the clubhouse on a particularly still afternoon Biggar found themselves 3-0 up after just a minute as whistler John Shaw penalised ‘Shire for offside, stand off Aird Jardine kicking the points.
The visitors replied just 5 minutes later with a penalty of their own, Carne Green kicking for 3-3.
Just 10 minutes later and after a loose lineout Biggar capitalised well as Ewan Stewart made an excellent counter ruck to dislodge possession. An interception by Captain Andrew Dunlop saw the big man sprint in from some 25 metres for a try converted by Jardine. 10-3 to Biggar.
The stand off used a variety of kicks to turn the ‘Shire defence and these generally worked well, the chasers up quickly to put pressure on the defenders. It was from one such kick, the territory having been won by a dynamic line drive, that Biggar scored their second try, the brothers Jardine working well together as Aird kicked and Andrew chased, the scorer just getting to the ball before Orr who was through quickly. The conversion took Biggar ahead at 17-3.
‘Shire had won handsomely in the first meeting back in September and it was hardly surprising that they should come back into the game, although their try stemmed from a quickly taken lineout by Biggar when there was no real need to force the pace of the match. The initial ‘Shire attack had been brought to a swift end after a fine cover tackle by fullback Steele and things were set for a defensive line. Instead however the quick throw was made to David Paterson who kicked clear and while this was effective ‘Shire managed to retain both possession and territory.
Stand off Green was instrumental throughout the afternoon and he did much to orchestrate proceedings as he had done in the first meeting. It was his cleverly judged kick after a series of probing runs which found space and then winger Peter Paxton. He made ground towards the Biggar 22 before passing inside to scrum half Stuart Simpson who dived in under the posts. Green converted and the visitors were right back into things at 17-10.
The half ended in rousing fashion as play swung from end-to-end. Biggar showed promise, a neat exchange between Andrew Jardine, Steele and McDonald taking play deep into the ‘Shire half before a turnover saw the visitors regroup and then as Aird Jardine took an interception just inside the Biggar half. His pass inside was taken by brother Andrew and it looked as first as though the youngster would break clear and go the whole way to the line but Green did enough to slow his progress. In the tackle the pop pass to the supporting Orr was in turn intercepted by ‘Shire who were able to snuff the breakout and initiate an attack of their own. Dunlop with a charge down and shortly afterwards a run by Lavery promised much but both chances faltered as possession was lost.
In the tight Biggar were enjoying some dominance as they were able to put real pressure on the ‘Shire pack this making the visitors work really hard for any quality ball. The pack also drove well in the loose although ‘Shire engineered a number of crucial turnovers, something which Biggar struggled to match.
Half time then with the match evenly balanced.
‘Shire were immediately on the attack at the restart putting pressure on Biggar’s defence which largely stood up to the test although the carries made by the ‘Shire pack were making good yards. Their No8 and captain Greig Ryan was again to the fore and it was from one of his forays to the Biggar line that initiated the next score. Held up, there was a pile up where ex-Biggar man Michael McKeand picked and rolled over for the try – a feat he performed back in September as well! Green’s conversion levelled the scores at 17 points a-piece.
Coach Gary Mercer rang some changes in the pack with Douglas Notman and Dan O’Connell replacing Dunlop and Voas respectively. Conceding a score is one thing but losing a player is as damaging and this is exactly what befell Biggar as they were looking to play in the ‘Shire half. Robbie Lavery was the man to be shown yellow but it is really difficult to see why in the video replay as he seems to be doing nothing untoward. However, the referee is the man who makes the decisions and Biggar were down to 14. Things got worse just minutes later when after another text-book cover tackle Tom Steele was adjudged to have gone off his feet to play the ball in a ruck. This would seem a clearer error but whether it warranted a yellow is up for debate. As it was however Biggar were now down to 13 and requiring a herculean effort to prevent ‘Shire from adding to their tally.
Biggar managed to hold out for a number of phases after the penalty but it was inevitable that regardless of their defensive efforts a score would eventually come. A surge by Ryan was repelled but Green took advantage of the stretched cover defence to sneak in close to the posts for a try which he converted for 24-17.
As Biggar made further changes to personnel so ‘Shire racked up the pressure. Lavery made his return but Biggar were still a man down. In addition to the close to the line defence from the pack as a whole there were some excellent cover tackles made by David Paterson, Craig McDonald, Andrew Dunlop and Ross Jackson all of which halted what looked to be certain scores but following one foray the visitors moved ball swiftly left where there was space a-plenty for winger Paxton to cross. There was no conversion to this score but at 29-17 ‘Shire were in the driving seat with just under 15 minutes to go.
Biggar maintained a positive approach however and benefited from the return of Steele. Biggar also met the ‘Shire attack with continued stoic efforts and tried to attack when they were able. The game became much less structured as players tried to counter the effects of the Festive period but there was still drama as both sides ran with the ball.
Davy Reive seemed to have been taken out illegally from a lineout close to the ‘Shire line but this was unseen by referee Shaw and Green was able to clear. His kick failed to find touch however, something which Biggar were certainly guilty over the piece. David McArthur, who had replaced McDonald linked well with Steele and Andrew Jardine. Aird Jardine then took ball forward and through the first line of ‘Shire’s defence. His neat off load found Orr who in turn fed Lavery, the centre beating the cover defence for a great and much deserved score. Jardine added the conversion to put Biggar within one score of a win. There were however just minutes remaining and it was clear that they would have to take every opportunity that was given if they were to make a late comeback.
That Biggar made all the running in this last part of the match is not in doubt. Willing runners in Notman, Lyon, the two Jardines, McArthur and Voas along with others all tested the ‘Shire defence. With the match still very much in the balance a probing run to within 10 metres of the ‘shire line ceded a penalty to Biggar. There was insufficient time for a lineout but rather than take a scrum which might have provided a solid platform Biggar opted to tap and go, Notman hitting up a shade too high which allowed ‘Shire to create the maul and with ball held up it was game over.
Another bitter pill for the Biggar squad to swallow. This was another massive effort from the whole squad but crucial errors and the yellow cards proved to be the difference between the sides. Are opponents perhaps more streetwise and more clever around the contact situation or are referees keener to penalise Biggar because of previous transgressions?
Thomas Steele, Craig McDonald, Robbie Lavery, Andrew Jardine, David Paterson, Aird Jardine, David Reive, Donald Voas, Andrew Orr, Calvin Henderson, Andrew Dunlop, Zander Lyon, Ewan Sanderson, Ewan Stewart, Ross Jackson. Reps: Dan O’Connell, Stephen Campbell, David McArthur, Douglas Notman.
The side travel next week to take on West of Scotland, a side they easily defeated (35-10) in the first round of matches. Away wins have been few and far between however and so this match takes on ever greater importance. The side were always going to be without centre Andrew Jardine as he was due to play on Saturday for the Colts in their Scottish Cup quarter final but the really sad news for the teenager is that he sustained rib damage on Saturday which will mean he cannot play in that match either. More importantly are his Scotland U18 commitments but given his current form it is hoped that he will remain in the frame for these.
Saturday’s Colts match is an U18 Scottish Cup quarter final match against the current Cup holders Stirling County and is sure to be a cracking affair. Biggar will need to be at their best to beat the President’s Conference winners but it has been done before, most notably three seasons ago when Biggar halted the County sides hopes of a hat-trick of Scottish Cup wins.
It would be fantastic if the Biggar membership could get down to Hartree Mill to cheer the boys on. Stirling will doubtless bring a big support and with a 2nd XV match on as well (AND a football match) it promises to be a busy place indeed!
The 2nd XV journeyed to SRU headquarters on Saturday to take on Murrayfield Wanderers in their BT East Reserve League 2 match.
The match proved to be a much more difficult prospect than had been the case in October when Biggar ran out winners by 45-0. The Edinburgh club’s 1st XV are sitting at the top of the East Region Div 1 however and it is clear that this has led to their 2nd string being much stronger also. Down for a long period of the match Biggar scored points through tries from teenager Henry Adams who is home for Christmas, James Barr and Ali Browning, the veteran answering coach Doug Fleming’s call as he was short of regular players. Barr also added two conversions. Biggar won by 19-15 to retain their top spot in the league, 5 points ahead of second placed Kelso.
Great to see Stewart Moffat and John Taylor also playing. The more the merrier!
Story date: 11/01/2017
Biggar lose out in local derby
Biggar 9 Peebles 23
That Peebles deserved to win this match is not really in doubt. The Borders side enjoyed better possession and had a more fiery back division than Biggar. They were a wee bit more savvy as well, employing clever tactics which caught Biggar out. They also outscored Biggar by 2 tries to nil, albeit the last was an interception from half way and which simply required a sprint to the line.
But few of these factors were post match talking points and fewer still will be remembered. Instead, this game will be recalled for the fact that there were no fewer than 6 yellow cards, an unprecedented 5 for Biggar and 1 to Peebles. And all for technical offences because while this was a typically hard fought local derby with no quarter given there were no real 'incidents' where players were toe-to-toe with each other.
That the game should have been spoilt was frustrating for all present and there was a sizeable crowd who had come to see a game of rugby.
In the first half there were a total of 19 penalties which in a 40 minute half means that there was a penalty on average every two minutes. Add in lineouts and scrums and there was precious little actual game time. There were only 16 after the break...oh joy!
Peebles then maintain their push for promotion straight back to National 1 – with Kelso who were also relegated last season as current league leaders and who are Biggar's next opponents. Despite suffering 4 straight defeats Biggar retain 7th spot in National 2. Facing League leaders Kelso this Saturday might see a change unless the Biggar squad can repeat their early season feat and defeat Kelso who have since then been unbeaten. They have also by all accounts invested and recruited heavily as they see National 1 status as a priority.
Donald Voas (uni exam) and Gregor Stewart (ankle injury) were the two absentees from last weeks starting XV. Their places were taken by Calvin Henderson and Andrew Jardine, the latter making a return to top team action after injury.
On the bench there was room for new recruit Craig Quigley who has recently joined the club from Lasswade. Seeking a back row berth he was pressed into service as front row cover.
The opening exchanges were, as always, fairly frantic as the sides took time to weigh each other up. Peebles have fared better since the opening match back in August which Peebles just won by 24-20, the feeling in the Biggar camp being that they were due a better performance and result after defeats to PL, Ardrossan and GHK.
An early penalty miss by Aird Jardine after 2 minutes was a let off for the visitors but another award minutes later saw Jardine on target to get the scoreboard turning. A lineout play by Peebles saw them gain a penalty shortly after the restart and some excellent running and clever inter-passing saw the Border side take play upfield to the Biggar 22 where only some equally good scramble defence kept them out. There was a penalty however and stand off Greg Raeburn kicked to make the score 3-3 after 10 minutes.
Robbie Lavery was the first player to be shown yellow and it was two minutes later before the packs came together for a first scrum, Biggar enjoying the better of this and probably and area in which they had the edge for the first half.
Biggar were struggling to make much headway out of their half however, a couple of missed touch kicks not helping their cause and giving the Peebles backs the chance to maintain the pressure on Biggar's defence. This Biggar largely coped with and after one better passage of play and with a quarter of the match gone, a penalty from midfield saw Jardine kick a second award for 6-3.
Peebles made a rare error in kicking directly into touch from the restart but Biggar were unable to capitalise and Peebles were soon back in attack using the ball well to force Biggar into their 22. A penalty award and dubiously advanced 10 metres as Biggar were not back 10 saw Raeburn kick the corner. With lineout ball won a blindside move should have seen Peebles notch the first try but a poor pass was knocked on giving Biggar some respite.
With 5 minutes of the half remaining David Paterson became the second Biggar player to be shown yellow this after he allegedly was guilty of slowing play down in the 'red' area….even on slo-mo replay this seemed to be a harsh sanction. The resultant attack came to nought as Biggar continued to defend manfully in the face of Peebles line drive.
Half time then and the match delicately balanced at 6-3 to the home side.
The second half was barely under way when Ewan Stewart became the next player to be sin-binned. Another blindside move saw him react to the wide pass and stick a hand out to catch the ball. Perhaps the clearest of the days yellows but in this writers opinion a harsh law given that a players reaction is to try to get his hands out and catch the ball. Now down to 13 men it was hardly surprising that Peebles took the scrum option rather than the kick at goal. While the initial thrust from No 8 Andrew Muir was repelled quick ball and a pop pass from Donald Anderson was taken by lock Ross Brown who from 5 metres out was always going to be tough to stop. Raeburn's conversion put Peebles ahead form the first time at 10-6..
Biggar, via Aird Jardine, took full advantage of a loose ball to hack ball upfield and take play quickly into the Peebles 22 but a lineout error ceded possession back to Peebles who managed to clear the danger. Lack of continuity has been a concern for Biggar in recent matches. While possession has seen Biggar advance into their opponents 22 they have often been unable to press the advantage home and claim points.
Minutes later and Biggar managed to get back to within a point, this after Peebles were penalised and their No5 Callum Lecky was shown yellow. Jardine kicked the penalty – the score now 9-10 to Peebles.
The two Ewan's (Sanderson and Stewart) returned at this point, Andrew Orr having come on to replace Stewart following his yellow. Some enterprising play saw Biggar exert some pressure on their visitors but Peebles again cleared before winning another penalty which Raeburn duly kicked to extend the lead to 13-9, though still anyone's game.
A Biggar penalty to the Peebles 22 should have given the home side a tilt at the line but clever non-engagement by the Peebles pack saw Biggar penalised and Peebles kick clear.
As the clock ticked on so Biggar found it ever more difficult to keep possession and put the Border side under any real pressure. For their part all Peebles needed to do was keep Biggar in their own half and this they did pretty well, the next foray seeing Biggar skipper Andy Dunlop cling on to scrum half Anderson which led to his departure and Biggar reduced again to 14 men. Raeburn extended the Peebles lead to 16-9.
There was however still just one score required to tie the match and Biggar countered again but as play was moved right Campbell's pass was intercepted by that man Raeburn who galloped home for what was a deciding score. His conversion took Peebles clear at 23-9.
There was just enough time for Campbell to dive in to a tackle somewhat rashly, sheer frustration getting the better of him as he became Biggar's 5th in the sin-bin.
So another hugely frustrating afternoon for the supporters of the boys in black and of course for coaches Gary Mercer and Davy Wilson who continue to see their charges give everything they can but fall short as they fall foul of the man in the middle. This was just the 3rd match from which Biggar have not managed even a solitary bonus point and yet with 5 to go there was a bonus up for grabs.
The squad must regroup and pull together again, particularly as they face a tough trip south at the weekend to league leaders Kelso. This match is the last for this calendar year and will come at an opportune time to give all those suffering from knocks a chance to recover over the festive period.
Thomas Steele, Alistair Sinclair, Robbie Lavery, Andrew Jardine, David Paterson, Aird Jardine, David Reive, Dan O'Connell, Ewan Stewart, Calvin Henderson, Andrew Dunlop, Zander Lyon, Ewan Sanderson, Ross Jackson, Jamie Orr. Reps:, Craig Quigley, Andrew Orr, Stevie Campbell, David McArthur
Man-of-the-match was the tireless Jamie Orr for Biggar with centre Callum Anderson taking the nod for Peebles. Many thanks to Match sponsors, the members of the Lanark and Peebles Blackface Breeders Association.
The 2nd XV travelled to Kelso on Saturday for what was always going to be their toughest fixture. Having been unbeaten all season to date this proved to be one match too far for what was essentially a scratch XV as there were several players unavailable and as the 1st XV had hoovered up several key men.
A 30-0 score line was indeed disappointing but perhaps not unexpected. Doug will be keen to get things back on track on Saturday when his side entertains Peebles. In previous seasons the 1sts and 2nds have often been scheduled together when possible and it seems daft that this season they should play the same clubs but weeks apart.
Story date: 11/12/2016
Narrow defeat at Penny Pit
Preston Lodge 20 Biggar 19
After two games where Biggar have struggled after the interval Biggar sprung a bit of a surprise at Pennypit by coming out all guns blazing after the break to get within one point of their hosts who proceeded, just, to cling on to that 1 point advantage and sneak the win.
There are always 'ifs and buts' in sport and Biggar may well rue the interception pass at the outset which put them a score down when they were in attack and also the missed conversion to their first try, but in similar vane PL would point to a disallowed try – for a forward pass – which would have given them a clearer victory margin.
Frustrations and bias aside, this was a keenly contested match between two evenly matched squads, featuring 6 tries and the usual talking points, a couple of which have already been mentioned. The win pushes PL into 6th spot and Biggar to 7th with just 2 matches remaining before the end of the first round of matches and the league break. Biggar have Ardrossan and GHK to play with, after that, all bar one of the teams above them to face at home and all those below, bar one, to visit. If Biggar can maintain their home record and pinch a couple of away wins – away wins still proving problematic - then they should be in the hunt come the end of the league programme.
Another series of changes were forced on Biggar's XV due to illness and unavailability. Up front Duncan Withers and Stevie Campbell were forced out of the squad due to illness and other commitments. Alan Warnock and Zander Lyon came back into the starting XV with Ross Jackson back on the bench. In the backs Robbie Lavery had work commitments and could not play while David Paterson was injured in the warm up and replaced by David McArthur, this of course reducing Biggar's options from the bench when looking to freshen things up or replace injured players.
Biggar had the best and then, almost immediately, the worst of starts. McArthur was up quick on to the PL winger as he took Jardine's box kick, Notman just managing to charge down the clearance and force a PL lineout in their 22. Having regained possession Biggar attacked the blind-side only to see Gregor Stewarts wide pass snapped up by flanker Pete Johnstone who had the legs of the Biggar cover to reach the line from some 50 metres. Those who were in attendance at this game last session will well remember the ease with which Biggar conceded points to their hosts – surely history could not repeat itself?
It was quickly evident that Biggar had more than an edge in the tight scrum, PL under all sorts of pressure and getting shunted back at regular intervals and also ceding possession on their own put in. That Biggar got so little of an advantage from this is open to some conjecture, visiting referee Greg Dawson from Northumberland preferring scrum re-sets to penalties or free kicks and at the games end seeing fit to penalise Biggar for wheeling when in attack.
Biggar's scrum dominance came to the fore after 10 minutes when after a knock-on gave PL the scrum put in. Biggar took the ball against the head and slowly marched the home 8 back to a point where Andy Dunlop picked and dived for the try. Richard Peacock's conversion bounce off the upright to deny Biggar a 7-5 lead.
Within 3 minutes PL had scored again. Peacock had taken a good 'mark' in his 22 and had then tapped to feed the ball right. Notman's boot took play into the PL half but a neat step by fullback Glynn took him past Alistair Sinclair and saw him sprint down a touchline almost bereft of Biggar cover. Sinclair got back into position but a hefty fend sent him sprawling before an inside pass saw No8 Whittingham crash over for a notable try.
Another long range conversion from Griffin fell short and so the score was 10-5 to PL.
Biggar have been prone to making a number of unforced errors in recent weeks and this pattern continued as players were put under pressure, something to which the youngsters in the side are having to adapt. While these errors did not lead directly to scores it meant that possession and/or position was lost. These errors and several long advantages did nothing to assist Biggar as PL ran hard, employing some neat angles at the Biggar defence. This held for the most part although Griffin did increase his sides lead to 13-5 with a penalty after a sustained passage of play in the Biggar 22.
With 5 minutes to go before half time PL almost struck again, No 8 Whittingham hitting a good angle in a run which took him across Biggar's line only for referee Dawson to adjudge the pass forward. Able to maintain their field position the 3rd try did eventually come, back rower Jason Riley crossing under a pile of bodies for score which when converted took PL into a 20-5 half time lead.
Coach Mercer spared few at half time as he harangued the squad for what appeared to be a somewhat 'flat' display. Whatever was said seemed to have hit home as the side had to work really hard to halt a determined PL start. Kicking to the corner PL again employed the driven lineout to good effect. In previous seasons Biggar would have conceded scores in the face of this but on Saturday they competed ferociously and while a penalty was conceded which gave PL a second bite, some great work by the pack, with Dunlop to the fore, saw the maul halted. The rules pertaining to this have to be looked at however as, if set properly, there is no legal way in which a score can be prevented, players always likely to concede penalties in attempts to steal possession. On this occasion however Biggar managed a good exit.
Although 15 points down games can turn quickly and so it was on Saturday as Biggar clawed their way back into things in the space of some 10 minutes. A neat pass wide from Chisholm gave Notman a chance to take ball on and with this recycled well Biggar attacked on the right making good yards on the other touchline. Ball initially lost was regained and prop Dan O'Connell burst up the blind off Stewarts wide link. The big man made yards before neatly off-loading to Sinclair who made it to the line for his second score in as many weeks – and this after a barren spell when Biggar had been scoring freely.
Peacock added the conversion for 20-12. It now seemed that the tide was turning ever so slightly as PL began to make errors, passes being dropped or not finding their man as they had previously. Biggar were able to capitalise on this with some fairly ferocious offence defence as all put in the hits adding the the spectacle.
Able to gain a foothold in the PL 22 good work by Peacock – should the pass have gone wide earlier? - Biggar gained a scrum put in close to the PL line. A good pick and drive by Dunlop almost saw the No 8 notch a second score but some equally good defence brought him down short. The pressure was sustained however and after a couple of pick and go's by the pack ball was swung left to Chisholm who stepped inside the cover and lunged for the line for a try which, when converted put Biggar just one point adrift at 20-19.
With just short of a quarter of the match remaining it was definitely a case of 'game on' and all to play for. In the aftermath it is perhaps surprising that neither side was able to add to their tally in this last quarter. Aside from some decent running rugby which ended as progress was halted via good defence there was never a penalty awarded which would have given PL some additional breathing space or Biggar the lead.
Play swung from 22 to 22 but rarely any further as defences came out on top and errors meant possession was lost. PL were forced into several changes out of necessity as they picked up knocks in what was a physical contest. Biggar also made changes but this was down to players being swapped to provide some rest. Jackson had replaced Warnock but he returned for Lyon while the front row, save for replacement hooker Orr who was unlucky not to get game time this time round, were again routinely switched.
And so, exciting though play was, there were no further scores, PL, via Griffin, delighted to get the ball into touch after another penalty.
As has been suggested previously there is little between the teams in National 2. Just 12 points separate the top 7 positions and so things will remain tight for the foreseeable future until perhaps the weather begins to take effect to disrupt form.
Biggar's immediate goal is to defeat next opponents, Ayrshire side Ardrossan who have yet to win a match and are currently second from bottom. A trip west is never easy and Biggar won their last year courtesy of an inspirational Andrew Peacock pick up virtually on full time. It is to be hoped the side doesn't have to rely on a late intervention this time round!
Richard Peacock, Alistair Sinclair, Douglas Notman, Gregor Stewart, David McArthur, Iain Chisholm, Aird Jardine, Donald Voas, Ewan Stewart, Dan O'Connell, Jamie Orr, Zander Lyon, Ewan Sanderson, Alan Warnock, Andrew Dunlop Reps: Ross Jackson, Calvin Henderson, Andrew Orr (David Paterson).
The 2nd XV meanwhile were hosting Murrayfield Wanderers in their East Reserve League 1 match. It was great to learn that they had again extended their unbeaten run to 8 from 8 with a comfortable 45-0 win over their Edinburgh guests.
Having secured the win and the 4-try bonus the focus switched to keeping their line intact and this they managed despite some determined Wanderers play.
For the record Davy Reive, Thomas Steele and Craig McDonald all scored a brace each, Stuart Alder notching one also.
Story date: 31/10/2016
Biggar defeated at Cartha
Cartha Queens Park 20 Biggar 11
After 3 great weeks when points have been scored with ease Biggar were brought down to earth in a much tighter, more pressured contest against the league leaders Cartha. That Biggar's error count by Biggar in this one game must have exceeded the combined total of the last 3 gives indication that this result was somewhat self-inflicted although the hosts will point out that their errors cost them at least 3 tries which would have put them well ahead after the first quarter alone.
The loss means Biggar drop back to 6th place in the league which, although 'OK', and certainly so much better than in recent seasons does not equate at all to the effort which the players and coaches have put in and will certainly not please either group.
With Richard Peacock and Craig McDonald both unavailable there were changes again in the backs, Douglas Notman dropping back from flank forward to centre and David Paterson resuming at wing while Robbie Lavery took over at fullback. The pack which started saw Calvin Henderson start at prop in place of Dan O'Connell while Duncan Withers replaced Notman in the back row.
On a day which was much nicer than had been forecast Biggar's errors began at kick off the normal safe hands of Withers seeing ball spilled on the catch, immediately ceding both possession and territory to the hosts. This simple unforced error was merely the first of many made by the side in the course of the 80 minutes.
Being up against things in the opening exchanges is nothing new for Biggar who have weathered well the strong starts from their opponents and so it was very much same old, same old as Biggar were forced into defensive chores. Some sound tackles, a couple of opportune turnovers and at least one player held up over the line saw Biggar hold out as Cartha launched wave after wave of attacks with big runners choosing good lines and angles. That the hosts should have scored is not in doubt one 2v1 ending as Lavery appeared to wrong foot the ball carrier who lost control of the ball with the line at his mercy.
Both packs were running well whenever called into action while the tight exchanges were well contested, both packs fiercely combative in scrum and lineout.
Able to slowly get a foothold of possession and territory Biggar were awarded a penalty after 16 minutes, this virtually the first such award of the game, and one which Gregor Stewart slotted for a 3-0 lead.
Straight back into attack Jamie Orr was set free for a tilt at the line and suffered the same fate as one of Cartha's attacks as he was held up over the line. Maintaining tremendous pressure on the Cartha line Biggar's forwards were lining up to take ball on, Cartha proving so much more difficult to open up than recent opponents. Another penalty was their reward, Stewart converting again to give Biggar a 6-0 lead.
The restarts, which hitherto have always been taken well, were proving troublesome, Davy Reive slipping as he collected the kick, this slowing the option to exit the 22 and in fact seeing Biggar concede a penalty which was converted to reduce the gap to 6-3.
This Cartha penalty aside, the middle section of this half was undoubtedly Biggar's purple patch as they really took the game to their hosts. The next score was just minutes away and the try scored after a great run by Orr saw the big lock pop the ball inside to Withers who galloped across the line. Stewart was unable to add the conversion but at 11-3 Biggar were on the 'up'.
Frustratingly from a Biggar point of view, but perhaps not surprisingly, Cartha fought back and using the driven line to good effect managed to shunt Biggar back and score a try from their hooker.
The conversion was missed and Biggar retained their lead at 11-8. The driven lineout option from Cartha was to cause all manner of problems for Biggar although it is virtually impossible to legally halt this move.
The remainder of the half was played out with Biggar still on the front foot but unable to unlock the Cartha defence again, several errors (crossing offences, knock-ons, missed touch kicks) all allowing Cartha some respite.
In the post match chat it seemed incredible that after this great spell and having added the 11 points in about 20 minutes that the try was the last time that Biggar troubled the scorer! Cartha definitely deserve credit for their defensive effort which saw them slow the Biggar attack down and then put a stranglehold on almost everything Biggar did, although Biggar did become a tad predictable in their attacking options, this playing directly into Cartha's hands.
Andrew Dunlop who was making a return after an injury sustained at Aberdeenshire took over at half time from Ewan Sanderson while O'Connell came on for Calvin Henderson. Another crossing offence gave Cartha the chance to push Biggar back. It quickly became clear that Cartha had regained some shape during the break and as the game progressed their forward effort seemed to increase.
A great team tackle by Lavery and Paterson denied Cartha a try but then from the resultant lineout – an area in which Biggar had taken much great ball in the first half – an error spawned possession at the back, Cartha's back rower unable to get a clean hold of the ball and botching a great chance and with the line at his mercy.
The try was merely delayed however as an offload from Dunlop as he picked up at the scrum base saw possession spilled. Cartha were in quick to secure the possession and run in for a try which, when converted, turned the tables on Biggar and meant they were behind for the first time in the match at 15-11.
This score seemed to really enthuse the Cartha side who slowly began to take a greater stranglehold on proceedings. Try as they did Biggar were unable to play the game they wished as Cartha forced Biggar back into their own 22. At the same time, and in the face of this pressure (this the first match in 4 in which Biggar have been put under such pressure) the number of unforced errors crept up.
A kick direct to touch, a lazy runner penalty, a couple of turnovers and instead of being in the Cartha half, Biggar found themselves once again on defensive duties.
Biggar made a couple of changes, Lavery moving up to centre and Stewart dropping back to fullback, Jackson giving way to Sanderson.
A missed Cartha penalty and then a great breakout by Cartha through the middle forced Stewart to make a great hit on the runner and with ball spilled Biggar engineered an escape but this was short lived as Cartha kicked out of defence.
Another big line drive saw Biggar throw themselves at the Cartha attack to hold them up and with the match entering the last 10 minutes it was all hands to the pumps as Biggar fought to deny Cartha another try.
This they almost managed, Cartha opting for the kick to the corner, confident that they would eventually get over for the try which would decide the match. A Biggar try at this point would have seen them win but deep inside their own half this seemed unlikely – their hopes increasingly pinned on a losing bonus point which in the circumstances would have been just reward for their efforts if not for the errors.
As the minutes ticked down the try eventually came, this again stemming from a line drive, replacement prop Irvine credited with the score. The conversion was immaterial, the game won/lost.
This result was a real frustration for Biggar as they travelled with some confidence after recent solid performances. Coach Mercer though still upbeat after the match was quick to highlight the need for greater concentration and the need to bounce back. The opportunity to do so comes this weekend when Kirkcaldy come to Hartree Mill. Possessing a big pack it will need a concerted effort from the boys in black to regain their winning ways.
As always a big support would do much to help them on their way. Kick off is 3pm.
Robbie Lavery, Alistair Sinclair, Gregor Stewart, Douglas Notman, David Paterson, Aird Jardine, David Reive (C), Donald Voas, Ewan Stewart, Calvin Henderson, Zander Lyon, Jamie Orr, Ewan Sanderson, Ross Jackson, Duncan Withers . Reps: Andrew Orr, Dan O'Connell, James Barr, Andrew Dunlop.
The 2nds entertained Kelso in their Edinburgh Reserve league match.
As league leaders Biggar were in determined mood to retain their top spot and in the end they managed to do so with a 22-15 victory.
Kelso proved to be every bit as determined opponents as had Jed last week with another big defensive effort required to keep the visitors out. A decent lead at half time of 15-10 saw Biggar take the initiative to go further up at 22-10 before Kelso hit back to make it 22-15.
As Kelso received a yellow card Biggar might have managed to increase their lead but this was not to be and they had to settle for the 7-point advantage.
Tries from among others Scot Chapman and Stevie Campbell.
Despite not playing quite as well as they might have this was another great result for the 2nds who now have a 6 point lead in the league.
They travel to take on Lasswade this Saturday.
Story date: 17/10/2016
Biggar rack up another 50 in home win against Whitecraigs
Biggar 54 Whitecraigs 10
Biggar welcomed Glasgow side Whitecraigs to a Hartree Mill looking at its finest in the warm Autumnal sunshine.
Biggar fielded a XV with just two changes from that which won at Hill Jills last week, Aird Jardine starting at stand off in place of brother Andrew who sustained a broken forearm, with Gregor Stewart reverting to inside centre and Craig McDonald replacing the unavailable David Paterson.
Selection promises to be ever more difficult for the coaching team given that there are a handful of players who would normally start but who will have to work extremely hard to regain their place, so well is the current squad performing. Competition for places and in all positions is intense and all the more so because the 2nd XV, ably led by Doug Fleming continue to perform as well, their excellent win away to Jedforest a massive boost for the club. There is therefore another group within their ranks waiting for their chance to get a top team start.
Separated by just one point prior to the match Whitecraigs had a number of call offs and a bad start when Captain and prop Iain Laidlaw turned an ankle in the warm up. To make matters all the more difficult they took the field to find a Biggar squad in top form, clearly relishing the opportunity to extend their winning home run and keen to erase the memories of two defeats to Whitecraigs last season.
A forward pass denied Ross Jackson a try and Biggar a dream start but this was merely delayed as Craig McDonald rounded off a fairly simple backs move initiated after Biggar stole possession from a Whitecraigs scrum. 3 minutes gone and a 5-0 scoreline for Biggar.
Undeterred at this stage Whitecraigs began to make their mark, the next 10 minutes or so proving tricky for Biggar as the Glasgow side gave full indication of their style; backs and forwards running at pace and finding good angles to take play into the Biggar 22. The Biggar defence stood resolute however and aside from a couple of penalties gave little away. Two attempts at driven lineouts failed to get Whitecraigs on the scoreboard – a magnificent take by Jamie Orr and his lifters denying one catch and drive - so it was left to kicker Stuart Gillies to open 'Craigs account from a penalty on 18 minutes.
Having kept their visitors out Biggar's initial attacks faltered on two loose Biggar lineouts – perhaps the only real flaw in the whole match as the packs dominance throughout meant the Whitecraigs effort visibly wilted as the game progressed. Respite was short-lived for the visitors however as Biggar added to their tally via two Richard Peacock penalties to take them ahead at 11-3.
Indeed an 8 minute period from 25-32 minutes saw Biggar take the initiative and largely condemn Whitecraigs to second place, the two penalties preceding two excellent tries. A great Zander Lyon take on the second penalty restart saw Davy Reive chip and Jardine chase. An error in the catch allowed Jardine to hack clear to beat the defence for the try. Peacock converted.
Another error from stand off Gillies – not a day he will wish to remember – gave Biggar territory and position and following an initial surge ball was fed back to the blindside where Ewan Sanderson exploited a weak defensive effort to run round and then through the remaining cover.
Biggar almost added to their tally from the next restart as Jardine made an interception, the cover defence this time up to the task and cutting off the stand-offs run.
Half time then and a 3 try lead at 25-3 for the men in black. This was an almost identical score to that from the previous week with again the 4-try bonus point within reach. Could the Biggar lads repeat that feat?
The answer, although not just as quick as last week, was still in the affirmative and with bags more as well.
A couple of penalties gave Whitecraigs some possession and territory but their attacks again floundered as Biggar's defence remained firm. Within 8 minutes of the restart Biggar opened out from their own 22 with a lung bursting and particularly effective exit, Jardine initiating the charge with a boot downfield. Peacock took the kick at full pace making a couple of yards before cleverly off-loading to Alistair Sinclair who took and then game almost immediately to Lavery. He evaded the nearest defenders to pop the ball back inside to the ever-present Jackson. The young back rower made short shrift of the sprint to the line and a deserved try. One kick and 3 passes for the try and the bonus point.
Another hammer blow befell 'Craigs as Biggar scored again almost from the restart. Notman took ball up and into the advancing pack, something he does with great regularity. Recycled ball saw Reive offer the box kick which, although initially dealt with by 'Craigs No 8 Haswell, was then turned over by Sanderson. The counter attack on this occasion was one break, by Jardine, and a neat pass to Lavery who sprinted in from some 40 metres.
Notman was then shown a yellow for some careless work at the breakdown but despite their numerical advantage 'Craigs could not stem the flow of the Biggar attack. The 'Craigs attack failed and a Biggar penalty allowed them to kick and then win good line out ball from Sanderson. A pre-planned move saw replacement flanker Duncan Withers take an inside pass from Jardine to outpace the despairing cover from some 40 metres for try number 6. Peacock added the conversion. The score now read 44-3; could the side record another 50 point haul?
Whitecraigs had other thoughts and to their credit and regardless of the battering they had received they managed a try of their own. This was credited to replacement prop Ingram, he a strong and direct runner who would surely, on most other occasions, have been able to make a significant mark on proceedings. Gillies added the conversion for 44-10.
Another fantastic breakout after another 'Craigs handling error under the box kick saw Biggar quickest to react, replacement hooker Andrew Orr latching onto the loose ball to make yards before finding Lavery. His run beat the defence before Jardine and then Reive took over. His pass was taken by Sinclair who gave quickly to Peacock who was able to round things off with another try.
It was clear that 'Craigs were now almost punch drunk such had they given to absorb the Biggar attack and the hits in attack. At almost every breakdown another 'Craigs player looked for treatment.
Biggar's finale became a little untidy in the face of this and they managed just one further try this to Reive who had been the proverbial thorn in 'Craigs side all day. On this occasion Jackson took advantage of another massive surge by the Biggar pack which had their opponents on a rushed retreat to snaffle ball and pass to Reive – a score the scrum half clearly relished!
Peacock had a bit of an off day with the boot although the final conversion from Jardine also missed its mark. Add the missed conversions and Biggar would have been well through the 60 point mark.
Regardless, this was an excellent win for the home side. There were some terrific performances from all with no one looking out of place or playing poorly. Each player made significant contributions with the nod for man of the match going to stand off Aird Jardine, one audacious hand off in particular sticking in the memory.
In the last three matches Biggar have amassed over 145 points (21 tries) while conceding just 25 (3 tries) – the best defensive record in the league. The win takes Biggar into 4th top spot level with local rivals Peebles.
The division remains particularly close however with the impression being that any side on their day has the capacity to beat any other.
Things will certainly get tougher of that there is no doubt with a visit to League leaders Cartha Queens Park this Saturday just the start. There is an air of confidence within the squad however and where in previous seasons coaches might have been reluctant to give the replacements a run, each man off the bench now brings something different to the side, to wit on Saturday the attacking flair of Withers, the work rate of Henderson or Orr and the pace of McArthur. Well done to all, including of course coaches Mercer and Wilson.
Richard Peacock, Alistair Sinclair, Robbie Lavery, Gregor Stewart, Craig McDonald, Aird Jardine, David Reive (C), Donald Voas, Ewan Stewart, Dan O'Connell, Zander Lyon, Jamie Orr, Ewan Sanderson, Ross Jackson, Douglas Notman. Reps: Andrew Orr, Duncan Withers, Calvin Henderson, David McArthur .
The news of the 2nds 21-17 win came through just before the final whistle and was met with a great cheer from the 1sts in their post-match huddle.
The 2nds had faced a tricky away match against Jed and to return with the win after a really tousy last 10 minutes when they were forced to finish with 14 men after Lewis McLachlan had been sin-binned was testimony to the character within the squad.
This was an excellent win and means that Biggar retain top spot in the East Reserve league. They face another Border test this week when they entertain Kelso who are in 2nd spot.
Story date: 09/10/2016
Senior sides knock up sizeable scores
Hillhead Jordanhill 5 Biggar 56
In much calmer weather than the previous Saturday Biggar travelled to Glasgow and laid a few bogeys to rest as they demolished an uncharacteristically weak Hillhead Jordanhill XV who currently prop up the National 2 table.
In taking another 5 points the statisticians were trying to figure out when Biggar had last claimed two back to back bonus point wins. Answers on a postcard please! The win lifts Biggar up just one place to 6th in the table with other results confirming the belief that this League is pretty much wide open with each side on their day capable of beating others. Guests at Hartree Mill this weekend are Whitecraigs and a win in this match could lift Biggar into the top 4 – but that is a week away and, as in politics, a week in league rugby is a long time.
Biggar made a couple of changes for this match. In the pack, Douglas Notman moved back from centre to No 8, and Ewan Sanderson started ahead of Duncan Withers in the back row. In the backs Andrew Jardine moved to stand off in place of his brother Aird who was unavailable. Gregor Stewart made his 1st XV start at centre, pairing up with Robbie Lavery who returned to the side after his trip to Oz. The side had to make an early change as Jardine sustained an arm injury, Stewart moving to stand off and replacement Craig McDonald coming on at centre. Jardine, it transpires, broke his thumb in an early contact, playing on bravely for some 10 minutes until he was forced off. This injury is a real blow for the youngster who is in the frame for Scotland U-18 selection. He faces between 4-6 weeks in plaster and the club wishes him well in what is hoped will be a speedy recovery.
Hill Jills opened strongly and only stout defence kept the Biggar line intact – in previous seasons the defence would have been breached but there is a steely determination borne of sound organisation which, though not infallible, is working.
Making their way upfield a sustained passage of play eventually spawned ball which Davy Reive flicked to Notman who burst through the cover defence for a good try, converted by Richard Peacock.
Hill Jills took advantage of a penalty to advance play forward. Hooker Harry Perston scoring after a couple of good phases of attacking play.
Much as had been the case last week with West that marked the end of Hill Jills scoring exploits, Biggar able to rack up the points at fairly regular intervals. Biggar's next forays into the hosts territory saw them take full advantage of an HJ lineout error and resultant close scrum, Reive on hand to dot down (Peacock converted) following a big shove in the tight. This was soon an area in which Biggar dominated, the HJ eight being shunted back and making things very difficult for scrum half Thomson.
The next Biggar attacks came to nought as two lineouts proved costly but normal service was resumed as Peacock converted a penalty to stretch Biggar's lead to 17-4 just after the half hour mark.
Ewan Stewart made a typically bulldozing run through the middle prior to the next try. Alistair Sinclair made good ground on the right before ball was fed left and with the HJ cover stretched, ball was fed wide to David Paterson who then burst round and through the remaining defenders to motor over. This came just before half time and took Biggar into a commanding 22-5 lead, one try short for the 4-try bonus point.
The half time chat emphasised the need to dominate proceedings and to quickly claim the 4th try.
That was achieved relatively quickly as, following a poor restart from HJ, Biggar forced the home side into their own half. Pressing forward Gregor Stewart took an interception and sprinted to the line from some 35 metres, neatly avoiding the cover defence on the way. Peacock converted for 27-5.
HJ's hopes were dealt a blow as their flanker Ryan Reilly was sent to the bin, Biggar taking advantage to add to their tally. Peacock crossed for a try after Reive pillaged a loose HJ lineout and Jamie Orr stormed into the HJ 22. And then just before HJ regained full strength, McDonald was freed for a run to the line, this after another breenge by Withers and Ewan Stewart. Peacock's conversion rebounded off the upright.
Peacock added another try, this after a strong run from Donald Voas and Stewart's wide pass. Notman then rounded off another passage of play which perhaps should have seen a try scored earlier, play now becoming a little less structured as 'white-line' fever struck the players. It's some time since Biggar have enjoyed being top dogs and this can go some way to explaining this lack of discipline.
The final try – number 9 - was credited to prop Voas who rounded a maul to run in from some 10 metres, HJ's fringe defence posted missing.
There was just enough time for Biggar to lose the services of Ewan Sanderson who had worked tirelessly throughout but who was on this occasion deemed to have obstructed the HJ breakout after a penalty award.
Five points and a general satisfaction but still not clinical enough for coach Davy Wilson who emphasised the need to maintain focus to the final whistle. Other sides will definitely not be as generous and the side must use such occasions as were presented on Saturday to do the basics properly. With one Jardine out and the other returning, selection will again prove to be testing and this without the injured Iain Chisholm, and the unavailable Lewis McLachlan and Stuart Hull.
Close on their heels of course are the members of the 2nd XV who enjoyed another big win defeating Heriots 3rds by 40-17. There are several of their number putting their hands up for 1st XV selection so there is all to play for. This latest 2nd XV result means that they are on a hat-trick of wins over Edinburgh opposition having previously disposed of Watsons and Edin Accies. The 2's face a tough trip to the Borders this Saturday when they tavel to take on Jedforest, easily the hardest task to date.
Richard Peacock, Alistair Sinclair, Robbie Lavery, Gregor Stewart, David Paterson, Andrew Jardine, David Reive (C), Donald Voas, Ewan Stewart, Dan O'Connell, Zander Lyon, Jamie Orr, Ewan Sanderson, Ross Jackson, Douglas Notman. Reps: Lewis McLinton, Duncan Withers, Calvin Henderson, Craig McDonald.
Story date: 03/10/2016
Biggar take 4 try bonus against West
Biggar 35 West of Scotland 10
In conditions hitherto alien this season – gale force blustery wind and wet - Biggar and West combined to produce an excellent match which held the sizeable crowds' attention to the end.
Both sides deserve great credit for their efforts with all contributing positively to the entertainment and while there were errors these were not perhaps as plentiful as one might have expected given the weather.
In the end Biggar deservedly gained the win with an all-important 4 try bonus point to boot. That gives them a 50% success rate and lifts them up to joint 6th in the table. Last season home form proved to be very different from away form and so it seems this season with Biggar winning comfortably at home against Kelso and West but clearly struggling on their visits to Peebles and Aberdeenshire. That is mirrored largely throughout the division although if Biggar are serious about challenging for honours then they must improve their away results.
Having said that this is still a team which is developing. Saturday's squad of 19 included no fewer than 11 who were aged 21 or under. Spare a thought for the elder statesmen, Davy Rieve and Dan O'Connell, both of whom put in great performances which belay their years!
Up front, Dan O'Connell started at prop, Calvin Henderson dropping to the bench and with Andrew Dunlop still injured there was a recall for Duncan Withers, he coming in at the expense of Alan Warnock. In the backs Douglas Notman took over at centre from the unavailable Stuart Hull. Steven Campbell took over from Grant Hamilton to join Andrew Orr and Gregor Stewart on the bench.
Facing the elements Biggar were soon tested in defence as West used their pack to take ball forward a couple of early driven lineouts sweeping play to the Biggar line. Biggar's line held firm in the face of this early onslaught and pressure was relieved following a poor transfer which saw Aird Jardine kick upfield.
Quickly back into the Biggar 22 West centre Mark Davies coughed up possession with the line almost at his mercy, Biggar's drop out restart charged down and gifting West another tilt at the Biggar line. A penalty by Davies opened the scoring.
Not to be outdone Biggar then took control of proceedings with the pack dominating with a series of the best 'pick and go's' which took play deep into the West half. This eventually spawned ball for Notman who beat the West defence to slide over for a try which Richard Peacock cleverly converted for a 7-3 lead.
Flight judgement was always likely to be difficult in the conditions and so it proved as both sides made errors under the high ball but it was Biggar who again took play to the visitors to ask questions of their defence. A forward pass to Ewan Stewart gave West some respite and a penalty allowed them to kick downfield where they took full advantage of another lineout drive to march Biggar over their line for a try credited to their No 8. Davies kicked for 10-7.
Quite remarkably given the ease with which they scored this try this was the last occasion West bothered the scoreboard, Biggar's pack largely dominating proceedings thereafter although credit to the backs all of whom also played their part when asked.
Every member of the pack had at least 5 carries to his name in this first half – a remarkable statistic – and given this Biggar might have expected to take a lead but a number of penalties which broke up play and inevitable errors meant that they had to be content with a Peacock penalty which tied the scores. This penalty was one too many for referee Lee fish who sent West flanker Fraser Smeaton to the bin for a 10 minute rest.
A breenge to the West line probably should have led to a try on the stroke of half time but the ball slipped from Andrew Jardines hands as he made for the line.
Both sides and the officials took the opportunity to escape the wet at half time. The teams returned to the pitch ready for action and Biggar were almost on the point of kicking off when they realised that the referee had not reappeared, proceedings delayed until he did so!
Biggar made one immediate change for this half, Henderson taking over at prop from O'Connell. A combination of the first half front row efforts and the introduction of Henderson wrought havoc with the west scrummage as Biggar opened strongly, driving West off their own put in on each scrum put in.
This gave skipper Davy Reive the opportunity to attack although the only reward was another Peacock penalty for 13-10. Just as the tight scrummage began to yield possession and cause problems for West, so did the lineout, where Jamie Orr, Zander Lyon and Euan Sanderson (and their lifters) began to disrupt and steel ball on the West throw. Hooker Ewan Stewart had another very productive afternoon, his throwing accurate and his driving play seeing him make good ground on many occasions.
With 15 minutes of the half gone Peacock kicked his 3rd penalty to give Biggar a 6 point lead. The pack were able to maintain their grip on the match, West, though returned to full strength, gaining precious little respite before Biggar won ball to re-establish their position in the West 22 via ball taken forward by hand or advanced via a kick.
With the 3rd quarter at its end West's Angus Thomson (the 4th player in as many weeks to have begun his career at Biggar but who is now playing for the opposition) became the second West player to incur the displeasure of referee Fish and earn a yellow. Biggar took full advantage of their extra man by calling a scrum and marching the visitors back over their line for a try credited to No 8 Ross Jackson. Peacock added the conversion before being replaced by Gregor Stewart. Campbell also came on at this time for Withers who had put in a huge shift.
On the half hour mark another series of scrums which saw West in all sorts of trouble ended with referee Fish awarding Biggar a penalty try which Andrew Jardine converted for 30-10.
Andrew Orr replaced Ewan Stewart but the hooker merely shifted into the back row to give Jackson a break, the youngster another who had carried ball all day.
Biggar maintained their stranglehold on the match and continued to make things very difficult for the visitors, the 4th try credited to Campbell who controlled ball well at the base of a 5metre scrum before plunging over for the try. Jardine was just off target with the conversion.
Altogether an excellent performance from the Biggar squad and one in which they controlled things as well as they have for several seasons. West were given no respite as Biggar's defence, aside from the first half line drive, held firm and their attack pulverised the West defence.
Man of the match for Biggar went to Donald Voas for his work in the tight and his willingness to carry ball in the loose while the same award for West went to Angus Thomson who very typically and as was expected, worked tirelessly throughout.
Other results were fairly true to form save the GHK result which saw the Glasgow side defeat Aberdeenshire who Biggar had found to be a very complete outfit. Next up for Biggar is a trip to Glasgow and Hillhead Jordanhill who in the past have often been a real bogey side. The touchline support ion a bleak September day was magnificent and very much appreciated by all the squad. It would be great to see you all again on Saturday at Hughenden.
Richard Peacock, Alistair Sinclair, Andrew Jardine, Douglas Notman, David Paterson, Aird Jardine, David Reive (C), Donald Voas, Ewan Stewart, Dan O'Connell, Zander Lyon, Jamie Orr, Duncan Withers, Ewan Sanderson, Ross Jackson. Reps: Andrew Orr, Calvin Henderson, Steven Campbell, Gregor Stewart.
The 2nd XV travelled to Haddington to take on the East Lothian club's 2nd XV. Struggling for numbers the Haddington squad had previously conceded at least one match the fact that they had a home match clearly helping the situation for Biggar's appearance.
In the end Haddington provided limited opposition as the Biggar lads had a bit of a field day running in some 12 tries, all of which were converted by Craig McDonald.
Story date: 26/09/2016
Biggar hit back in Aberdeen after sluggish start
Aberdeenshire 51 Biggar 27
There was real drama in Aberdeen on Saturday when Biggar and their hosts Aberdeenshire put on some great entertainment in a match which featured 10 tries. Aberdeenshire claimed the spoils with their 5 league points while Biggar claimed a 4 try bonus despite the loss.
Last season Biggar's away form was disappointing with the visit north to Woodside in January a case in point with points gifted early on and the issue beyond recall by half time. Final score 45-5. That the opening salvos on Saturday suggested a similar scenario was all the more disappointing then, Biggar on this occasion gifting their hosts no fewer than 25 points in the first quarter. The spirit of the 2016/17 squad is very different from that of 2015/16 however and while the end of the half saw Biggar still their three good tries suggested that the result was far from a foregone conclusion.
This trip was always likely to be one of the most difficult away matches, not only because of the distance involved but also because 'Shire finished in 4th spot at the end of last season's league campaign. They were a well organised XV last season and there was nothing to suggest that they would be anything less this time around, their 80+ point win the previous week against PL seemingly confirming these thoughts.
Coach Gary Mercer's preparations were made trickier after injury ruled out the complete back row which faced Kelso (Doug Notman - dead leg, Andy Dunlop - back strain and Duncan Withers - ankle) while Jamie Orr struggled midweek with food poisoning. Ewan Stewart was available after injury however and Dan O'Connell, though not 100% fit, declared himself available to travel. In the end the back row fielded was Ewan Sanderson, Alan Warnock and Ross Jackson, a selection which could easily be first choice in any event. Orr was also able to travel.
Proceedings began at a cracking pace and one which barely relented the whole match. Stuart Hull took an interception which almost saw him free to the line, before he was hauled down by the cover defence. Biggar then conspired to gift their hosts two early tries as the defence was found wanting under the high ball. The sun was the only possible mitigating excuse but as it was, 'Shire stand off Carne Green took full advantage of the first and Michael McKeand the second (he another who began his rugby career at Hartree Mill). Green kicked one conversion and then added two penalties before the third 'Shire score, this going to Nathan Clough although there was more than a hint of a forward pass in the final transfer. 25-0 down.
In what was virtually their first attacking opportunity David Paterson was set free but a 'Shire turnover relieved the pressure albeit for only a short time as an Aird Jardine grubber saw the 'Shire defence scramble back to concede a drop out.
The restart saw a sustained passage of play involving some good phases which stretched the 'Shire defence and which culminated in stand off Andrew Jardine taking Richard Peacock's pass for a sprint to the line. Peacock was wide of the target but the 'duck' was broken and Biggar were on the scoreboard. Barely two minutes later and on the half hour mark a Hull break saw ball transferred to Aird Jardine who kicked cleverly to winger Paterson who scampered across for try number two – Peacock's conversion added the extras and took the score to 25-12. Game on!
In reply 'Shire scored arguably the best try as some excellent angles and well-timed passes saw winger Luke Taylor round the defence for a try expertly converted from wide out by Green. Not to be outdone and just before half time, Peacock took Andy Jardine's pass to break clear for a try which he converted for 32-19 and the break.
25 points in 20 minutes to 'Shire, then a further 26 points shared by the sides in the second quarter! What would the second half bring?
With Peacock forced off with a dodgy stomach Gregor Stewart made his 1st XV league debut, the opening exchanges seeing Andrew Jardine kick a penalty for Biggar to put them just two scores adrift at 32-22.
In typical fashion 'Shire replied with a well worked try for their skipper Greg Ryan (he was later awarded the man-of-the-match for 'Shire, Ewan Sanderson getting the nod for Biggar). Green typically added the conversion.
Play continued to flow back and forth, Biggar gaining yardage only to lose possession – often too easily, with this likely to be a focus for this week's training. There were some promising moves but they came to nought and to further punish these errors 'Shire scored their 5th try from a neat attack down the blindside from a scrum some 5 metres out, Brad Fraser the scorer. Green struck his only poor kick of the afternoon but Biggar trailed 44-22.
The game then entered an even more frantic phase as 'Shire began to test referee Andrew Peterson's patience as they frequently crept offside. Indeed the Dollar whistler awarded a string of penalties against 'Shire, these culminating eventually in yellow cards for two of their number; try scorers Clough and Fraser dispatched for the requisite 10 minutes with around a 5 minute overlap. In the midst of this 'Shire also lost two players to injury with one stoppage for a cut lasting some 10 minutes. Best wishes to both injured parties.
The stoppage gave 'Shire some respite but Biggar took up from where they left off, several attacks mounted, all deserving of scores. As it was, a combination of some stout defence and some costly errors prevented Biggar from adding to their tally. 'Shire were let off the hook in this period with on one occasion, a line out drive seeing the pack drive over the line but drop the ball some 3 metres out. Another attack saw Alistair Sinclair opt to kick ahead, the winger just failing to beat the cover defence to the line.
In the end it was scrum half Davy Reive who broke the deadlock with just 8 minutes remaining. 44-27. Andy Jardine was unable to add the conversion but there was still just about enough time to sneak a losing bonus or sneak the win.
Throwing caution to the wind Biggar tried running the ball from wherever and while they again made inroads and won penalties they were unable to cross the line, 'Shire having the final word with a try and conversion to wrap things up at 51-27.
Players and spectators alike were left with minds and bodies wrecked! What a contest!
Biggar will doubtless learn from this defeat. They must work to begin matches fully focused as they cannot afford to play catch up from the start. A calm head is required in such circumstances and although there was much good individual effort Biggar were unable to finish as clinically as they would have wished. There is absolutely no doubting the team spirit however as 'Shire were forced to cling on for their win. There were some good performances from all positions with special credit to the 5 teenagers who played – Ross Jackson, Andrew Orr, Andy Jardine, Gregor Stewart and Grant Hamilton, please take a bow. The whole squad is worthy of congratulation however and thanks to 'Shire for contributing positively to the match. On a cracking day for rugby weather-wise, another positive was the turnout of support for Biggar – excellent to see and hear! The return fixture in January is eagerly awaited.
Next up is West who will again feature players whose rugby origins were in Biggar!
Richard Peacock, Alistair Sinclair, Andrew Jardine, Stuart Hull, David Paterson, Aird Jardine, David Reive, Donald Voas, Ewan Stewart, Calvin Henderson, Zander Lyon, Jamie Orr, Alan Warnock (C), Ewan Sanderson, Ross Jackson. Reps: Andrew Orr, Dan O'Connell, Grant Hamilton, Gregor Stewart.
The 2nd XV entertained Edin Accies 3rds for their league match although the Edinburgh side was closer to a VII than a XV.
Biggar supplied players and a 14-a-side training match ensued, Biggar awarded the points as the visitors failed to provide a full XV. Indications are that Haddington may well also struggle for numbers this coming weekend and so the search is already on to seek an alternative opposition should it be required. It is vital that the momentum which is quickly developing amongst the senior squad is maintained and regular games are integral to this.
Story date: 19/09/2016
Biggar defeat Kelso and claim 3 from 3
Biggar 24 Kelso 19
'One swallow does not a summer make..' But….?
Whether this result was down to an over-confident Kelso XV caught napping, a rejuvenated Biggar XV getting lucky, the effect of the striking new strips (cutting edge meets tradition), a home game in front of a decent crowd or even just simply a side playing to its strengths – or more likely a combination of all of these – will never be known. But make no mistake, this was a cracking match and, from a Biggar point of view at least, a cracking result.
To make things even better, this result was the 3rd win recorded by a Biggar side on Saturday, the Colts having set the scene with a scrappy but successful performance over GHA and the 2nds clinching a deserved win over Watsons. It's not often you get a 3 from 3 so it's all the more enjoyable when it happens!
Coach Gary Mercer was in Bath watching his son Zach make his Premiership debut against Newcastle, somewhat ironic given Scott Lawson's Biggar/Newcastle connections. That game saw the team from the south record a resounding win and while Biggar's was considerably less emphatic it was every bit as important. The win came on the back of a somewhat lack-lustre performance at Peebles but this time round the squad raised it's game tenfold to consistently pressurise the visitors and to ensure that if, and when, they got the ball, they had to work to keep it, never mind make advances towards the Biggar try line.
Davy Wilson was in charge therefore and he had the happy task of reporting the win to Mercer who will have the video to enjoy.
Without last week's centres Robbie Lavery and Lewis McLachlan, the backs showed a new centre pairing with Stuart Hull making a timely return to action after injury, alongside teenager Andrew Jardine who moved out from stand off. This berth was claimed by brother Aird with Davy Reive also returning after injury. Up front Dan O'Connell was forced out with a calf injury, Calvin Henderson and Donald Voas both playing the full 80 minutes and showing up well throughout. At lock Zander Lyon took over from Andrew Peacock who was initially selected for the 2nds but then drafted onto the bench after O'Connell's withdrawl. Andrew Dunlop returned to action at the expense of the unlucky Ewan Sanderson.
The new black strips were voted an immediate hit by all and this may have had an impact on the squad as they appeared 'bigger' in black.
Biggar enjoyed the lion's share of both possession and territory in the first half, Kelso keeping the
scoreboard ticking over as Phil Hume struck 3 penalties in reply to Biggar's first half try from Stuart Hull. On a day when superlatives were flying it would be easy to get carried away but this try, involving a 60 second burst of play and seeing the whole team contribute must be one of the best scored by Biggar for a good number of years. It began with a good lineout take from Jamie Orr and then featured 8 excellent phases with ball shipped right then left and finally right again with Douglas Notman feeding Hull for the line. Richard peacock struck the conversion sweetly for 7-3, Hume having kicked his first penalty after just 1 minute.
A series of penalties threatened to spoil all the good work undertaken by the Biggar XV. In their desire to compete they fell foul of the referee, this giving the Border side the chance to either relieve pressure or rack up points.
On the half hour mark Andrew Dunlop was shown a yellow card and with Kelso deep in Biggar's 22 it looked as though Biggar might slip behind. They probably should have as Kelso executed a neat blindside move which culminated with their winger crossing the line. The final pass was adjudged forward however and Biggar escaped.
For their part Biggar had two penalty chances of their own, Peacock seeing the first rebound off the upright and the second slip to the left. Crucially, Dunlop returned after the break with Biggar having kept the visitors out and with the 9-7 score standing.
Biggar made just one change at the break, teenager Ross Jackson coming on at flank forward for Notman.
Now playing towards the clubhouse Biggar needed to get an early score to regain the lead and to exert greater pressure on the Border XV. This proved too difficult to do however, Kelso coming out in the second half with all guns blazing and turning the tables on Biggar who had a lucky escape when Hull managed to do enough to hustle the chasing Kelso runner and to clear the danger following a clever through kick.
Another Peacock penalty slipped wide but Biggar retained their position as Kelso's drop goal restart was partially charged down. Biggar's line speed in offensive/defence meant that Kelso were forced to act quickly and with tackles coming in low and hard Kelso's ability to 'exit' their 22 was sorely tested. Deep in their 22, and with the third quarter coming to a close, the Kelso defence faltered and Hull was able to take full advantage to latch onto a loose offload to catch and dive for his second score.
Peacock added the conversion but this 5 point lead at 14-9 was short lived as Hume kicked a conversion to a try from Jack Chambers who was at the end of a well-controlled line drive from the Kelso pack. Indeed had they managed to use this tactic more often the final score might have been a little different. 16-14 to Kelso.
In see-saw fashion however, and with around 10 minutes left, Biggar retook the lead via another Peacock penalty and then increased that lead to 24-16 as winger David Paterson rounded off an excellent move instigated by Reive but carried on by hooker Ewan Stewart whose timely offload was gratefully taken by the winger.
Eight points ahead meant that Kelso had to score twice to overtake Biigar and as forays to the Biggar line had been infrequent it looked as though Biggar might gain the win. Given the relative ease with which they had scored their second half try from the line drive, a last minute penalty and option of the kick to the corner – with Biggar reduced to 14 again following a yellow card to Orr for a tip tackle - might have provided a second try. Instead, and mindful of the losing bonus, Hume was called up to kick and he duly slotted the penalty for 24-19. Cue the final whistle and much celebration.
Home wins are really important and Biggar would have been languishing at the foot of the table without the 4 points gained on Saturday. As it is they retain their 7th placed spot, Kelso ahead by virtue of their 4 try bonus last week and their losing bonus gained at Hartree Mill.
Hooker Ewan Stewart was later rewarded as being Biggar's man of the match and this was well-deserved after a battling performance which involved some solid defence and lineout accuracy but there were a pile of candidates who could have taken this honour. The back row of Duncan Withers Dunlop and Notman put in typically abrasive performances, the whole pack carried and defended
well, the Jardine brothers who kept things moving sweetly in midfield, the double try scorer Hull…..and so it goes on. All members of the squad can take great pride in their performance. Ian Wallace was selected as Kelso's man of the match.
This is of course just the beginning and the side now face what could be their toughest match of the season when they travel to take on Aberdeenshire this weekend. The Granite City side recorded a whopping 80-26 win over Preston Lodge on Saturday. This on the back of a 40+ win over Kirkcaldy the previous week. Interestingly, Biggar will face another ex-Biggar player in the shape of Michael McKeand on Saturday as he now plays for 'Shire, while Andrew Muir featured in Peebles colours and Colin Arthur played for Kelso on Saturday!
It's a long trip north but the side appreciate the support the Biggar crowd provides. If you can get there you would give the boys a big lift.
Biggar 2nds (surely one of the strongest 2nd XV's Biggar have had for a number of years and featuring the return of ex-1st XV Grant Owens), recorded a fantastic and confidence boosting win over Edinburgh opponents Watsons 3rds on Saturday. Watsons reputedly have a 45 man 1st XV squad and so they have great strength in depth but their 3rd XV was shown up as Biggar put in a great shift for the win. Man of the match was Gregor Stewart with Watsons Adam Watt earning the honours for the visitors.
Bear in mind that there are at least 5 other players who could come into contention for places at senior level. Competition for places is on across the board therefore with all likely to benefit from this competition. It is some time away yet but there could well be an opportunity soon for a 3rd XV which would be a massive step forward for the club.
The 2nds have a second home game when they entertain another Edinburgh club, (Edinburgh Accies) who will also bring their 3rd XV as East Reserve League 1 opponents.
Story date: 13/09/2016
Biggar collect a losing bonus in League opener
Peebles 24 Biggar 20
Having outscored Biggar by 3 tries to 1 Peebles felt that they deserved to win this opening league match. From a Biggar point of view however this was one which Biggar felt they lost. There were chances a-plenty but where Peebles capitalised on their incursions into Biggar territory Biggar failed to do so when in the Peebles 22.
Captain Andrew Dunlop was forced out of the starting XV after picking up a dead leg at training on Thursday, his replacement being Ewan Sanderson whom was making a return after a two week absence. In the pack Andrew Peacock was preferred to Zander Lyon in the second row while injury to Iain Chisholm against Marr saw Colt Andrew Jardine make his 1st XV debut at just 17. David Paterson was fielded on the wing to the exclusion of Craig McDonald with Richard Peacock recovered after a knee twist last week to retain his place at fullback. There was another debutant on the bench as Lewis McLinton provided front row cover.
Biggar conceded an early score as Peebles exploited a gap in Biggar's defence which saw Cameron Pye scorch through under the posts for a great score converted by Greg Raeburn. The ease with which this try was scored was a wake up call for Biggar and while they responded well and set up camp for the next 10 minutes in the Peebles 22 they could not turn pressure into points. A series of penalties conceded by Peebles offered points but kicks at goal were eschewed for kicks to touch and lineouts but the initial drives and pick and go's were defended by Peebles.
A breakout by the home side took play back into the Biggar 22 where a penalty for offside saw Rayburn kick successfully for 10-0.
The restart saw Peebles immediately under pressure as a clearance was charged down. A penalty quickly taken by David McArthur took play to the Peebles line and another penalty award. This time a knock on in the lineout allowed Peebles to escape.
Play up to the half hour mark saw both sides struggle to gain any consistent attacking opportunities. Dan O'Connell was replaced by Calvin Henderson and McArthur gave way to Aird Jardine. The half back partnership of brothers Aird and Andrew was the first time the two have ever played together!
This coincided with Biggar's first score, Richard Peacock kicking for 10-3. The same player took advantage of further penalty chances to claw back the deficit at 10-6 then 10-9. It seemed surprising that given the high penalty count referee David Muir did not see fit to sin-bin a Peebles player.
The last kick of the half saw Peacock's 4th penalty sneak to the right of the posts.
Biggar engineered the perfect start to the second half as an effective lineout yielded possession and led to the pack hitting up to the Peebles line. Fast ball was then shipped right with Douglas Notman and Sanderson combining well before the latter’s' looping pass was taken by winger Alistair Sinclair who made and won the race to the corner. Peacock was unable to land the conversion but Biggar were in the lead at 14-10.
As is so often the case the penalty count now swung away from Peebles as Biggar fell foul of referee Muir's decisions. This culminated after some 15 minutes of the half with a yellow card and sin-binning of Notman for persistent infringements. A man to the good Peebles quickly took advantage of their numerical superiority hooker Blair Laurie set free on the right flank for a try in the corner. Rayburn struck the conversion perfectly to regain the lead at 17-14.
McClinton replaced Andrew Orr at No2 for Biggar.
Peebles probably should have scored their 3rd try shortly after this but a forward pass brought the attack to an end. A couple of penalties and a free kick to Biggar gave Peacock the chance to tie the scores at 17-17.
Back into Biggar's 22 and Peebles' pack rounded off a driving phase with a try for William Brown, Raeburn adding the conversion to open up a 7 point lead, this almost as quickly reduced again to 4 as Peacock kicked his 5th penalty.
A promising passage of play and some much better pace and variety in attack gave Biggar some real hope but again Peebles did enough to nullify these efforts. Biggar also failed to stretch the Peebles defence as they seemed reluctant to move the ball wide, preferring instead to cut back into the cover defence. With less than 20 minutes remaining however there was still time to get the score to sneak the win.
Peebles then brought on ex-Biggar lad Andrew Muir. His involvement lasted barely 2 minutes however as he fell foul of referee Muir who showed him a yellow card as following a team warning, he became the 'next' Peebles player to transgress. There was, as one would expect, a good deal of good-natured banter at his brief appearance!
Rohan McIver was the next to be sent to the bin, this reducing Peebles to just 13. Devoid of front row cover however, this gave Peebles some respite as scrums were then uncontested. This guaranteed them possession at a time when Biggar's scrum was gaining in ascendancy. Despite a couple more chances when lineout possession failed to provide the possession to attack that Biggar so desperately craved, time ran out and Peebles gained their win. Consolation for Biggar came in the shape of the losing bonus but 4 points would have been very much more preferable.
Biggar's coaching team were left frustrated at their sides failure to cross the line but it is still early in the campaign with a whole lot of rugby to be played. First up is the visit of Kelso, who were relegated last year alongside Peebles. It is rumoured that they have recruited strongly so they will be a tough nut to crack.
Praise for the effort from the Biggar squad, all of whom worked hard. Points are what really count however and Biggar must be able to convert the pressure into points. Man of the match went to Biggar's stand off Andrew Jardine who performed with confidence and style. At 17 he was of course too young to sink the 'prize' of a pint of beer, deputy Jamie Orr on hand to win the race.
Vice President and father, Aird Jardine, was as proud as punch at his sons' performance. Their involvement and that of the Peacock brothers means Biggar had two sets of brothers in the side. It will be some time however before a repeat of the days when there were as many as three sets of brothers playing at the one time – Flemings, Harveys and Youngs take a bow!
Once again, but hopefully the last time for many weeks, the 2nds were left twiddling their thumbs without a fixture. They now face a tough ask as they kick of their league programme with a home match against Watsons 3rds with little or no match practice. Training for all on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Story date: 06/09/2016
Biggar lose Cup tie
Biggar 10 Marr 50
Under pressure from the outset Biggar did really well to repel the first Marr salvo with a great defensive effort. An early penalty saw Biggar first of all steal lineout ball, Jamie Orr putting in a clearing punt with a strike which would have pleased any back on the pitch. Marr struggled to clear the ball and Zander Lyon managed to charge down the attempted clearance. David McArthur fed the ball left and Craig McDonald rounded the defence for a great opening score, converted by Richard Peacock.
Frustratingly the 2nds failed to get a match, this youthful group champing at the bit to get onto the field of play.
Story date: 30/08/2016
Biggar win through against Penrith.
Biggar 24 Penrith 7
Playing away from the clubhouse Biggar were given the advantage afforded by the east wind, a rare occurrence in itself but one which gave some assistance to defence and clearance kicks.
This was a sizeable step up from the Dumfries match and will help prepare the side for the first real competitive match which is this Saturday when Marr are visitors in the BT Cup. Marr were in last season's Premiership promotion play-offs and will offer another set of problems for Biggar prior of course to the BT League programme when Peebles are opponents (3rd Sept).
The 2nds were down in their match but as suggested there is a very promising side in the making.
Story date: 22/08/2016
Biggar get the better of Dumfries
Biggar 35 Dumfries 26
Story date: 17/08/2016
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Story date: 25/08/2011
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