Hartreemill, Biggar, ML12 6JJ

Biggar are more than a match for Falkirk

Biggar 17 Falkirk 13
For the third time this season a team which has occupied second top spot in the League returned home with their tail between their legs after tasting defeat at Biggar. Falkirk joined both Cartha and Aberdeenshire as teams who, on paper were favourites, but who were beaten by a Biggar side which again proved doggedly determined throughout. Club Sponsors Halls of Scotland were also Match Sponsors for this match and this latest result brings up a hat-trick of wins for the firm as their two previous Match sponsorships ended with Biggar wins. This fact provoked suggestions that the firm should sponsor many more matches in a season, including away matches(!) as away wins have been few and far between! 


Biggar will not trouble the ‘top point scorers’ table as they struggle to convert their pressure into points but the league points gained on each of these games is reward enough and certainly ensures a post-match buzz in the Hartree Mill clubhouse. This latest result takes the club into 7th spot on 22 points, still way below the tally they would have preferred at this stage but an improvement on last week’s 9th place nonetheless.


Biggar fielded an unchanged XV from that which opened against Hillhead Jordanhill, this surely a factor in their improved play. After another somewhat lack lustre performance the previous week Biggar came out all guns blazing to score a first minute try which give them the lead – a lead they would never surrender.


Robbie Lavery was the try scorer, the centre rounding off a fantastic move which began with a kick out of defence from winger Alisdair Sinclair. The winger regained possession after the Falkirk defence was slow to respond and with Andrew Cairns in support the ball was shipped left via Ewan Sanderson, Karetai Williams and Aird Jardine. The winger cut a nice angle towards the posts before he popped the ball to Lavery who ran in unopposed for a cracking try – one of the best Biggar has scored this season and that after an equally good try last week, coincidentally also by Lavery. Francois Nel converted and Biggar were 7-0 up.


Falkirk were never going to lie down as befits a side in contention for promotion but their handling on Saturday in difficult conditions proved to be their undoing as they spilled possession in all areas and frequently throughout the match. Of course they were put under pressure by Biggar who now had their tails up and who tackled consistently well for the majority of the 80 minutes.


The Biggar pack were expected to be up against things as Falkirk were reported to be a big, heavy outfit but there was little between the sides. Indeed Falkirk’s early tactic of driven lineouts came to little as Biggar defended well and then turned the tables on their visitors with some stirring plays and carries: Zander Lyon, Williams, Luis Falefa and Sanderson all in the van. Add to that the solid scrummaging and spoiling play of Dan O’Connell, the ferocious defence and work rate of Ewan Stewart and Alan Warnock and the lineout play of Cairns and this was a pack on the day which could have matched most. 


Scotland international Finn Russell is a Falkirk man and the Russell name is carried by brother Harry who operates as scrum half. He is a nippy player with lots of neat off-loads and it was his tap penalty which helped push Biggar back into their 22 when another penalty award was converted by stand-off Brims.


Biggar suffered badly last week with a 2-1 penalty count against them and while it was not just as bad this time round, Biggar were penalised a lot by referee Neil Muir. If Biggar could cut out half of these penalties then things would be much improved. They need to trust their defence and let their opponents play the ball – the temptation can often be to hold on/reach in/creep up but ground and territory both of which are hard won is too easily lost.


Despite these penalties Biggar should have added to their tally with only some desperate scrambled defence from Falkirk saving their day. On one occasion a neat pick and go from Nel put him clear into space and with Williams in support it looked as though Biggar would make the line but after ball was retained at the subsequent maul a hand knocked the ball from Falefa’s grasp as he drove forward. Minutes later and a great break by Lavery looked to have split the Falkirk defence again but on this occasion Falkirk made a half interception to halt play, an accidental off-side between Williams and Reive giving the Falkirk side an escape.


The second Biggar try came from a Falkirk attack which saw ball moved right into the Biggar 22. A series of good driving plays from Brims, Skinner and McCulloch sucked in Biggar’s defence and with what might have been an overlap a wide pass from Brims was well read by Richard Peacock who took off upfield. With some 90 metres to go it looked as though he might get home but Falkirk winger Dempsey tracked back well to tackle the Biggar man some 15 metres short. As he fell Peacock popped the ball up to supporting centre Graham Jamieson who was able to score despite the attentions of Hamilton and McGuire. Nel’s conversion put Biggar ahead by 14-3.


The Achilles heel at restart time almost gave Falkirk a quick riposte from a penalty but Brims kick fell short. Able to maintain their field position via another penalty Falkirk did eventually cross the line. Dempsey made good yards into the Biggar 22 before Russell fed Brims. The stand-off made a bee line for the gap between Biggar props O’Connell and Falefa and a change of pace took him through to breech the Biggar line for a try which he then converted.


The final scoring opportunity fell to Nel who took a pit at a long range penalty. The ball fell short and referee Muir brought the half to an end.


Biggar were now playing with the breeze but they were fortunate not to lose an early try when Brims’ pass to McGuire fell short. The winger fly-hacked ahead and although he won the race to the touchdown he was adjudged to have knocked the ball on in his attempt to score. Not happy at this decision he conceded a penalty for back chat to allow Biggar the chance to kick clear.


Once again a number of penalties gave Falkirk more than they were due and eventually Brims added another 3 points to reduce Biggar to a one point lead at 14-13. This was now anyone’s game and the match see-sawed from end to end although on balance Biggar retained greater control.


The pack drove with real commitment and might have been rewarded with a try as Williams capitalised on errors from Falkirk fullback Robertson who, although always looking dangerous with ball in hand, coughed up possession on several occasions.


Falefa made as many carries as he has in any game to date and he retained possession well at the contact point while Nel was another who, as a stand-off, relished the physical contact and always took play forward. Jamie Orr had replaced Cairns at half time but the veteran lock returned after Lyon was forced from the fray with what appeared to be a nasty shoulder injury.


Sinclair was unable to take Lavery’s inside pass as the ball was spread wide while minutes later the same player made the most of quick feet to sprint down the touchline. With the line in his sights the last ditch tackle by Dempsey knocked the ball from his grasp as he prepared to score.


Biggar maintained their stranglehold on proceedings as Jamieson, Sanderson and Henderson (who had replaced Falefa) continued to probe the Falkirk defence. This paid off and Biggar were rewarded with a penalty which Nel converted to put Biggar ahead at 17-13 – still however just one score between the teams.


In the dying minutes Biggar ceded control somewhat and for the first time in the half Falkirk began to dictate events. A good run by Robertson took play deep into the Biggar 22. This attack came to nought and then the same player then made a crucial knock-on after Biggar kicked clear.


Returning to Biggar’s 22 Falkirk flung everything into the last few minutes and it became ever more tense. Hamilton, McCulloch and Brims all made probing runs but finally and with play in Biggar’s 22, Lavery engineered a vital turnover and Reive, having ascertained that time was indeed up, thrashed the ball out of play to huge cheers from the Biggar support.
This was a truly wonderful result and one which few would have expected. Falkirk had described the win over Aberdeenshire as a ‘coupon buster’ but this was surely its’ equal as Biggar largely dominated proceedings. The Falkirk camp were at a loss to explain their charges performance as this was the same XV which had the previous week run in no fewer than 9 tries against Ardrossan Accies. Coincidentally, Biggar travel west to take on the Ayrshire town this Saturday on what promises to be a cracker. The Ardrossan side have also been unable to string a series of performances together and they are on equal points (22) with Biggar so a win for either side would take them a little further away from the relegations spots in what is – aside from Hamilton who are as yet unbeaten – a tight league.
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Biggar
R. Peacock, A. Jardine, G. Jamieson, R. Lavery, A. Sinclair, F. Nel, D. Reive, D. O’Connell, E. Stewart, L. Falefa, A. Cairns, Z. Lyon, E. Sanderson, A. Warnock, K. Williams. Reps A. Orr, C. Henderson, J. Orr, J. Warnock.

The weather in the lead up to this match was monsoon-like and on Friday night with standing water covering the top corner of the pitch between the 1st and 2nd XV pitches the chances of play were (in the view of the President) slim to say the least. Grounds Convenor Hugh Barr and Facilities Convenor Nigel Pacey were, on the other hand, very confident and after another few hours creating drainage run-offs and a ‘dryish’ night, the pitch was eminently playable come Saturday morning. With just the two pitches available at Hartree Mill because of the pitch development and in view of the overnight forecast it was however decided that the Youth matches on Sunday would be cancelled. This proved to be the correct decision as the rain created further deep pools on the 2nd XV pitch. This was regrettable but unavoidable given the conditions.


Saturdays match was preceded by a minutes silence in respect of the awful events in Paris. Poor weather, indifferent results and fund-raising challenges are put into sharp perspective and the thoughts of all at Biggar are with those who have lost loved ones.


The 2nd XV travelled to the Borders and ended up beaten by Selkirk by 24-0. The side have been under the watchful eye of Neil Wolfendene but the lock has decided that he is no longer able to commit the time required. Doug Fleming has offered to step into Neil’s shoes and will take over the reigns as 2nd XV coach. He does need assistance however and anyone who feels they are able to help – on Saturdays or midweek – is asked to get in touch with him asap. The side is young but has great potential.


Biggar’s record win at Kirkcaldy

Kirkcaldy 19 Biggar 42
All sorts of ‘firsts’ were recorded this week as Biggar took maximum points from their Friday evening trip to Fife to play Kirkcaldy in National 2.


This was the first time Biggar have scored over 40 points against Kirkcaldy, the first time they have scored over 40 points in consecutive matches for many years and the first ‘three in a row’ for three seasons. In addition while it has been done before it some time since one player – in this case Richard Peacock – scored 4 tries in one match, a feat which was as thrilling to witness as a spectator as it must have been for the player himself.


A great result then and another which gives further proof to the theory that this side is continuing to gel as a team with the young players slowly gaining in the confidence which comes from playing good rugby, scoring tries and winning.


There is no doubt that this is early days yet and that the 9th place Biggar occupy is still perilously close to the two relegation spots, but there is undoubted promise borne from these recent displays and which augurs well for the coming weeks.


Coach Gavin Blackburn made two enforced changes for this match from the side that defeated Whitecraigs the previous week. Both of these were in the backs where Graham Jamieson started at centre for the injured Douglas Voas and Aird Jardine took over at scrum half for the suspended Davy Reive. Their contribution to the win was hugely significant; Jamieson’s try from his own half a signal of what he is clearly capable of as he knocked down, stepped and ran past numerous defenders on his way to the line while the collective, sharp intake of breath issuing from the Biggar support when Jardine was hauled down and apparently injured just short of the line after a fantastic burst was clearly indicative of how valuable this teenager has become to the side.


Happily Jardine was able to continue, the damage adjudged to be muscle tear while Jamison’s try was this was just one side to his game as he continues to develop with the assistance of both Robbie Lavery and Francois Nel.


Biggar had the best of starts as Peacock ran in his first try within the first minute, this a great piece of awareness and opportunism. Following a good piece of recovery work from Douglas Notman and as play was advanced by Craig McDonald, Peacock was set free for the line with only the home fullback to beat. Opting to kick and chase the Biggar man dived from long range, landing under the retreating Kirkcaldy defender to claim the touchdown. Nel added the conversion for 7-0.


Biggar maintained their territorial advantage with some excellent line breaks from Nel and Lavery with Notman and Jamieson also in the van, this keeping Kirkcaldy employed in defensive duties. The Biggar pack also kept the pressure up, their scrummage play making things really difficult for the host side as they shoved them off the ball and forced them onto the back foot.


A Biggar penalty from Nel after 18 minutes saw Biggar again get the rub of the green which has so often eluded them in recent seasons. The ball, though well struck, rebounded off the upright and as the hosts sought to clear, Biggar managed the charge down catching a Kirkcaldy man offside in the process. Referee John Shaw an –ex-pro player who handled the match really well throughout - won no friends in the Kirkcaldy camp with this decision which gave Biggar another penalty. A quick tap and thrust from Jardine, followed by a massive looping pass from Nel, found winger McDonald who crashed over at the corner for try number 2. Nel obliged from far out to make it 14-7.


Not surprisingly Kirkcaldy came back into the match with their pack taking full control from a penalty kick which took play to close to the Biggar line. With the lineout won it was a relatively and ominously simple forward drive which led to a try for back row Ronnie Brown. Stand off Finlay smith added the conversion.


Peacock grabbed his second try shortly after this, the fullback benefitting from the combination provided by Nel and McDonald before the latter created the space required with a well-timed pass for the try. Nel converted but was off target with a penalty, as was Kirkcaldy’s Smith following a Biggar offside.


Biggar squandered a couple of chances in this half as passes went stray and a kicking option was preferred to an outside pass while on another occasion a wonderfully balanced, sniping run from Jardine took the scrum half to within a couple of metres of the line before he was brought down short by the cover defence in the tackle previously described. Half time then and things finely balance at 21-7.


There was no wind and little advantage available to either side but Biggar took the match by the throat after an early wobble which gave Kirkcaldy space and numbers to run in for a try which took them to 21-12.
Just 11 minutes into the half and Jamieson scored a great solo try from half way, this Biggar’s 4th try and therefore bonus point score. Nel converted for 28-12. Biggar maintained their territorial advantage as they began to take greater control of the match. There were positive runs from Nel and Jamieson and the Fife side began to tire as their pack were kept under pressure. There was some consternation within the Biggar camp when host scrum half Callum Parsons cleverly tapped the ball out of Jardine’s hands and into the scrum on the Biggar put in (unseen by referee Shaw) and this created the space for Kirkcaldy to mount a rare attack. Their winger Owen Bonner ran well for the try, which, when converted by Smith, gave them a glimmer of hope at 35-19.


Both Andrew Peacock and Ewan Stewart led the riposte and Biggar came back via a very good kick and chase form McDonald before Lavery made an excellent turnover. This play saw McDonald combine well again, this time with Peacock, the fullback cantering home for his 4th score. Nel dutifully added the conversion.


There had been some apprehension about this match as Beveridge Park has never been an easy place to pick up points, the programme notes confirming that Biggar had only won twice from their ten previous visits. This then, was a great and very welcome result and one which lifts Biggar into 9th spot (on 9 points) and just clear of Kirkcaldy and Ardrossan (on 8) and Greenock in bottom spot (with 0 points).


Biggar
J. Warnock, A. Jardine, R. Lavery, D. Voas, A. Horton, F. Nel, D. Reive (Capt), D. Voas, E. Stewart, D. O’Connell, J. Orr, Z. Lyon, D. Notman, A. Warnock, A. Cairns. Reps: A. Orr, P. Davidson, R. Peacock, A. Peacock.

It was good to catch up with ex-Biggar star Quintan Sanft who is still player/coach at Kirkcaldy. He was a great servant to Biggar when his performances helped us gain promotion to Premier 1 and he has been instrumental in ensuring the Fife club have maintained their current position within Scottish rugby.

There are no league or cup games this coming weekend and so the players will be able to regroup in preparation for the visit of Whitecraigs on 17th October, this the Glasgow sides second visit, the first having been on Cup business. There can be no complacency in assuming that Whitecraigs will not put up a fight to regain the balance after their weak showing in the Cup. Depending on results elsewhere Biggar have a chance to climb another couple of places and this they must do if they are to continue to develop.

The 2nd XV travelled to take on Marr in National Reserve 2. The Marr 1st XV with McKenzie Pearce in their ranks are riding high in National 1 and it was expected that this would be a very tricky match. With no game last weekend Biggar feared ring rustiness but in a high scoring match Biggar edged things by the closest of margins 35-34 although the SRU website suggests 27-26!


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Biggar RFC Second XV

This season 2014/15, Biggar 2nd XV will compete in the Edinburgh RESERVE LEAGUE 1. A good blend of experience and youth allows us to compete well with teams who have far greater resources.

The team is manged by John Bogle and Malcolm Bruce and if you would like to play or assist with the team please contact our Playing Convenor, Ian Notman 07899803916


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