Match Report: 24th April
The season may be coming to an end but it was another busy weekend for Biggar RFC with two emphatic wins for Biggar’s senior teams plus some excellent performances from the Youth sides at Dalziel and Tynedale and from the Minis at Boroughmuir.
Biggar 57 Highland 14
The curtain closed on season 2021/22 for Biggar’ 1st XV on Saturday with an emphatic win over Highland RFC; a 9-2 try result which confirmed Biggar’s 3rd place in National 1. There is no denying that this was a great result with some excellent rugby but whilst there was the usual euphoria present, the win was one tinged with a mass of other emotions. There was relief that this protracted season was finally over, satisfaction in signing off with a convincing win, frustration and disappoinment that having been in top spot for so long that the side came so near yet so far, and sadness in that this was the last outing for several players of this squad.
Progression to other clubs, retirals and injury will rule out several but for skipper Chris Mulligan, a new life in Australia beckons. As someone who played all his youth rugby at Biggar before moving whilst at Uni to Heriots, Chris’ return four seasons ago was very welcome and his contribution over those seasons has been nothing short of massive. A clear leader and one who leads by example, he has been an asset and as a dynamic, ball carrying back row he has been at the forefront of much of Biggar’s play in these years. Nicknamed the ‘human lung’ because of his ability to maintain his level of commitment from start to finish he will be sorely missed. He had some great years at Heriots and his years at Biggar included two league Championship years (albeit one was declared null and void) and a very respectable 3rd in this current campaign, one in which he sustained a broken leg.
His emigration should have taken place in 2020 but Covid intervened and so the club benefitted from his being around for another year – a rare ‘Covid’ bonus!
This match was originally scheuled for October and then March with Covid preventing either fixture from taking place. As a last league match, Highland were never going to relish the long trip south to Hartree Mill and it must have been an even longer trip north after the defeat. Neither club was able to field what would have been considered their ‘top’ team as played in the bulk of the season’s matches to date but those who played in the black of Biggar rose to the occasion.
Andrew Orr was the beneficiary of another excellent break from Biggar fullback Robbie Orr for Biggar’s first score which came after just 2 minutes. Orr then claimed one of his own as he picked a great line to slice through the Highland defence for Biggar’s second.
Highland hit back with a try, this credited to prop Patrick Ratumaisese before Mulligan ran in Biggar’s 3rd. Euan Bogle added conversions to each of Biggar’s tries while Scott Fraser kicked the conversion for Highland to make the score 21-7 to Biggar at half time.
Biggar opened up at a cracking pace after the break, scoring 3 tries to 1 within 15 minutes of this period. Aird and Andy Jardine notched one a-piece with Andrew Orr getting his second – Euan Bogle added 2 conversions. Scott Fraser notched Highland’s second try which he again converted.
A brief lull was brought to an ubrupt end as Biggar scored another three tries, these scored by Euan Bogle – this his first try of the season and featuring a lung-bursting touchline sprint from some 40 metres – a second for Andy Jardine (converted by Bogle) and another for Andrew Lamb.
Plus points came in the performances of Robbie Orr (another stand out performance), Craig Frame (who tackled effectively throughout and carried ball well in attack), Euan McAra (whose cover tackle prevented Highland centre Rory Cross from what on every other occasion was a certain score) and a well-deserved debut for scrum half Archie Damer.
The club has been invited to a couple of Sevens tournaments so these and the forthcoming summer Touch Rugby should provide planty of interest for rugby fans over the next few months.
Elsewhere on Saturday, the top two teams in the league, Heriots and Gala made short shrift of their opponents with the win for Heriots over now relegated Cartha meant that the Edinburgh side pipped Gala to the National 1 title and with it promotion to the Premiership.
R. Orr, F. Jackson, A. Jardine, J. Barr, E. Bogle, A. Jardine, E. McAra, A. Orr, E. Stewart, C. Bachurewski, J. Orr, A. Peacock, C. Frame, C. Mulligan, A, Thomson Reps: D. Voas, E. Mitchell, C. Lavery, A. Damer and A. Lamb.
Match Report: 17th April
Biggar 26 Ayr 25
For the second game in a row Biggar scored 4 tries to notch 26 points and a winning bonus. This was achieved against a stuffy Ayr XV which, like Biggar, was a little understrength due to Super 6 promotions, holidays and injury. It was also achieved despite the fact that Biggar played 10 minutes with just 13 men after two were shown yellow cards for a fracas in the second half.
The win cements Biggar’s 3rd place in National 1 with an outside chance, if Biggar can defeat Highland this Saturday and Gala were to lose against Dundee, of a 2nd place finish. In what was effectively a league decider on Saturday Heriots defeated Gala and so are odds on favourites to gain promotion this weekend.
Biggar have said farewell to Josh King and Guy Napier who have signed Super 6 contracts with Boroughmuir Bears and Southern Knights respectively, wishing both every success in their rugby career. King scored the opening try of the Super 6 Sprint competiton when he touched down for B’muir against Ayr on Friday, the Ayr side fielding 2 former Biggar players in Andrew Nimmo and Calvin Henderson.
Also missing from recent starting line ups were skipper Chris Mulligan, stand off Conor Lavery (both on stag weekends), Paul Davidson, Angus Thomson, Fin Barr and Rowan Stewart (all injured). There were therefore several changes to the starting line up while onto the bench came Craig Frame and youngster Thomas Young, the last named getting a promotion after several good performances in the Colts XV .
Despite this being a ‘nothing game’ in terms of league results, there was still pride to play for and a large turnout of supporters was much appreciated by the squad.
Ayr grabbed the early intiative with 2 penalties kicked by veteran centre Jamie Bova.
He was instrumental in Ayr’s win in November, but his kicking aside, he was largely nullifeid this time round by some solid defence from the Biggar three-quarters, with Andy Jardine and James Barr working well together.
A fairly major clash involving Donald Voas meant that he was forced off the field with a blow to the nose. He has been in the wars on several occasions this season and was clearly frustrated to play just a handful of minutes. This was a blow indeed as the prop has been on eof the most conssitent performers this league campaign. Craig Frame came off the bench with Andrew Orr moving from back to front row.
Biggar got back into the game after 22 minutes when a well-timed flat pass by Aird Jardine found the electric Robbie Orr who cruised through the split Ayr defence to run in untouched. The fullback was a joy to watch on Saturday, lighting up the game whenever he was on the ball. Euan Bogle added the conversion to take Biggar into a 7-6 lead.
Ayr hit back just minutes later when their pack took control in a lineout drive which took play to the Biggar line. Though the initial picks were halted scrum half Ross McCorkingdale dived over the line from close range. Nova’s conversion put Ayr ahead at 13-7.
A couple of penalties put Biggar into the Ayr 22 where they launched a couple of phases in attack. Ball was again moved left and this time it was winger Fraser Jackson who took a good pass to scorch over the Ayr line. The try was just too far out for Euan Bogle to add the conversion but at 12-13 down Biggar were right back in the hunt as the half drew to a close.
There was a change in the Biggar XV for the second half, Ewan Mitchell giving way to debutant Thomas Young. He had the start of all starts as within 10 minutes of being on he latched onto a pass to score Biggar’s 3rd try. The position for this was created by Robbie Orr who made the break before feeding Andrew Orr. His angled run looked as though it might take him to the line but he was tackled some 10 metres out. Fortunately the Biggar support was swift and a neat inside pass from Andy Jardine set Young free for a 5 metre gallop to the line, his try greeted by surely the biggest cheer of the day (maybe season!).
Bogle added the conversion for 19-13. The restart was taken and pressure exerted again in the Ayr half. The tight scrum had held well and while the lineout possession hadn’t quite matched that another penalty to Biggar – this reversed after some silliness by the Ayr 9 – gave Biggar an attacking opportunity and one which they did not waste. The initial ball won was not particularly tidy and Euan McAra did well to tidy and set up a maul. It was Craig Bachurewski who ended the move by driving over from close range. Bogle added the conversion for 26-13.
Callum McCallum was the next to get his top team start as he replaced Aird Jardine though not directly as he played on the wing with Fraser Jackson operating at stand off in Jardine’s absence.
At this point it looked as though Biggar might be able to control things but a stramash in midfield saw referee Grant Stephen resort to his pocket, that man Young and Frame being shown yellow and spending the next 10 minutes in the sin-bin. With around 12 minutes remaining it now appeared that Biggar would have a real test as they were two men short. This obviously taxed the remaining players and sensing a potential win, Ayr attacked hard to stretch the Biggar defence.
Euan Bogle gave way to Andrew Lamb while the veteran Andrew Peacock who had given his all as usual, was replaced by David McGivern. A frustration over the past 8-10 weeks has been the lack of games for the 2nd XV which has meant that few of these players have played much rugby. Their attendance at training has fortunately meant that their fitness was not in doubt but after long periods of inactivity, match fitness remains a struggle.
It was almost inevitable that Ayr would score during this period and this was indeed the case as wing forward Cameron Reece found space for his try. Unusually, the conversion, a reasonably straightforward kick for Nova, was missed. Biggar were still ahead at 26-18 and crucially 8 points clear meaning that Ayr required two scores to claim a win.
In the nick of time Biggar were able to recall their two yellow carded players so they were back at full strength for the remaining few minutes. These were, nevertheless, spent mostly in defence as Ayr gathered themselves to go for the win. A number of penalties were conceded by Biggar and this meant that the pressure was all on Biggar in defence. A lineout drive did prove successful and with a better conversion kick Ayr crept to 26-25. This was however the end of the match as whistler Stephen brought a halt to proceedings.
Over the last two plus seasons every game Biggar has played has been crucial in maintaining a league position and potential title. This was not the case on Saturday and there was a much more relaxed feel about the game which must be a boon to the players. The same will no doubt go for Saturday when Highland are the guests. There will of course be pride to play for and for those older members of the support, that remains the defining motivator!
R. Orr, F. Jackson, A. Jardine, J. Barr, E. Bogle, A. Jardine, E. McAra, D. Voas, E. Stewart, C. Bachurewski, J. Orr, A. Peacock, E. Mitchell, A. Orr, R. Jackson Reps: C. Frame, D. McGivern, T. Young, A. Lamb, C. McCallum
Match Report: 2nd April
Biggar 26 Gala 29
Biggar’s promotion hopes rested on a win not only on Saturday but in all their remaining games and so defeat against Gala has all but put paid to those hopes. There is still a mathematical chance but that would only be the case if both Gala and Heriots were to draw their match and then lose their last matches so as long shots go, it is the longest ever possible!
The 3 point defeat was hard to take, but with three yellow cards Biggar played over a third of the match with just 14 men. With their opponents challenging for promotion as well the match was always going to be tough with 15 on 15, but to be a man down for as long makes things incredibly difficult.
There is always much debate and conjecture when cards are shown and especially when apparently similar offences by Gala were unpunished, but these things happen and in the end promotion wasn’t lost on Saturday – there were other games, notably the home defeat by Heriots which was equally, if not harder to take.
Biggar have two games still to play, both at home and with Ayr (16th April) and Highland (23rd April) the visitors.
A very large travelling support matched that of the home side and with both sets of supporters known for their passion, this made for some inetresting touchling banter. A note here of the grateful thanks from Biggar RFC for the support from all those in attendance for the Ukraine appeal. All proceeds from the takings at the gate on Saturday are to be donated to provide assistance to those from Ukraine who are suffering in the war. A fantastic total of £1750 was realised, a sum which is almost double that of a ‘normal’ gate.
On a pleasant spring afternoon, the game was expected to be a thriller and this it turned out to be with fans from both sides enduring some very tense moments and with the result pretty much in the balance until the final whistle. Both sides scored 4 tries so in addition to the league points won both sides gained another 4 try bonus point while Biggar also gained a losing bonus by finishing within 7 points of Gala.
The early exchanges were dominated by Biggar fullback Robbie Orr who showed remarkable anticipation by making a touchline tackle on his right flank before getting back across to the left to make another equally devastating and arguably try-saving tackle there. Minutes later and after ball was won well by Ewan Stewart, skipper Chris Mulligan broke clear from his own 22. Having made 30+ yards he looked for support and found that man Orr again, the big man outsprinting the Gala defence to score the opening try. This had been the script when the two teams met in February, Gala losing possession when in attack and Biggar scoring from deep in their own half. Ewan Bogle added the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
As coach Davy Wilson commented later the ‘detail was missing’ – the next couple of phases being indicative of that failing. Having taken the lead, Biggar lost out when the restart from Gala was fumbled and the ball played by a player in an offisde position. Gala stand off Craig Dodds stepped up to open his sides account: 7-3.
Biggar lost ground immediately on the restart which was kicked long and ended with a knock at the scrum base. From a position of strength Biggar were now very much on the defensive.
Minutes later prop Paul Davidson had to be replaced after he picked up a shoulder injury in contact. Craig Bachurewski was his replacement. Worse was to follow as Gala No 8 Angus Dun was impeded after he had taken a quick tap penalty. Ross Jackson was shown a yellow and so Biggar were down to 14 men. The penalty kick to touch preceded a good take and lineout drive which ended with Jack Easson touching down. Although Dodds was unable to add the conversion Gala were ahead at 8-7.
Order was re-established after 22 minutes when Guy Napier bull-dozed his way over the Gala line. The lead up to this score had seen Biggar go through a number of phases, using ball via the forwards and also the backs with Gala put to the test in defence. Bogle added the 2 points for 14-8.
With Jackson back Biggar were restored to 15 and all were put into action to defend a series of Gala attacks. When Biggar did manage to break out, and this they did well, they were stymied by a lack of support at vital times, Gala breakaway Liam Scott making a number of great turnovers and forcing the penalty. This happened when Ewan Stewart broke free having again stolen good ball in the face of a Gala move and then again when Robbie Orr had engineered a break. Both positions were lost to the boot of Dodds who forced Biggar back.
Biggar were reduced again to 14 on the half hour mark when prop Donald Voas was adjudged to have made a no-arms tackle. The run in to half time is always a critical time and Biggar were as keen to retain their lead as Gala were to catch up and in the end it was the visitors who profited. Another big defensive shift thwarted Gala’s attempts to score but eventually the wall was breached, stand off Dodds making a neat show-and-go to beat the defence for a try which he converted for 15-14.
Biggar had time to make another assault on the Gala line and following a good line drive it appeared to most that referee O’Neill had awarded a try to Ewan Stewart. The Biggar joy was short-lived however as he had instead penalised Stewart for a double movement, his surge to the line coming up short.
This brought the half to an end, Gala ahead by 15-14. Nothing between the sides.
Biggar opened the half well putting pressure on the Gala side with some deft kicks which turned the visitors and forced them onto the defensive. Another great passage of play saw Gala defend well before Conor Lavery exploited a gap to nip through and touchdown. Bogle’s conversion was just inches wide of the post but at 19-15 Biggar had importantly regained the lead.
Although Voas had rejoined the side, Biggar lost the services of Jamie Orr who was the third player to be shown a yellow card. Biggar managed to hold their line intact after the next phase of plays by Gala who were in the ascendancy but again it was really a matter of time before they would score again, with flanker Scott the man to round the stretched defence for a try in the corner which Dodds converted well for 22-19.
With less than a quarter of the match remaining the nerves were beginning to be stretched, any errors likely to prove costly. Orr returned to the fray while Gala’s centre John Turnbull, Biggar’s Andy Jardine among others picked up injuries.
Another Gala attack took play into the Biggar 22 and while initial surges were again held up possession was crucially retained and a clever break by winger Fergus Johnston close to a ruck saw him skip inside the Biggar cover for what would prove to be the winning try, converted by Dodds for 29-19.
Biggar had to come back somehow and this they did with a sustained passage of play which saw Napier, Robbie Orr, Lavery (now at stand off after James Barr replaced Aird Jardine), Voas, Bachurewski and others all make determined drives to the line, each held up by a solid Gala defence. Moving the ball a little wider did pay off however, Lavery’s inside pass to Rowan Stewart seeing the winger crash over untouched for a try which Bogle converted for 29-26.
Some 5 minutes remained and there was of course every chance that Biggar could grab another try or even a penalty which would have tied the scores at least. Gala had been miserly in the number of penalties they had conceded however and this continued through those last minutes. Biggar managed to break into the Gala half and with a scrum between half way and the Gala 22 there was all to play for but to Gala’s delight and Biggar’s disappointment, an error brought a final stoppage, referee O’Neill blowing for full time.
As expressed earlier this was a huge disappointment for the home XV. Each game recently has been a ‘cup final’ and Biggar have managed to keep the run going. Gala on the other hand were understandably over the moon with the win as they are now in pole position to gain promotion. Their next match, a home game on 16th April against Heriots will be the decider.
R. Orr, R. Stewart, A. Jardine, C. Lavery, E. Bogle, A. Jardine, E. McAra, D. Voas, E. Stewart, P. Davidson, J. Orr, G. Napier, J. King, C. Mulligan, R. Jackson Reps: A. Orr, C. Bachurewski, A. Peacock, J. Barr, C. McCallum
Match Report: 26th March
Boroughmuir 14 Biggar 38
A bonus point win was the aim for Biggar and this was achieved just after the start of the second half so essentially it was a case of ‘job done’ but in the end this will be remembered by the Biggar support as a somewhat scrappy affair with some excellent rugby outdone by some pretty shabby rugby. Of some frustration was the fact that Biggar conceded two scores and that they didn’t manage to add to their total for a lengthy period in the second half.
Having said all that with both Gala and Heriots also recording bonus point wins there is little change at the top of National 1. This means that next Saturday’s home match against Gala will, as expected, go a long way to determine which side claims that one, much coveted Premiership promotion place.
In perfect spring sunshine Biggar ran out at Meggetland to the roar of encouragement from the large travelling support. The home side gave note of their intent as they opened up at pace with veteran No 8 Rory Drummond a key figure in their attack, the big man making some good yards whenever he was on the ball and asking questions from the Biggar defence which shepherded him well. An early run ended with Drummond and Biggar stand off Conor Lavery sustaining leg knocks but happily both were able to continue.
Biggar’s fullback Robbie Orr ran with great effect throughout the match and gave indication of his value to the side, tidying any loose kicks by ‘Muir and running some fantastic lines in attack. It was from one such run after 12 minutes that ended with ‘Muir conceding a penalty which Euan Bogle dispatched to touch close to the ‘Muir line. A well taken ball by Josh King and lineout drive saw Andrew Orr dot down for try number one. Bogle added the conversion for 7-0.
The early play was symptomatic of how the game would unfold, players making good breaks but conceding turnovers with some regularity, much to the frustration of both coaching teams. After 20 minutes a high tackle by Drummond on Biggar’s Ewan McAra which could well have been a yellow on another day, saw Biggar opt for a scrum. A Ross Jackson pick up at No 8 and a pop pass to McAra gave the scrum half an easy pass to Robbie Orr who crashed over for a score under the posts. Bogle’s conversion was pulled wide.
At two tries up there was an expectation that Biggar would soon add to their tally but this was not the case as possession gained and attacks made were either too complicated or ended in penalty awards to ‘Muir. In their attempts to break out of defence Drummond made another challenging run which was halted by Angus Thomson but which saw the latter leave the pitch injured, his replacement being Finlay Barr.
The home side then came right back into the match and with the referee playing a lengthy period of added time ‘Muir looked odds on to score as they laid siege to the Biggar line. Opting to keep things tight with forward drives, it was only some really stout defence from Biggar which kept them out. A penalty award, close scrum and further probing runs kept Biggar firmly on the defensive until a lost ball was gobbled up by Robbie Orr who broke quickly upfield. He passed to centre Rowan Stewart who continued the move into the ‘Muir half where the home side conceded another penalty. A textbook lineout take and drive gave Andrew Orr the simplest of chances to score his second try. Bogle converted for 19-0 and half time.
Had ‘Muir made the most of their earlier pressure the game may have panned out very differently so the defensive effort and subsequent score was equivalent to a 14 point ‘swing’.
Within 5 minutes of the second half it was that man Robbie Orr who once again tore great holes in the ‘Muir defence to create space into the ‘Muir 22. Looking all round for a suitable off-load he eventually found his scrum half McAra who was able to sprint over the line for the all important bonus point winning score. Bogle’s conversion was pulled wide, this much to do with the ‘Muir chase which was fast and very nearly successful at every attempt. 24-0 to Biggar.
The following 20 minute spell saw some great breaks by virtually everyone in the Biggar side. This possession gave Biggar some excellent field positions but as had been the case in the first half these promising attacks came to nought as errors were made and penalties conceded. ‘Muir were able to collect themselves and after one loose passage of play which gifted ‘Muir possession their replacement winger Gavin Welsh crossed under the posts for the opening home score, converted by their stand off. 24-7 to Biggar.
A great turnover by Donald Voas, followed by a touchline run from the same player ended with a ‘Muir penalty after the next ruck, this ending in an injury to the home hooker. His departure led to scrums being uncontested as ‘Muir had only 1 recognised hooker. This plays into the hands of the ‘weaker’ side as they are now guaranteed quality possession without any effort.
Aird Jardine had replaced Lavery just after half time and Biggar made further changes at this juncture, Stewart giving way to James Barr and Andrew Peacock replacing Voas. Further loose play gave ‘Muir hope and their efforts were rewarded with a second score as one of their replacements, Stevens ran in under the posts for a try converted for 24-14.
The last 10 minutes resulted in two further tries for Biggar. Josh King scored the first of these, a very well deserved try for a youngster who has played well all season. Bogle converted this and then added another to the 6th Biggar try scored by Andrew Jardine.
In truth this was a somewhat freak score given the prelude to the actual try! A ‘Muir prop had been shown a yellow card (with barely a minute remaining) and skipper Chris Mulligan had just knocked the ball on after a burst deep into the ‘Muir 22. With the referee all but blowing his whistle ‘Muir opted to run the ball from just in front of their line. The speculative wide pass to open play up missed its intended recipient and instead thumped into the protective post padding before rebounding to the feet of Jardine who had the fairly straightforward task of picking up and touching down. Bogle converted for the final 38 point tally.
There was no hiding the frustration felt by coach Davy Wilson at the inconsistency of the Biggar play. There is little doubt that there will need to be a fairly big step taken next week before Gala come a-calling. The Border side have withdrawn from their Border league fixtures in order to focus on the National 1 title and following their loss to Biggar in February the visitors will be keen to make amends.
Saturday’s was not a welcome one for Boroughmuir who saw their slim hopes of retaining their National 1 place finally dashed. They have been at the foot of the table for some time but until Saturday’s result there was still the mathematical possibility of staving off relegation. That is now gone and with their 2nd XV in a similar position in East Reserve league 1 it was a glum day indeed for the Edinburgh club.
R. Orr, F. Jackson, R. Stewart, A. Jardine, E. Bogle, C. Lavery, E. McAra, D. Voas, A. Orr, C. Bachurewski, J. King, G. Napier, J. King, C. Mulligan, A. Thomson, R. Jackson Reps: P. Davidson, A. Peacock, F. Barr, A. Jardine, J. Barr.
Match Report 5th March 2022
Highland 0 Biggar 15
Biggar’s preparations for this match were upset to a great degree on Saturday when a booking time mix up and a mechanical problem with the bus meant that the team was over an hour late in leaving Biggar for the long journey north to Inverness. A quick phone call to the Highland club secured a delayed kick-off and many thanks to them for so readily accomodating this request. As seasoned travellers themselves they appreciate that these sort of issues can occur.
On a beautiful ‘spring’ day the scene at The Bught Park was set with the Highland club making use of their astro pitch to run their Colts match as a warm up prior to the main event.
Biggar’s match kicked off at 3.30 and Biggar had a dream start when they secured their first try after some 2 minutes. A good attacking position ahd beens et up following a cracking run on the wing by Euan Bogle who was almost over the line when he was derailed by the Highland Fijian winger Adriu Muritoki. A loose kick from Highland was gathered by Bogle who popped the ball to Robbie Orr. A stumble as he accelerated almost led to a tackle but this seemed to be to his advantage as he then stepped his way over the line for a cracking score. Unusually Euan Bogle was off target with the conversion but this was from an acute angle.
Highland are a proud club however and have a great record at home and were always going to be in contention and they were soon back on the attack when their runners created ground and into the Biggar half. Biggar’s defence was tested to the limit against Gala the previous week and it was to the fore at Highland as well where time and again Highland found themselves knocked back and when sometimes risky off-loads were the only option. Too frequently these saw ball thrown forward or knocked on which ended the attack.
A penalty to touch from Bogle created a good attacking platform for Biggar and with the forwards via Josh King taking good ball the drive was well set and this saw hooker Ewan Stewart on hand to finish the move off. Bogle’s converison looked good but bounced off the left upright. Biggar 10-0 ahead.
Highland replied almost immediately with a penalty attempt but stand off Scott Fraser could only watch as his effort slid left past the upright signalling a lucky break for Biggar.
Throughout the match and something the Highland coaching team was well aware of was the power of the Biggar pack and this was certainly the case as they enjoyed relative dominance in the tight scrum and in the loose where breaks and carries were more dynamic than those from Highland. It was Highland’s backs who looked more dangerous, their trio of Fijians from the Black Watch regiment at nearby Fort George alwayas looking fleet of foot and elusive although they might have expected to have gained more yards, Biggar’s rush and scramble defence up to point.
At fullback, Biggar’s Robbie Orr had a great game, continually asking questions of the Highland defence and always making many yards both in attack and in making sure he got back quickly in defence.
One factor which would prove telling was the consistent barracking of referee Fergus Hollins by many of the Highland side but by co-captain Callum Carson in particular who questioned almost every decision. This was clearly an attempt to influence the decisions and it worked but not in the way it was intended, Biggar benefiting on several occasions as he was warned about his comments and chat.
Half time then and Biggar ahead but few of the Biggar support felt that a 10 point lead would be enough to win the match.
An early penalty for Highland gave them a good opening but again the possession was soon turned over following another handling error which will be a cause of frustration for the Highland side as the conditions were near perfect for running rugby.
The whole game saw some really exciting passages of play with both sides opting to run on the firm pitch. A longish passage of play and pressure saw Biggar on the defensive once again but following a kick to touch Biggar saw lock Craig Borthwick limp from the pitch, this due to an ankle injury sustained at the start of the second half. Jamie Orr was his replacement, Guy Napier having already replaced No8 Angus Thomson.
A breakout by Biggar and a neat inside pass from Craig Bachurewski to Rowan Stewart saw the centre beat the first line of defence before passing to the ever-present Josh King whose run took play into the Highland 22. A series of pick and go’s and pop passes promised much but the Highland defence held firm and the inevitable result was a Highland penalty which took them out of their danger zone, albeit that the subsequent lineout was lost.
In their efforts to score and get into contention, Highland continued to force the pace of the game, with a quick lineout putting Biggar under pressure but possession remained scrappy and a loopy pass to the wing saw ball eventually secured by Robbie Orr to Ross Jackson, the No8 making a break on the touchline and to the Highland 22. Jamie Orr took Jackson’s pass and only a despairing tap tackle by the cover defence prevented what would surely have been a Biggar try. Biggar did manage to retain possession and territory and camped themselves in the Highland 22. They were unable however to burst through the Highland defence which was to the home sides credit. A number of penalties didn’t aid Biggar’s cause and these did give Highland some respite.
After one series of plays Biggar gained a penalty and while the advantage was there Conor Lavery tried an optimistic drop goal.There being no advantage referee Hollins awarded the penalty, Lavery tapping quickly to run at the Highland defence. His progress was summarily halted by the retreating defence and as this was within the designated 10 metres Highland prop Stephen Murray was dispatched with a yellow card. Biggar eschewed the penalty and opted instead for the scrum to maintain their pressure. Highland needed two scores to win the game and the longer Biggar kept play in the Highland half the better. There was still the fear however that a breakout try would take the game perilously close as has been the case in the past couple of weeks.
Another series of attacks saw Biggar retain their field position with some dynamic runs from the pack, Donald Voas showing a great turn of speed on the wing and this after 75+ minutes – an undoubted benefit of playing on an astro surface which is much less tiring.
A knock on by Biggar within 5 metres of the Highland line was enough for referee Hillins to indicate ‘last play’ and ever keen to somehow gain a losing bonus the home side tried to run from deep behind their goal line. The wide pass from stand off Fraser took a cruel bounce in front of its intended recipient, Biggar centre Andrew Jardine on hand to put downward pressure on the ball for a last second try.
Bogle’s conversion made the score 17-0, a fair reflection on the game but a try short of the much needed bonus point try. With both Gala and Heriots recording anticipated large margin victories the pressure mounts on Biggar in their promotion chase.
This Saturday it is Biggar’s turn to welcome Highland, this fixture re-arranged following a Covid outbreak in the Highland camp last month.
R. Orr, F. Jackson, R. Stewart, A. Jardine, E. Bogle, C. Lavery, E. McAra, , D. Voas, E. Stewart, C. Bachurewski, J. Orr, C. Borthwick, J. King, C. Mulligan, A. Thomson. Reps: G. Napier, P. Davidson, R. Jackson, A. Jardine, A. Lamb
Match Report: 26th February
Gala 29 Biggar 33
For the second week in a row Biggar’s supporters were on tenderhooks as they awaited the final whistle which would surely signal a win. On this occasion the rugby gods answered postively and Biggar took the maximum 5 points from a tough and hugely entertaining contest – especially for the neutral supporter!
Biggar were able to welcome back Robbie Orr to the fray with Craig Bachurewski another to come into the side, Ross Bradford and Paul Davidson missing out. With last week’s massive disappointment still very fresh and sore Biggar had to come out with all guns firing and this they did, scoring 28 points, more than a point a minute, to claim the 4 try bonus point and set up what should have been an unassailable lead.
Ewan Stewart rounded off the first driven maul to record the opening try after just 3 minutes, the hooker now this season’s top try scorer! Euan Bogle converted for 7-0.
An indication of things to come saw Biggar dominate the first scrum with a penalty the result which bogle used well to pin Gala back in the corner. While the driven lineout was halted and held up an unfortunate handling error from home stand off Craig Dods saw the ball knocked forward and into the path of his opposite number Conor Lavery. The Biggar man scooped the ball up and flopped over for try No2, also converted by Bogle.
Gala had to get back into the match and this they did after a series of penalties led to a sustained passage of play in the Biggar 22. With the home support egging their team on Biggar conceded a raft of penalties with Craig Borthwick (whose red card from last week had been successfully appealed and expunged from his record) shown a yellow after he was adjudged to have taken the Gala lineout jumper out early.
Down to 14 men Biggar remained under the cosh in their 22 until a loose pass was collected by Robbie Orr who ran wide before kicking long up the touchline. Able to win the race to this first kick he hacked on and with support from Fraser Jackson it was the winger who touched down for try No3. Defence into attack with devastating effect and a sucker punch for the home XV who had been pressing hard. Bogle’s conversion took Biggar into a 21-0 lead.
Once again Gala worked hard to get a foothold with their preference to run the ball proving dangerous but ulitmately without success as it came up against a formidable defensive effort by Biggar. A ruck in midfield and an assumption that ball would be given to the backs by scrum half Euan McAra saw Bachurewski pick and go and break through the Gala defence. He had ample support on both sides and opted to use scrum half McAra who romped home from 30 metres for a cracking try. Bogle added the conversion for the 28-0 lead.
Somewhat shell-shocked Gala still struggled to get into the game but following another forward orientated series of charges Biggar conceded a penalty when there looked to be ample room wide on the right. A 5th try would probably have sealed Gala’s fate but this let off gave them a bit of respite and suddenly able to retain possession they launched a series of attacks in the Biggar 22. Biggar were pinged for another raft of penalties with Bogle next to be shown a yellow after his attempted interception led to a knock on. Down again to 14 men and able to kick to the corner Gala via wing forward Taylor Wilson opened the home sides account, Dods adding the conversion for 28-7. There was just time for the restart but Biggar cleared the ball to touch and half time.
A game of rugby is compiled of two halves and this was certainly the case on Friday, Biggar winning the first half 28-7 but losing the second by 22-5! What a turnaround and what excitement! Why Biggar fared so badly in the second half is as big a question as why Gala performed so poorly in the first 40. It’s not easy being a supporter on such occasions but it must be doubly frustrating being a coach when things don’t go to plan!
The breeze seemed to both shift and strengthen in Gala’s favour for this second period and this aided their cause as they began to pin Biggar back. Their second try was a a fairly simple affair coming from a lineout. Ball won was transferred at pace to centre Rex Jeffrey whose well-timed pass was collected by No 8 Angus Dunn who crossed almost at the posts, Dods converting for 28-14.
Their next score came just minutes later and was a penalty kicked by Dods although there seemed to be some confusion in the Gala ranks as to whether a kick to the corner might have been a better option. Biggar at this point were still down to 14 men and their defence would have been stretched but as they had signalled for goal they were unable to change their mind and the 3 points took them to 28-17, still somewhat too close for comfort for the Biggar support.
As if to prove that the lineout might have been a better option the next penalty saw a lineout drive which eventually involved all bar 3 of the Gala team. There was little chance of halting the drive with the scorer Jack Easson emerging under the huge pile of bodies. Crucially Dods missed the conversion: 28-22
The game now entered its final quarter with absolutley everything open. A forward pass denied Andy Jardine a run into the Gala 22 preceded a huge Biggar scrum which rocked Gala back and ended with a penalty to the Gala 22. A driving line paved the way but Gala escaped as Biggar were penalised for holding on. A couple of Gala lineout errors let Biggar off the hook while a neat gather, turn, touchline sprint and grubber from Bogle took play back to the Gala 22.
With the Biggar offensive defence led by Bogle and Rowan Stewart and up quickly the Gala cover was swamped and led to a series of phases for Biggar led by skipper Mulligan which ended with Bachurewski managing to dot the ball down for a 5th Biggar try. For once, and in the face of a couple of Gala sprinters, Bogle was wide with the conversion but this did give Biggar a bit of leeway at 33-22.
And boy, did they need it!
Biggar were then on the wrong end of another series of penalties as the referee found fault with many different parts of their game. Biggar lost the penalty count by a considerable margin and this is an area which is a major cause for concern.
One penalty gave Gala a good attacking position within the Biggar 22 and as they had done before their driven lineout worked to good effect, Euan Dods touching down and Craig Dods on target to take the score to 33-29 with still some 4/5 minutes remaining.
These last few minutes were as tense as they could be. With a penalty award referee Tom French Gala were told that one minute remained. Thiswas kicked to the Biggar half and saw Gala in possession. Unable to kick for position as this would have heralded the end of the match Gala were forced to attack with ball in hand while Biggar were forced into a defensive role, ever mindful that to concede a penalty could well see a repeat of the Heriots debacle the previous week. Somewhat ironically given the number of penalties they had conceded up to this point the Biggar defensive effort was first class and kept thumping the Gala runners back.
At a count, there were 34 phases in this final attack which ended some 7 minutes after the end of what would have been normal time! A massive effortf rom both sides!
As it was the ball was eventually spilled forward but Biggar had to endure a heart-stopping finale as their first attempt to scramble the ball to touch failed, Orr racing back to end the game with pursuing Gala players in chase.
The target was a win, a bonus point win was the icing on the cake.
R. Orr, F. Jackson, R. Stewart, A. Jardine, E. Bogle, C. Lavery, E. McAra, , D. Voas, E. Stewart, C. Bachurewski, J. Orr, C. Borthwick, J. King, C. Mulligan, A. Thomson. Reps: G. Napier, P. Davidson, R. Jackson, A. Jardine, A. Lamb
This win keeps the pressure on the league leaders Heriots. Gala meanwhile despite losing the match still gathered another two points and so are still very much in the hunt for the top spot and only promotion place.
This weekend Biggar make the long trip north to take on Highland and then on the 12th host the same club at Hartree Mill. It’s a big ask but Biggar’s support is fantastic and on Friday certainly made a difference so if you are able, your attendance in Inverness would be very much appreciated.
Biggar 17 Heriots 19
Sport can be cruel.
It can be decided by centimetres, milliseconds, good play and luck (good or bad). As an example on Saturday at the Bejiing Winter Olympics GB curling skip Bruce Mowat saw his last stone miss it’s target by a centimetre or two to cede the Gold medal to Sweden – small margins. At Hartree Mill on Saturday at the end of an enthralling match which had everything – disallowed tries for both sides, a yellow card, a red card – and after arguably the longest 10 secs of time, the ball squirted out the back of the last scrum and was pounced upon by Heriots hooker Danny Dineen to score a match-winning try. The unsuccessful conversion ended the match.
Having never been behind at any point until then this was the cruellest of blows for Biggar and one which silenced the large crowd which seconds prior had been ecstatic when it appeared that Heriots had knocked the ball on and which would normally have ended the game. The try which followed was the cue for mass celebrations from the Heriots squad and support.
And so for the first time in at least 3 seasons Biggar are no longer in the top two of their division, this reversal seeing them drop blow Heriots and Gala who themselves recorded a score in the dying minutes of their match against Melrose. Now 7 points adrift from Heriots, Biggar must win all their remaining matches while hoping that Heriots drop points somewhere along the line if they are to realise their aim of promotion.
Given the midweek weather and the snow which had been forecast for Friday there was considerable doubt about the chances of the game being played. That snow largely failed to appear however while a dry Friday night and a calm Saturday morning meant that although the surface was heavy there was no question of any postponement. Pitch No 1 was the only playable pitch of the 4 pitches available in the Hartree Mill estate however and this led to the postponement of the 2nd XV match and all Youth matches scheduled for Sunday.
Having had a fortnight ‘off’ due to 6 Nations matches and a covid related postponement neither side was ‘battled hardened’ but this did not effect the comittment of the two squads who put on a tremendous spectacle. Kicking off towards the clubhouse the early exchanges were high tempo with both sides feeling their way into the match. Running at pace was difficult and both sets of backs preferred to kick for position with relative success.
The first points came after 20 minutes and after a penalty advantage gave Biggar the option to kick to the corner. It appeared that lineout jumper Josh King had initially slipped but he recovered to take a textbook catch and the drive which followed took play to the Heriots line, hooker Ewan Stewart in control to dot the ball over the line for a great score converted by Euan Bogle for a 7-0 lead.
Heriots restarted strongly and exerted a great deal of pressure in the Biggar 22 where a series of plays saw Biggar forced to defend hard. Three successive plays – including one from a Heriots driven line which might have been a score – ended with goal line drop outs to Biggar. This restart doesn’t really favour the defensive side and it can be difficult to gain territory so it was great to see a piece of innovative play from Biggar centre Rowan Stewart who chipped over the Heriots attack before regathering possession to free skipper Chris Mulligan who made a great run to take play to the halfway mark.
Visiting fullback Rory Steele was always a threat if he got space to counter attack but Biggar’s first up defensive line is sound and while the fullback made ground Biggar were able to slow ball down and halt his progress.
Just after the half hour mark a sustained period of pressure saw Biggar take some control and exert pressure in the Heriots 22. A driven line out, too far for a try ended unfortunately with a handling error but a second just minutes later spawned ball for a good phase of attack, King, Ross Bradford and Rowan Stewart all making good ground towards the Heriots line. Using a penalty advantage a neat scooped pass from Fraser Jackson to winger Euan Bogle saw the winger scamper over for what appeared to be a try but one which was chalked off for a forward pass. The penalty stood however and on the stroke of half time Bogle added the 3 points to take Biggar into a 10-0 half time lead.
This was never likely to be enough against a side which is top of the table and so this proved.
A lengthy Heriots lineout drive gave the visitors a great attacking position and then a quickly taken lineout found the Biggar defence for once at sixes and sevens and hooker Daniel Dineen flopped over for a try which Graham Wilson converted for 10-7.
The next quarter of the match saw the game confined to the areas between the 22’s as neither side was able to get sufficient control to manage possession or territory. Ross Jackson gave way to Guy Napier in the Biggar ranks. A number of penalties awarded against Heriots eventually saw the referee lose patience with the Edinburgh outfit and he dispatched lock forward Callum Marshall to the bin with a yellow card.
This penalty award gave Biggar the opportunity to gain good ground to the Heriots 22. Stand off Conor Lavery appeared to have taken a nasty knock to the face but he was happily able to continue – not the same for Heriots replacement Maxwell Oliver who was knocked back in a Biggar attack a few minutes later.
Capitalising on the territory gained another lineout drive for Biggar was once again rounded off by hooker Stewart who notched his second score of the day and one also converted by Bogle for 17-7.
Frustratingly from a Biggar point of view this extended lead lasted for just a few minutes as Heriots restarted to mount a sustained attack in the Biggar half. Having retained possession over a number of phases the Biggar defence was eventually breached and centre Dominic Martin rounded off the movement with a try converted by Wilson. 17-14 to Biggar. Scoring when your opponents are short-handed is always the aim but losing a score to opponents who are short-handed is never good.
A kicking duel between the two sides then ensued as the teams vied for position. Heriots gained another foothold in the Biggar 22 and from a line drive, replacement Maxwell Oliver was thumped in a tackle by some excellent offensive defence with Craig Borthwick and Mulligan both involved.
Unfortunately the referee did not agree with the tackle and after a short delay he sent a clearly shocked Borthwick off as he felt the lock had caught the Heriots man on the head. This was to have a major impact on the match as the big lock is a significant figure in the Biggar pack.
With around 10 minutes remaining it was clear Biggar would be forced into a defensive role and this proved to be the case as Heriots mounted attack after attack. Any piece of possession which was won by Biggar was greeted with great excitement from the crowd and this undoubtedly helped the Biggar effort. One turnover secured a penalty and this took play into the Heriots half but a missed lineout saw Heriots back on the attack once again.
Another steel to get out of defence saw Biggar opt to try and close the game out by keeping the game tight through a series of pick and goes from their pack. A penalty awarded for ‘sealing off’ gave Heriots one last opportunity to nick the game – but with just 10 secs remaining (according to the official) there was surely insufficient time?
And so we arrive at the situation explained in the opening paragraphs and which decided the honours. In the first meeting between these two sides in Edinburgh Heriots held on at the death to record a one point win. On Saturday the try gave them a 2 point advantage so it is clear to see that there is very little between the two sides.
Biggar have now to pick themselves up and dust themselves down for their next test, this a floodlit match against Gala on Friday evening (KO 7.30pm). Regardless of Saturdays reversal every game was going to have to count and so there isn’t any real added pressure. It’s sure to be another exciting contest and as usual there is a call for the Biggar support to get down to Netherdale for the match.
F. Jackson, R. Bradford, R. Stewart, A. Jardine, E. Bogle, C. Lavery, E. McAra, P. Davidson, E. Stewart, D. Voas, J. King, C. Borthwick, C. Mulligan, R. Jackson, A. Thomson. Reps: G. Napier, A. Orr, J. Orr, A. Jardine, A. Lamb
Match Report: 30th January
Cartha QP 0 Biggar 31
In very testing conditions Biggar managed to retain a clean sheet and claim a 4 try bonus point win against Glasgow side Cartha Queens Park.
With the other two top sides (Heriots and Gala) recording similar league wins there is no change at the top of National 1 and therefore all is still to play for as we enter the critical month of February. There is a rest week for the opening 6 Nations Calcutta Cup match before league action resumes with, in consecutive weeks, Highland (H), Heriots (H) then Gala (A) with the results of these matches likely to determine the league positions as the season reaches it’s denouement.
Biggar were able to select from their full squad again this Saturday with minimal chnages to the one which hosted Kelso last Saturday. Ross Jackson was preferred to Angus Thomson at No 8 while James Barr got the nod at centre over Conor Lavery. The team faced a very typical Cartha XV, a combative squad with few giants or stars but a with willingness to play for each other. The match was preceded by a minutes applause in respect of one of the games great characters, namely Ian Leslie of Watsonians.
Storm Malik played its part with the match confined to the leeward side of the pitch and pretty much ruling Biggar touch judge Kevin Dempster out of a job!
Handling was always going to be tricky, with the ball being either blown into or away from the receiver depending on whether he was playing with or against the gale. Having said that there were some good passages of play when both sides contributed to an entertaining contest.
An opening score came after just 5 minutes as Biggar, playing with the wind on their backs used the driven maul to good effect, hooker Ewan Stewart able to dive over for a try. Euan Bogle added the conversion for 7-0. There was a change for Biggar as scrum half Davy Reive took a sore one to the ribs, his replacement Euan McAra quick to make his mark with a good turn of pace which saw him take play upfield toward the halfway line.
Biggar’s lead was then doubled as for the second week in succession Biggar’s pack was awarded a penalty try after their intial shunt saw their hosts pushed back towards their line. Referee Gregor McIntosh took no time to make his decision and Biggar were 14-0 ahead.
Some dynamic play by Cartha lock Graham Williamson set Biggar hearts a-flutter with a very determined break to the Biggar 22 but the Biggar defence held firm and this attack was successfully repelled. Major contributors in this regard were Chris Mulligan at flank forward and James Barr at centre, although given the clean sheet this was not their role exclusively.
In their search for another quick score Biggar made a couple of what could have been crucial errors, opportunities to increase their lead escaping as ball and possession was lost close to the Cartha line. On one occasion Donald Voas looked to have scored a good try but referee McIntosh was unsighted. The visitors had to be content in the end with their 14-0 lead although the conditions suggested that they would have a very tough second half playing, as they would be, into the wind.
The half got off to what was an almost perfect start as lock Josh King – who had an excellent match taking lineout ball well, making great yards whenever in possession and regularly knocking folks back – burst over the line after another successful line drive.
With less than 10 minutes of the half gone Biggar collected their 4th and all important bonus point try as Ewan Stewart claimed his second, this again following a well controlled lineout drive. The conversion attempt saw replacement Conor Lavery utilised to help steady the ball on the kicking tee (such was the strength of the gusts). This did not find favour with those who study the games rules believing that this was in fact illegal, Biggar in effect using a 16th player. The help was not sufficient in any event to get the ball between the posts and so 24-0 was the score.
Within another 3 minutes Biggar had stretched further head as replacement Andrew Orr (who had come on for Paul Davidson) gathered a neat inside pass from Fraser Jackson to burst over for a 5th try.
Biggar then added to this earlier change with Chris Mulligan giving way to Fin Barr, Ross Jackson for Angus Thomson and James Barr for Conor Lavery.
Making ground against the elements proved difficult and while they did on oaccsion get play into the Cartha half Biggar were unable to add to their tally. Indeed, much as had been the case in the first half, a kick and chase from Cartha looked to many to have been touched down by the attacking side, the only person unconvinced being referee McIntosh and Biggar escaped with a goal line drop out.
In better condtitions Biggar would probably have expected to record a higher total (than 31) but 5 league points is all a team can garner from a win and with an already commanding positive Points Differential of almost +80 points the 31-0 tally was reward indeed.
Those with niggling injuries – and there are plenty – will welcome the league programme break, offering as it does the opportunity for rest and recuperation prior to the big task to come.
E. Bogle, R. Bradford, A. Jardine, J. Barr, R. Stewart, F. Jackson, D. Reive, P. Davidson, E. Stewart, D. Voas, J. King, C. Borthwick, C. Mulligan, J. Orr, R. Jackson. Reps: A. Orr, F. Barr, A. Thomson, E. McAra, C. Lavery
Rugby Match Report – Saturday 22 January
Biggar 12 v Kelso 10
In a game that was very fragmented and where they were well below their best form, Biggar kept themselves in league contention with this narrow win. Kelso have a big set of forwards and their game plan was clearly to try and control the game through their pack. On the other hand, Biggar wanted to keep the ball in play, move it quickly and try to attack by stretching the Kelso defence through several phases of play. This plan worked to perfection after 10 minutes when good work on the ground by A Thomson secured possession just outside the visitors 22. This led to an excellent break by R Bradford which created space for R Stewart on the wing and he did well to finish off a very good attack with a try in the corner to put Biggar 5-0 ahead.
Kelso were then able to put their own game plan into operation leading to a concerted spell of pressure well inside the home half. This led to a series of penalties against Biggar and they were fortunate when the Kelso kicker missed a fairly straightforward opportunity to open their account. However, despite gaining temporary relief, after a very good break by C Mulligan took play into the visitors half, Kelso continued to dominate possession and kept Biggar pinned inside their own 22. The game became very static going from one set piece to another with almost all of these resulting in yet another penalty decision. After Biggar conceded three penalties in fairly quick succession they were reduced to 14 men when the referee showed a yellow card to J Orr. Kelso stuck to their task and eventually from a line out deep inside the home 22, they had another forward drive resulting in a pile of bodies on the goal-line. Much to the disappointment of the Biggar support, the referee believed he had seen a grounding and awarded Kelso a try which was duly converted to put them ahead 5-7.
The remainder of the half followed a similar pattern with Kelso largely in control as Biggar struggled to get possession and even when they did get hold of the ball, they turned it over all too quickly and soon found themselves back on defensive duties.
The second half began in very similar fashion and for the first 10 minutes play was bogged down in midfield. Finally, Biggar were able to put together a decent attack and forced play into the Kelso 22 leading to a 5 metre scrum. Biggar’s forwards had had a slight edge in the scrums throughout the game and from this position forced the Kelso pack to concede ground. However, it still came as something of a surprise when the referee immediately awarded a penalty try and the home team found themselves 12-7 ahead.
Kelso continued with their strategy of keeping the game very tight and with the referee very happy to blow his whistle at every opportunity, the game was certainly not one for the rugby purist! After another series of penalty decisions play was taken back into the home 22 where Kelso had a simple kick to make the score 12-10. At this stage the league points were far from secure from a Biggar perspective as they found it hard to get any continuity or rhythm into their play. However, a pin point kick from F Jackson brought a line out close to the visitors’ line. The referee deemed the ensuing drive from the Biggar pack was held up over the goal-line and this was as close as Biggar came to extending their lead. The game continued as before with regular penalties and very static play. The final minutes were somewhat nerve wracking for the home support as Biggar were again reduced to 14 men when A Jardine received a yellow card for a deliberate knock on. However, there was no further scoring and Biggar were delighted to finish with the victory.
As a result of this win, Biggar keep second place in the league with other results from the weekend now making it likely that the league winners will certainly come either Heriots, Gala or Biggar as these three have now opened a gap on other teams.
E. Bogle, R. Bradford, A. Jardine, C. Lavery, R. Stewart, F. Jackson, D. Reive, P. Davidson, E. Stewart, D. Voas, J. King, C. Borthwick, C. Mulligan, J. Orr, A. Thomson. Reps: C. Bachurswski, R. Jackson, G. Napier, A. Lamb, C. McCallum
Rugby Match Report – Sat 15th January
Melrose 18 Biggar 25
With a number of fixtures having been postponed due to Covid in recent weeks, Biggar were keen to get back into league action against a Melrose team who are also challenging at the upper end of the table. Almost straight from the kick off, Melrose opened the scoring when one of their centres, much too easily for Biggar’s liking, burst through to score at the posts followed by a straightforward conversion.
Stung by this early reverse Biggar fought back to eventually gain some territory inside the Melrose half leading to a series of line outs and scrums inside the 22. Biggar did well to recycle the ball through several phases of attack but the Melrose defence held firm and eventually Biggar conceded a penalty for ‘holding on’ which allowed the home team to clear their lines. However, a nicely judged kick by F Jackson took play back into the 22 and this time Melrose were guilty of hanging on to the ball allowing E Bogle to kick a simple penalty to make the score 7-3. The Melrose backs continued to look dangerous when in possession as they tried to move the ball wide at every opportunity. However, Biggar’s forwards looked to be gaining a slight advantage at the scrums and this pressure won a second penalty inside the Melrose 22 allowing E Bogle to make it 7-6. Biggar’s first try came after excellent work by R Orr who fielded a kick inside his own 22 and then broke upfield leaving a trail of defenders in his wake. The ball was moved wide for R Stewart to use his speed to touch down in the corner putting Biggar ahead 7-11. The Melrose stand off produced a series of very good kick offs throughout the game and another of these this led to a line out inside Biggar’s 22. However, an excellent ‘sack’ saw Biggar regain possession and surge back upfield. Following good work by R Orr and F Jackson, a delightful chip from C Lavery into the home 22 looked to be straight into R Stewart’s hands and a certain try. However, the Melrose full back had other ideas and his mid-air tackle led to him being sent off by the referee and unfortunately caused R Stewart to retire from the game.
At the start of the second half, E. McAra replaced R Stewart. Biggar began where they had left off and were soon back on the attack. Their second try came from C Borthwick who was ideally placed to take advantage of a lovely pass from A Jardine, the successful conversion made it 7-18. The provider was soon the scorer when, after some very good work by the Biggar forwards, they created the opportunity for A Jardine to break through the defence for another try which was again converted. It looked at this stage that it would only be a matter of time before Biggar would score a bonus point try. However, despite being a player down, it was Melrose who began to take control of the game as Biggar seemed to lose their focus. The home team reduced the deficit with a very good converted try to bring the score to 11-25. Then almost with the last play of the game, Melrose scored their own third try which was converted from the touchline allowing them to secure a losing bonus point.
This win takes Biggar into second place in the league, 2 points behind Heriots but with a game in hand. Gala are in third place although they would go ahead of Biggar if they win their game in hand. With Biggar still to play Heriots at home and then Gala home and away there should be some exciting rugby in the weeks ahead.
R. Orr, E. Bogle, A. Jardine, C. Lavery, R. Stewart, F. Jackson, D. Reive, P. Davidson, E. Stewart, D. Voas, J. King, C. Borthwick, C. Mulligan, J. Orr, A. Thomson. Reps: F. Barr, A. Orr, J. Barr, E. McAra
Match Report: 12th December
Watsonians 17 Biggar 40
There is no doubting refereeing a rugby match is a tricky prospect and in all honesty it is possible to stop the game at almost every contact as some players ‘bend’ the rules while others blatantly break them. A half-time penalty count of 15 equates to a penalty, on average, every 3 minutes. The final penalty count was 26. Add in the time it takes to take the penalty, the time it takes to set a lineout and then the time it takes to set (and most often re-set) a scrummage, and then finally add on the time it takes for players to be attended to if injured and you will understand that Saturday’s contest was far from free-flowing! Hard to believe in fact that there was time for 9 tries!
That Biggar were on the wrong end of that half time penalty count by a 12-4 margin and it is also easy to imagine the frustration felt by those in black and red! One of those 4 rare penalties to Biggar was awarded as a penalty try and this did help as did the fairly dramatic shift after the break which saw things evened out and a 5-4 split to Biggar….what did Davy Wilson say?
Watsons are having a difficult time in National 1 and currently prop up the table in bottom spot. That this was a different XV from the one which turned out Hartree Mill is not in doubt, no fewer than 15 different names (from a squad of 20) appearing on the team sheet in sharp contrast to Biggar who had 13 of the same players featuring (from 20). This ‘new’ Watsons outfit proved to be a far more competitive squad than before although their cause was not helped by injury.
In much calmer weather than had been the case last Saturday, despite a strongish wind blowing cross pitch, the opening exchanges were interrupted by the whistle (6 penalties in the opening 10 minutes). Neither side could gain any control and play was centred around the middle of the pitch. Biggar struck after 13 minutes when Donald Voas latched onto a break by Angus Thomson to romp home in fine style. Euan Bogle added the conversion for 7-0.
Watson’s cause was not helped when one of their props limped off shortly after this score. They had been competitive up until this point but the tables were soon turned although the next scrums saw Biggar penalised for a variety of offences.
A quickly taken penalty by the home scrum half saw Thomson half intercept the ball but this was within the 10m zone and Biggar were down to 14 men for the next 10 minutes. One of several huge boots, this one from Euan Bogle, with Fraser Jackson and Ross Bradford also both kicking well in open play and utilising the wind well, took play to within 5 metres of the Watsons line. A rampant line drive was halted illegally and the referee had no hesitation in awarding the penalty try and yellow card. The sides were now even at 14 a-side and Biggar were 14-0 up.
Euan McAra at scrum half over-cooked a kick from the restart and this created a position for the home XV who attacked well with the pack taking the initiative to Biggar with some dynamic pick and goes. Biggar’s defence held well however and there might have been a try for Biggar in a long range break out had the ball stuck as Rowan Stewart tried to (legally) intercept. Advantage was being played and Watsons opted to end the half with a kick at goal. The ball rebounded off the upright and Jackson immediately turned defence into attack with a huge boot to take play deep into the Watsons 22. With another attacking opportunity on the cards……the referee blew for half time.
Watsons had the advantage of the breeze in the second half but they initially seemed loathe to make use of this, preferring instead to run ball out of defence.
Chris Mulligan replaced Fin Barr at the break and then Watsons lost the services of another front row player, this latest injury leading to scrums being uncontested. This gives both sides really safe ball at scrum time but is absolutely no advantage to the team who were in the ascendancy – as Biggar were – and so Watsons got a real break with this change.
Watsons then engineered an attacking position in the Biggar half and after a number of charges which stretched the Biggar defence a try was scored under the posts – with a generous interpreatation of a double movement. This was converted for 14-7. The lack of continuity was beginning to tell on the visitors who couldn’t get their game moving and things were not helped when Fraser Jackson put the restart out on the full – scrum back, quality possession for Watsons.
Things were compounded as in their frustration Biggar began to force the play and chase the game. Passes which would usually have gone to hand were spilled while off-loads were less accurate then normal and often dropped. A telling tackle by Voas however spilled ball and Rowan Stewart was set free on the wing after a great run by fullback Robbie Orr. Frustratingly the centre failed to get the bounce he needed after he chipped ahead to get the try but having gained the foothold, Biggar were not to be denied this time and a crash ball from skipper Andy Jardine saw him over the line for a try which, when converted by Bogle, gave Biggar a 12 point lead.
This was not to last long however, as another Watsons backs movement took play to the Biggar 22. With men seemingly well marked the Biggar defence was breached as a pass missed its intended recipient and bounced invintingly into the hands of a supporting player. This led to a charge to the line and a second Watsons try. The conversion took the score to 19-12.
The game was now into the last quarter and a possible upset looked on the cards, Biggar suffering again as the restart resulted in another scrum to Watsons on halfway, and then again when a seemingly fair challenge to a high ball saw Jardine penalised for taking the man out in the air. The only ‘benefit’ was that Jardine wasn’t shown a yellow. The resultant penalty took play to the Biggar line and another very effective line drive saw Watsons awarded a 3rd try to get even closer at 19-17. Biggar touch judge George Allison was adamant that the ball had been grounded well short of the line but he has no authority as a neutral official and so the try was awarded. There was no conversion but with just 2 points seperating the teams things were definitely not going to plan for Biggar.
And then things changed, and fairly dramatically! A penalty to Biggar and a good touch finder by Jackson created the position in the Watsons 22. A line take by the very productive Josh King, quickly followed by a series of carries from among others Paul Davidson, Ross Jackson, Thomson and Mulligan saw Jardine burst over for his second try converted by Bogle for 26-17 and of course that all important 4 try bonus point.
With less than 10 minutes to go Biggar finished in some style, an arcing run of some 40 metres by Voas was followed by a Robbie Orr breenge before Ross Jackson finished the move off with a try. The conversion put the game beyond doubt but a third try for Jardine and a 5th conversion for Bogle wrapped things up at 40-17.
The final score suggests a fairly predictable result for a top of the table versus bottom of the table clash, but those present know just how difficult the match was and how Biggar struggled to stay in the game.
The National League takes a festive break and resumes on 9th January when Kelso come to Hartree Mill. The Border side got the better of their rivals Gala on Saturday, an important result for Biggar which puts some breathing space between Biggar in 2nd spot on 47 points and Gala in 3rd on 43 points. Heriots are top but they have played one more game than Biggar. The 3 point penalty incurred has obviously dented Biggar’s tally as those additional points would see them top the division.
R. Orr, E. Bogle, R. Stewart, A. Jardine (capt), R. Bradford, F. Jackson, E. McAra, D. Voas, E. Stewart, P. Davidson, C. Borthwick, J. King, A. Thomson, F. Barr, R. Jackson. Reps: A. Peacock, D. McGivern, C. Mulligan, A. Lamb, J. Barr.
Biggar 33 Stirling County 0
In absolutely brutal conditions – almost constant snow in the first half and a bitter temperature throughout – Biggar secured another bonus point win over their visitors Stirling County. That they achieved the win whilst denying Stirling a point is tribute to the efforts of the squad who worked hard throughout the 80 minutes.
The match was preceded by a minute’s applause following the tragic passing of one of Stirling’s internationalists Siobhan Cattigan (26). Situations like this put the game firmly into some perspective and Biggar RFC extends it’s deepest sympathy to Siobhan’s family and the wider Stirling County RFC family.
The forecast suggested snow and rain showers from around 1pm and this was unfortunately very accurate, cars rolling in with snow-covered bumpers as the pitches began turning white. There was some conjecture as to whether the games would be completed and indeed there were several games across the country which did succumb to the conditions so fair play to Biggar and their opponents (Stirling at 1st XV and also Currie at 2nd XV level) for sticking to their task and competing when frozen!
Biggar made another few changes to last week’s starting XV as Paul Davidson was ruled out due to concussion. Rowan Stewart and Ross Bradford returned after injury while there was a very welcome return to the bench for 1st XV captain Chris Mulligan who sustained a broken leg against Stirling in the first meeting between the two sides back in September.
Biggar opened against the breeze (had there been a stronger wind then things might have played out differently) and were soon on the attack. This ended up being the situation for the best part of the afternoon, indeed in the second half Stirling were only able to escape their half when they restarted the match after conceding a score.
Ross Jackson was first on the score sheet as he completed a nice handling movement to cross under the posts this coming after 23 minutes. Euan Bogle kicked the first of his 4 conversions.
Play was unsurpringly stop/start although while there were errors these were forgiveable as hands got colder and colder. The backs in particular suffered as they didn’t have the opportunity to ‘hide’ in the scrum, lineout or driven maul.
Indeed it was this last named tactic which threatened to spawn points for Biggar as the pack drove Stirling back on several occasions for many metres and at times at a rate of knots. These initial forays ended in disappointment however as Stirling spoiled the party as they strove successfully to counter the drive.
A super carry from flanker Fin Barr who deservedly earned the man of the match award for a really combative performance took play upfield and into the Stirling half. A penalty kicked to the corner by Fraser Jackson who gained ground well in the conditions, set up the position from which Biggar used the catch and drive to good effect hooker Ewan Stewart, who notched 4 tries last week at Dundee, on hand to flop over the line for a second Biggar score, and one again converted by Bogle.
Perhaps unsurprisingly it was that man Stewart who scored Biggar’s 3rd try, this another driven maul from lineout possession won by Josh King. The lock forward had another good game although there was definite pressure on his young shoulders as he had been in Stirling’s team in September before joining brother Sam at Biggar last month.
Bogle was unable top land the extra points from the conversion and so Biggar had a 19-0 lead at half time. The players made a bee-line for shelter at the break and there was a noticeably smaller crowd in the second half, many moving inside to escape the harshness of the day. Conditions did improve slightly after the break as it stopped snowing but it was still very cold, several players struggling to feel their feet!
Stirling lost the services of 3 of their front row players and so scrums were uncontested after the break, this perhaps a bonus for the visitors as they were at least guaranteed good possession at scrum time. The addition of replacement stand off Johnathon Hope also helped steady their ship as he worked possession better than the original incumbent, youngster Callum Beckett.
There was a reluctnace to kick for position however and Stirling made brave attempts to run ball back at Biggar the host side’s defence was solid and gave nothing away. Rowan Stewart was next to score, the centre running a good angle and collecting a neat pass from Davy Reive to run in virtually unopposed under the posts. Bogle converted this and with just 6 minutes of the half gone Biggar claimed the bonus point for 4 tries.
Andrew Orr was forced off after a collision and while his normal replacement at prop would have been Louis Henderson it was Euan Mitchell who took over, this as a result of scrums being uncontested. Euan McAra then replaced Reive.
Biggar might have expected to score more points in this half than they eventually did, the uncontested scrums a hindrance as they were unable to exert as much pressure on the visitors as they would normally have managed. As it was several penalties were conceded and Stirling were able to relieve pressure even if only temporarily.
Rowan Stewart picked up an elbow injury and he was replaced by James Barr while Mulligan took over from Angus Thomson, another who contributed much during the afternoon. The last replacement saw Henderson take over from Donald Voas. It would have to be said that none of the replacements at this juncture were as enthusiastic as they would have been had conditions been more reasonable. Mulligan for one admitted later that he was in two minds for the bulk of the half…..stay off and stay cold, get on and freeze!
The last try went to King who scrambled after a loose ball to win the race after a dropped pass, to touch down for Biggar’s 5th score. The last quarter of the match was played as light faded, the corner of the pitch closest to the new electronic scoreboard being the brightest area of the pitch by far.
The 5 points gained take Biggar back to 2nd top. The Heriots match against Cartha was postponed due to flooding and the Melrose/Boroughmuir match was abandoned. That means that there is just 1 point between Heriots in top spot on 43 points and Biggar and Gala, together on 42 points. It’s all getting somewhat confusing however as none of the top sides have played the scheduled 13 fixtures. Gala have 3 games to catch up (one of these is against Biggar), Biggar have two (one against Gala obviously) while Heriots have one. Fingers are now officially crossed that winter is not too harsh as rescheduled matches will quickly mount up.
This coming weekend Biggar travel to the Capital to take on Watsons. This is the last National 1 match of 2021 and kicks off at 3pm
R. Orr, E. Bogle, R. Stewart, A. Jardine (capt), R. Bradford, F. Jackson, D. Reive, A. Orr, E. Stewart, D. Voas, C. Borthwick, J. King, A. Thomson, F. Barr, R. Jackson. Reps: L. Henderson, E. Mitchell, C. Mulligan, E. McAra, J. Barr.
Match Report: 28th November 2021
The wintry weekend put paid to the bulk of Biggar RFC’s packed programme of matches with only 3 from the 10 scheduled actually played. Those 10 games had players travelling the length and breadth of Scotland from Inverness in the north to Alnwick over the Border and from Dundee in the east to Oban in the west! A logistic issue but one which players, coaches and supporters relish. As it was the Girls U18 trip to Alnwick on Saturday fell victim to Storm Arwen while the snow and frost of Saturday night put paid to all Sunday’s matches.
Here’s to better conditions this weekend!
Dundee 8 Biggar 26
Biggar travelled north to Dundee on Saturday in the knowledge that they would face a much better side than the one which had opened the league season at Hartree Mill in September. Returning Uni students and some positive recruitment has strengthened the Dundee squad while every side tends to be stronger on their home turf. As has been the case for the bulk of this season Biggar showed several changes from the XV selected the previous week against Gala, that match ulitmately postponed because of Covid.
On a bright, sunny but bitterly cold afternoon due to the wind sweeping over the pitch, Biggar opened strongly with a great carry by Angus Thomson. This was the precursor to Biggar’s first try after 2 minutes. A clearance kick from Dundee was fielded by Biggar fullback Robbie Orr who then did what he alone can do, cutting through the Dundee chase to burst clear into space on the Dundee 22m line. Having been tackled he popped the ball to the supporting Ewan Stewart who romped home for a cracking try, converted by Euan Bogle for 7-0.
Dundee burst back into the game with some strong running from No8 Sam Cardosi and centre Murray Mitchell which tested the Biggar defence. An early Dundee penalty attempt was kicked by full back Fraser McKay to make the score 7-3 to Biggar.
A good touch finder from Fraser Jackson after a penalty awarded to Biggar after 18 minutes created the position for a driven lineout, Ewan Stewart on hand to claim his second score, also converted by Bogle.
Josh King provided an insight into why he was a Super 6 player with Stirling with a surging run while he along with his lifters took some excellent lineout ball, so crucial to launch attacks.
A similar attempt just minutes later saw Biggar penalised for obstruction and this heralded a period when Biggar threatened but failed to convert. Some unforced errors in the pack at the lineout – which otherwise worked really well – at the scrum base and in open play gave the home side some welcome breathing space. Indeed a forward pass, some rushed plays and finally an excellent cover tackle on Thomson who looked to be in at the corner menat that Biggar had to be content with their 14-3 half time lead.
With the breeze now favouring the home side, although this was never a constant, Biggar expected to be put under the cosh and an over-cooked restart did not help. A crunching tackle from centre James Barr put Biggar back on the front foot and a neat handling movement involving the same player and winger Euan Bogle took Biggar to within metres of the Dundee line.
Biggar lost the services of prop Paul Davidson at this point the big man flattened in a clash as he took ball forward. Teenager Louis Henderson who is gaining experience with every game was his replacement, the youngster doing well under the circumstances.
With some 10 minutes of the half gone, another succesful, dynamic lineout drive saw, (yes, that man again) Ewan Stewart dot down to claim his hat trick. This position had been created by some good work from stand off Andrew Jardine and Donald Voas. Bogle added the conversion.
Biggar made their second replacement at this point with Ewan McAra taking over from Reive.
Within 5 minutes Biggar stretched their lead to 26-3. Almost unbelievably it was Stewart who again touched down. A driven lineout, Josh King again responsible for taking some great ball on the touchline, was halted by the Dundee defence. Able to retain possession however, Biggar’s pack laid siege on the Dundee try line with some very aggressive carries before Stewart made the final breenge for the try. The hooker runs some excellent support lines and is evasive when on the run and this industry justifies his selection week on week.
With a quarter of the match remaining Biggar were then forced onto the back foot as the Fifers came right back into the match with some direct and very forceful plays. Once again it was the back row, centres and wingers who came to the fore, forcing Biggar into defence. A try was always likely and after a spell where the home side showed considerable control, ball eventually reached McKay who crossed for a try but one which he was unable to convert. Dundee 8 Biggar 26.
The last few minutes saw Biggar once again tasked with defending their line and this they did really well, a fact player/coach Craig Borthwick remarked upon in the post-match chat. Biggar have the second best defensive record in the division.
R. Orr, E. Bogle, A. Lamb, J. Barr, F. Jackson, A. Jardine, D. Reive, P. Davidson, E. Stewart, D. Voas, C. Borthwick, J. King, A. Thomson, F. Barr