1st XV vs Biggar: Match Report
Daylight was at a premium when we kicked off, with the incessant rain that had preceded the fixture relenting somewhat and allowing us to get a game. In truth, the game could have been postponed for bad light, never mind a waterlogged pitch. Normally, in such conditions, Biggar would be the favourites as their game plan usually involves their attritional pack.
On this occasion, though, the Stew Mel ranks included Manning, Brewster, Durrant and Aitken, all of whom relish the physical forward exchanges. Combine them with Macdonald at scrum half – a player in the old fashioned terrier mould – and it was evident that we held the upper hand in the close quarter stuff.
On the other hand, since our last league encounter, Biggar had recruited the Wilbore twins; both are fine runners with the ball in hand, although the conditions meant that ‘they couldnae step you’.
In addition, the forward composure evidenced in our win over Musselburgh was repeated for this fixture, and it was no surprise when Manning crashed over to give us an early advantage. Craig Parker replied soon after, following a trip by Scott Brewster.
Now a word about the referee, Sam Grove-White. Although only 20, he handled the game with aplomb, and, when his assistants tried to help him, he listened to their points but still decided the outcome for himself. His assessor, Jim Fleming, gave him a good report on his first National League game.
Further good forward drives gave Stew Mel a penalty that Seb Trotter converted – this award resulted in Biggar losing Sutherland to the bin. Chris Damsteegt then forced his way over following a quickly taken penalty. At this point it looked as if we had the game by the scruff of the neck, as Biggar were constantly surprised by Macdonald’s sniping runs. Parker, however, slotted a penalty right on the stroke of half time to give Biggar a lifeline – indeed, it is a bit of a pattern with Stew Mel that we tend to lose points as the interval approaches and concentration slips.
Biggar had to change things at the interval, and, sure enough, they changed their scrum-half and centre with Renwick and Lavery – but were further hampered when they lost Amo Wilbore to the bin. Biggar are nothing if not dogged, though, and gradually they came more into the game. Trotter and Parker exchanged penalties but the gap stayed at seven points.
The second half was much more even, and the threat of Parker’s prowess with the boot grew as the game progressed. Goal kicking is all about the cleanness of the strike, and Craig never thumps it – he is a slight figure, but any penalty in the opposition half is within his range.
With twelve minutes remaining Biggar equalised when, following a quick penalty, Hata Wilbore (who else) emerged with the touch down. It was now anybody’s game, and we were presented with a conundrum: whether to kick for the corner or accept the penalty attempt from out wide. Seb hit the penalty well but pulled it to the left.
There was one final drama as Johnny Macdonald suffered a head knock and was concussed. He has recently come into the side and has brought an urgency and zip to the position, so let’s hope that he makes a speedy recovery. Play finally ended around the half way, with Biggar surprisingly accepting the draw rather than having a final tilt at our defence.
Nothwithstanding the slightly disapointing outcome, we played well. The forwards retained ball patiently. Liam offered himself selflessly as the receiver on the blind side. Liam also kicked well from hand and Seb did the right things. On reflection, we were stuck betwixt and between – not sure whether to kick for position and wait for opposition mistakes or move it and risk making mistakes in the conditions.
Bruce McNeill, Biggar coach
“Good game. We didn’t particularly target Stew Mel for a win, as we have to win every game. We didn’t have the (Wilbore) twins at the start and are a much better side now. We have a good training set up at Elsrickle, and we think we are good enough to stay up. Stew Mel have improved, too.’
Merry Christmas, folks!
Biggar match report here