1st XV vs Biggar: Match Report
Biggar have decided that this season is to be one of player development, and their results to date confirm they are not as formidable as they usually are. The players that Biggar selected to play us on Saturday were, however, determined to give the city boys an uncomfortable afternoon, aware that the conditions would be a leveller. In truth, they enjoy playing against clubs like us, with all our perceived advantages, and revel in the opportunity to put one over on us.
Biggar were encouraged, furthermore, by a record attendance of 130 plus at their pre-match lunch. They had made the day into something of an occasion.
Our game plan involved establishing an impregnable lead, with the first half elements in our favour, and silencing the home support, which, traditionally, assembles in front of the club house to roar their boys to victory.
That plan was quickly blown off course by an injury to Sangster with an unfortunate recurrence of his hip problem. On players returning from injury, Sir Alex Ferguson says ‘when they think they are ready – give them another week’. It’s easy to be wise after the event (and McCashin returned to great effect whilst not fully recovered earlier in the season) but it is hard not to feel sorry for Donald as he is such a wholehearted contributor to the cause.
Things went from bad to worse after about 20 minutes, when the Biggar centre, Connor, intelligently intercepted in his own ‘22’ and made off deep into hitherto unchartered territory, only to be overhauled by McCashin and Morrell short of the line. Biggar had enough support in attendance, however, to open the door for Parker to scamper through, and, subsequently, complete the seven point advantage by goaling his try.
A suspicion that this was not to be our day seemed to have been confirmed when McCashin was helped from the action, having damaged ankle ligaments.
Early signs of scrum supremacy proved to be a harbinger of later events and resulted in us eschewing two kickable penalties before eventually securing the levelling points when Adam Howie touched down after a push-over. We had been over the Biggar line through scrimmage pressure on two previous occasions, but the first time we lost control and the second time Fraser, in keeping with the pantomime season, had an ‘it’s BEHIND you!’ moment. No further scoring meant half time approached with the prospect of having to play against the wind with no advantage on the scoreboard.
The supremacy in the scrum grew in the second half and this allowed us to control the game. Possession in these circumstances can be a mixed blessing, though, as the only way we could progress was through the hands – and, with the ball increasingly resembling the proverbial bar of soap, mistakes were inevitable.
It is, therefore, to our enormous credit that we managed to score twice after the break. The first score came through Nick Hart after a rolling maul – a ploy we are now very proficient at. The second try came after a good piece of quick thinking. Biggar had lost a man to the bin and we were awarded a penalty on the ‘22’, pretty much in front of the sticks but into the wind. After declining the kick, it looked like we would go for the scrum or lineout – but, instead, the backs had a go, and, from the resultant ruck, Fraser picked his way through the stretched cover to dot down under the sticks. Mike added the extras and that was to complete the scoring.
To complain about the lack of a bonus point try would be mean spirited, as Biggar continued to seek a way back into the game, ready to pounce on our errors and tackling everything. David Changleng is, arguably, the best referee in Scottish rugby, and can be relied upon to keep the game flowing in a totally even handed way – but he doesn’t tend to focus on the tight areas. Perhaps that’s a good thing, but it allowed Biggar (who were living on scraps) to keep a toe-hold on the game.
The satisfaction for the coaches came from the all-round commitment from the team. It wasn’t just the blue collar workers like Aitken and Brewster that were putting their bodies on the line; the ‘pretty boys’, like Trotter and Morrell, were equally prepared to don the boiler suits and do what was necessary to get the result. On one occasion, from the tail of the line out, Stuart Wilson secured a ball which he had no right to be anywhere near, and such an example inspired others. Ruaridh, too, showcased his technical abilities after his introduction from the bench.
There are four league games left this season, but the old adage of one game at a game must apply – so the next league game is 25th January against Hillhead/Jordanhill. Next week (28/12) is the Christmas celebratory games at Inverleith, and a large attendance is anticipated for this family day.
There are also friendly matches in January, so please study the website and Facebook to keep up to date.
Merry Christmas to all our readers!