The first scrum of the afternoon looked solid as the forwards drove well, and, thereafter, brought play into the midfield, where Will Corbett was able to make more progress until, eventually, a penalty came our way. Freddie Roddick launched a kick to the corner, and, whilst the lineout was good, the ball was subsequently lost and Biggar managed to clear their lines. They then retained possession for a significant period and were camped well into Stew Mel’s half. Again the tables were turned and Stew Mel managed to win back possession and kick long, taking advantage of the wind.
With approximately 15 minutes played, both teams were putting in some good phases, although these were generally fizzling out due to mistakes, with knock-ons and offside infringements preventing much progress. Stew Mel were opting to kick from both outfield positions and from the base of the scrum in the hope that the aforementioned breeze would work to their advantage; it did not, however, and Biggar, perhaps due to their familiarity with this tactic, managed to mop it all up. Perhaps ball in hand at this stage may have been more effective.
Stew Mel continued to utilise their big ball carriers, Thor and Ruaridh in particular, but Biggar managed to slow the ball down, and, when it was eventually shifted to the wider areas, their defence was resolute. 20 minutes in, still no score and Momo returned to the fray. The frantic element had somewhat subsided and there was hope that more constructive rugby would be evident – which there was, but more from Biggar’s perspective, although the Stew Mel defence was exemplary. More pressure from Biggar within Stew Mel’s half and some desperate tackling, regrettably high, lead to a penalty to Biggar with 25 minutes played. They duly opened the scoring: Biggar 3 Stew Mel 0.
Again Stew Mel looked strong after play resumed. A great turnover by Momo put us in a good position, although, again, after a period of winning and losing possession, Biggar managed to retain it for a longer period, and, after intense pressure about 5 metres out from the Stew Mel line, got their well deserved try. Half time: Biggar 8 Stew Mel 0.
It was difficult to predict what would happen in the second half as there was really not much between the teams at this stage. Fraser Strachan came on to replace Cameron Leask at 9 and added something different from the base of the scrum, making every effort to move the ball quickly, and, after a period of good phases and pressure, Stew Mel were awarded a penalty within kicking distance which, fortunately, hit the upright and bounced over for the 3 points. 45 minutes played: Biggar 8 Stew Mel 3.
A poor restart from Biggar resulted in a scrum to Stew Mel around the half way line, right in the middle of the park, and, following a good drive and good hands in the backs, Dave Hampton once again made good progress with support from the pack. A familiar theme then followed, however, with possession being lost. Biggar took the opportunity to clear their lines but didn’t do so effectively; Stew Mel gained possession once more to send Thor on a great drive into Biggar’s 22. He, unfortunately, lost not only the ball but also his breeks and his dignity for a short while!
Again Biggar started putting some phases together with effect, and, after some good play by their backs supported by their forwards, drove over the line for their second try. 60 minutes played: Biggar 13 Stew Mel 3.
At this stage it seemed that Biggar were collectively playing well as a unit and it wasn’t long before they moved the ball quickly to the right (albeit slightly forward), allowing them to run in another try, this time converted. 65 minutes played: Biggar 20 Stew Mel 3.
With around 15 minutes left on the clock Freddie looked as if he had succumbed to an injury and Cameron Leask came in at 10, where he looked reasonably comfortable. Stew Mel continued to battle it out and were still showing a great competitive edge – but this was not going to be their day. We made more mistakes, and, with Biggar having the majority of the possession, this lead to a further try. 75 minutes played: Biggar 25 Stew Mel 3.
A similar pattern of play ensued in the last 5 minutes and a ‘semi’ intercepted try gave our hosts the final say of the afternoon as they rubbed salt in Stew Mel wounds. Full time Biggar 32 Stew Mel 3.
It has been some time since I last visited Biggar RFC. I remember a field and rugby posts, on the left hand side as you drive into the town from Edinburgh, which could not be further from the fantastic set up they now have. Great community, great club and support, and yes – great rugby! We were well beaten – Biggar were better on the day, no argument there.
The tries that we conceded – or certainly a number of them – came as the result of Stew Mel mistakes. I think in a defeat such as this you must look at the positives. As has been said, you learn more from defeat than you do from victory! The set pieces were strong and we were probably superior in that department. The line out by and large functioned well. The platform for our backs to perform was not there and our attack was flat (probably as a result of slow ball) – but we did put some good phases together and our defence (for the most part) was resilient.
Biggar were better around the park and at the breakdown – they combined well as a unit and made, on balance, less mistakes. We will have to learn that, in this league, with the absence of touch judges, there is always the likelihood that offside will frequently be breached and that teams will play on the edge. Decisions will undoubtedly go against us but we will also be the beneficiary of similar decisions that will be in our favour. We just need to continue to play the game we are capable of.
Heads up, it’s early days and another Super Saturday looms at Inverleith. I am confident of a turnaround in our fortunes. We have players (and, indeed, coaches) who are well capable of that!