Biggar Rugby Club ended the season in seventh position after losing 48-14 in their final BT National League Division 2 fixture of the season at GHK last Saturday, writes Alistair Stewart.
GHK played an expansive ganme which Biggar struggled to handle.
Their cause was not helped at all by unavailability of those who are now confined to the lambing paddock or indeed by a series of injuries which led to several players occupying various roles throughout the match.
Indeed the whole day reminded many of the Twickenham debacle last month when Scotland travelled south with similar degrees of optimism only to be suffer several disruptive and game changing injuries.
Robbie Lavery who made a return to action, albiet as a last option, lasted barely a half while Ewan Stewart and Andy Jardine both suffered injuries which forced them off the field.
In the end Gregor Stewart found himself in all bar two of the backline positions while Duncan Withers who began the match at flank forward was fielded in the centre for the last quarter. Douglas Notman was another who although well able to operate as a breakaway forward or as a centre found himself at fullback.
Add in a wide pitch and dry sunny conditions and a lightning fast GHK backline and it all added up to a tough day at the ‘office’.
Biggar had to work really hard in the opening quarter as GHK, bolstered by a strong breeze on their backs, confined their visitors to their 22.
Had they not made a couple of errors they might have struck earlier but it was still within the first 10 minutes when winger Marc Taylor crossed for the first try.
Danny Campbell missed the conversion but this was a rare error from the centre who otherwise had a good day.
The Jardine brothers both opened up the GHK defence as did Stuart Hull but desperate GHK defence and handling errors meant that these chances were also unconverted.
Another break after a neat lineout tidy from prop Dan O’Connell saw Orr make a great line break but it was Andy Jardine's pass to Hull and the centre's angled run which took him through under the posts for a try which Aird Jardine converted to give Biggar a slender 7-5 lead.
Shortly after the restart a great take on the GHK throw by Alan Warnock was snaffled by GHK flanker Nick Horn who had the simplest of tasks to touch down.
It was an error however which saw the ball dropped and referee John Shaw signal no try. A real let off.
The game was played at a terrific pace throughout as players looked to run at every opportunity, this in anticipation of the Sevens season perhaps but whatever it left all breathless. Biggar made some real ground with Jardine, Donald Voas, Withers, Craig McDonald and Ross Jackson leading the way but again these came to nought as the cover defence was just up to the task or as ball failed to go to hand.
There were some splendid defensive efforts as well with McDonald, Robbie Lavery, Warnock and Dunlop all working really hard together to get back and to stifle or slow the GHK attack or to create turnovers.
Ewan Stewart injured a hand (subsequently identified as a break) and Andy Jardine picked up a foot injury which saw both depart the scene, Calvin Henderson and Notman their replacements.
Biggar’s errors meant that GHK were able to stretch their lead, an interception seeing the home side exploit the space to score through lock and Captain Hugh Parker.
The score stood at 12-7 but stretched to 19-7 on the stroke of half time, scrum half Michael Aird credited with the score.
If Biggar were to win they had to keep GHK out in the opening exchanges of the second half but this they failed to do, the Glasgow outfit exploiting a restart error to take play to the Biggar 22 and from there over the line, centre Campbell the scorer.
This try coincided with Lavery aggravating his ankle injury and he bcame the third player to withdraw from the pitch. Campbell converted for 24-7.
Andy Jardine made a brave return to the fray to try to make sure Biggar had a full XV on the field but this return was relatively short-lived and his place was eventually taken by Zander Lyon, who was fielded in the pack, Notman dropping back to fullback/centre.
There was never that much between the sides but GHK were always able (or so it seemed) to make the most of their chances and it was not that long before they struck again, Taylor the scorer and Campbell kicking the conversion for 31-7.
Biggar replied minutes later to give them a bit of a spur, Jardine at scrum half taking full advantage of the delay in the GHK’s lack of organsiation to tap and go.
Though Jardine was seemingly held up referee Shaw was happy to award the score and so Biggar trailed by 31-14.
As players tired so their positional play suffered, GHK exploiting the gaps to score another couple of tries via Nick Hurn and then a brace for Campbell who kicked and ran well.
Biggar played some good stuff but they were unable to sustain any passages of play they had or manage to stay in the GHK 22 for any prolonged period.And so the game came to its end and with it both sides league campaign.
GHK finish in 4th spot, some 20 league points ahead of Biggar in 7th.
Nonetheless this will be remembered as a good season for Biggar with positive returns in relation to points scored and in particular in terms of bonus points, the 16 they amassed more than in the previous 3 seasons added together.
Biggar: Gregor Stewart, Alistair Sinclair, Stuart Hull, Robbie Lavery, Craig McDonald, Andrew Jardine, Aird Jardine, Donald Voas, Ewan Stewart, Dan O'Connell, Andrew Dunlop, Alan Warnock, Andrew Orr, Duncan Withers, Ross Jackson. Reps: Douglas Notman, Zander Lyon, Calvin Henderson.
There were farewells for Calvin Henderson who leaves shortly for Denmark and to Duncan Withers who feels he cannot commit the travel time given the workload of his studies.
The bulk of the squad it is to be hoped will stay with replacements coming from the 2nds who had another great win on Saturday, this a last gasp 24-19 defeat of Heriots 3rds.
The result should see them leapfrog Kelso.