Biggar Rugby Club’s BT National League Division 2 title challenge faltered on Saturday when they were defeated 22-10 at The Park by a stout Dumfries Saints squad.
Biggar’s defeat to the second placed outfit leaves the Hartreemill men fourth in the table with 36 points from 12 matches, 11 points behind leaders Kirkcaldy.
The biggest surprise to all at Biggar was that this game went ahead at all, Lanarkshire succumbing to heavy snow throughout the week which prevented any thought of outdoor sessions and the Tuesday session in its entirety.
A sharp contrast to Dumfries who amazingly escaped the worst of the weather, the snow line ending short of the town and leaving the pitch both dry and very playable.
What didn’t help the Hartreemill men was the early loss of prop Callum Braid with a dislocated shoulder.
Given the scarcity of props in the club game across the board, his absence going forward will be significant.
The game opened at breakneck speed with both sides playing an expansive game and making errors which saw play swing from end to end.
Carne Green was just wide with the first scoring opportunity while Dumfries forced Biggar to concede a drop out minutes later.
Some quick offensive defence from Jamie Orr and some neat footballing skills from skipper Alan Warnock took play to the Dumfries line where the width of the post protectors was all that prevented a Biggar try.
Almost immediately Dumfries replied, with some great tracking by Conor Lavery and Iain Renwick combining to halt the attack.
A penalty was conceded however and this was converted by centre John Carlisle to take the home side into a 3-0 lead.
Dumfries were keen to run from almost anywhere and they made good ground off these plays Biggar’s defence looking slightly slower than would have been preferred and a blindside break gave stand off Jordan Kerr a chance which he took to cross for a good try which Carlisle converted for 10-0.
Biggar then lost the services of Braid who was, as usual, putting in some great tackles whilst also carrying well.
Gregor Stewart came on as replacement while Andrew Peacock deputised at prop and from the next scrum Biggar mounted an attack from their own 22 with Conor Lavery taking Green’s pass out wide.
His run created space and his pass to Ross Bradford saw the winger make good ground before freeing Robbie Lavery for a run to the line and try which Green converted for 10-7.
Biggar’s rhythm was further disrupted by an ankle injury to Green which saw him replaced albeit only temporarily by Aird Jardine.
A good positive start to the second half saw Biggar earn a penalty which Green kicked to equalise the scores and a second award might have given the visitors the lead but this was just pulled wide.
Biggar suffered somewhat from their flat alignment as referee Clark pinged them for a number of forward passes, this of course all down to angles.
Biggar then lost Peacock to injury, this leading to uncontested scrums. Callum Dunlop replaced the luckless Peacock.
Able to take a pick up from a steady scrum Dumfries exploited the blind side and in the melee which followed referee Clark awarded the home side a score which although not converted gave them the lead at 15-10.
Biggar hit back and another neat break from Green saw him pop ball to Stewart who in turn off-loaded to Orr who crossed for what would have been a cracking score, save that the penultimate pass was again deemed to have been forward.
Dumfries then enjoyed pressure from a series of pick and goes and they managed to score a third try which when converted put them clear at 22-10.
Despite their best efforts which saw Biggar encamped in the Dumfries 22 for much of the remaining five minutes as they chased the elusive losing bonus point, the home defence stood firm and as a turnover was won there was much joy in the Dumfries camp as referee Clark brought proceedings to a close.
There was considerable disappointment felt amongst the Biggar squad.
The Park has never been a particularly profitable hunting ground for Biggar and so it proved again on Saturday, this the side’s first visit on league duty for several years.
But Biggar now have a home game to look forward to as GHK travel to Hartree this Saturday, kick-off 2pm.
This will be the third fixture between the sides this season, Biggar winning the league match but coming second to the Glasgow side in the cup.
Biggar: C. Braid, A. Orr, C. Henderson, J. Orr, A. Peacock, A. Warnock, E. Sanderson, R. Jackson, D. Reive, C. Green, I. Renwick, R. Moffat, R. Lavery, R. Bradford, C. Lavery.
Reps: C. Dunlop, G. Stewart, A. Jardine, A. Sinclair.