Biggar Rugby Club 54-24 Cartha Queen Park: Bounceback since three-point deduction has been brilliant

After incurring a three-point SRU penalty for being unable to field a team at Ayr on September 25 due to a shortage of fit front row players, lesser teams may have folded spectacularly.

Biggar's Andrew Orr grapples with Cartha players during Saturday's win for the Hartreemill men (Pic by Ian Conn)

But that hasn’t been the case for Biggar Rugby Club, whose players’ response has been the exact opposite – Saturday’s 54-24 home success over Cartha Queens Park being their third consecutive Tennent’s National Division 1 win since the Ayr debacle.

“We’ve still got some injuries but the guys that have stepped in have stepped up and we’re still winning matches,” Biggar secretary Mike Booth told the Carluke and Lanark Gazette.

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"The injuries aren’t all front row guys thank goodness. Although the fact that we didn’t have our normal front row we weren’t just as impressive in the scrum as usual.

"But the lads that were there stepped up and we can only get better really.

"It’s a great relief that the injury situation has eased and the boys who have come in have also done a fantastic job.”

With six wins out of six in the league, Biggar are top on points difference above Melrose having played one game fewer.

Their postponed trip to Ayr has now been rearranged for Saturday, November 13, with Biggar having lodged an appeal with the SRU against the three-point deduction.

Booth added: “Unfortunately my gut feeling is that our appeal won’t be successful.

"I just don’t think the SRU’s appeals committee gives points back easily.

"But I think it will be a while before we hear anything back because you’ve just got to wait for the appeals committee to sit.”

Biggar are back in league action this Saturday at sixth placed Heriot’s Blues, KO 3pm.

"That won’t be a pushover,” Booth said. “To be fair, the Cartha game wasn’t a pushover either, they gave us a good go on Saturday.

"But I think our fitness is paying off for us.

"We get to the back end of a game and that seems to be when we’re winning out.

"And I think that’s just because we’ve got a good level of fitness.

"I don’t think we’re going to be complacent with any games this season now because that three-point deduction is going to keep us on our toes all the way through now.”

The Biggar-Cartha match was played in much more pleasant conditions than had been the case for the Melrose match a fortnight previously, with a very healthy touchline support, writes Alistair Stewart.

And within the first minute Biggar capitalised on a Cartha lineout overthrow. The ever-alert Ewan Stewart took possession and made the initial surge.

His off-load was taken by Andrew Orr who fed supporting lock Andrew Peacock whose shimmy burst the defence wide open to leave Davy Reive a fairly simple run to the line for the opening score, converted by Andy Jardine. 7-0.

Some would suggest such a simple, early opening score does a team no favours and this was virtually the case on Saturday when the try was followed by a lengthy period of play and territory for Cartha who controlled the game well, retaining possession over multiple phases.

A penalty from centre Wayne Burrows was followed up by a try for scrum half Thomas Davidson although it appeared to many that there was a neat bit of obstruction on King who was unable to make any tackle on Davidson.

Burrows added the conversion for a 10-7 Cartha lead.

The end of the first quarter of the match coincided with Biggar’s second try. The forwards had made inroads into the Cartha half with some fairly dynamic carries – this a feature of their play throughout the match – and this gave the backs space.

The try came from a clever backs move involving Fraser Jackson and Andy Jardine who created space for Rowan Stewart who romped home from the 22.

The winger had been involved in a nasty looking collision in the early part of the match and physio Alison Orr soon made the decision to have him taken off as a precaution, Girdler his replacement. Jardine kicked the conversion for 14-10.

Another prolonged period of possesion for Cartha saw Biggar keep their try line intact before launching another foray of their own into the Cartha half.

A couple of penalties gave Biggar good field position and while the first line was lost – aside from this the lineout proved to be a much better source of possession than it had been against Kelso with King and Jamie Orr making several good takes – the second spawned possession for a decent driven maul.

Both Orrs, Peacock and Voas all took ball on before Reive fed Andrew Orr who with the assistance of Jamie Orr crashed over a for a try converted by Jardine for 21-10.

Unfortunately Voas had picked up a head cut in his carry and while he received attention Henderson came on as replacment.

The youngster is not yet 19 so this was a big ask but in this spell, and later in the game when he replaced Voas again, he did enough to suggest that he will be a 1st

XV fixture in the years to come.

It appears Biggar are getting into a habit of squeezing scores into the dying minutes of the half or game and with less than five minutes remaining there was just time left for a fourth try, this the sought after bonus point try.

Biggar’s pace and attack was relentless at this point with forwards and backs being used to switch play left and right but always gaining ground.

In the face of this onslought the Cartha dam had to break but the angle at which try-scorer Andrew Peacock picked to run onto Andy Jardine’s pass was exceptional, top

drawer and unstoppable – a fantastic piece of play! Jardine converted for 28-10 and half-time followed.

There was a much calmer half time team took this week and the second half was a virtual repeat of the first as Biggar ran in another four tries although frustratingly Cartha scored two of their own to take the score to 54-24.

The second half saw Biggar open strongly, making Cartha tackle, tackle and tackle again.

This was strength sapping work for both Biggar and Cartha and it is to both teams’ credit that they lasted the pace to the game’s end.

Guy Napier took a bad looking ankle knock however and was replaced by Alan Warnock.

The next stoppage was for referee Craig Clark who required some assistance as his calf muscle cramped.

Happily he was able to continue. Cartha engineered a breakout as Biggar failed to take their lineout ball, play swept almost the length of the pitch as Biggar scrambled back in defence.

Cartha capitalised on their position with a second try, converted again by Burrows. Peacock gave way to Euan Mitchell, another ex-Colt and one who has featured on the bench several times without getting much game time.

Shortly afterwards Euan Bogle took over the scrum half duties from Reive. In a short burst Biggar ended any faint hopes Cartha might have had of a comeback as they ran in three unanswered tries.

First up was Euan Stewart who carried with pace and strength the whole game and which was sufficient for him to earn the man-of-the-match for the day.

Second was Girdler who took an interception as Cartha sought to open out from their own half.

The winger has pace and he easily outstripped the cover to score under the posts. Sam King, who had been at the heart of the forward effort, rounded off a very combative performance with his try, Biggar’s seventh.

Cartha then grabbed their third score, this another interception as Biggar ran from their 22.

Burrows converted this while Jardine added a conversion to each of Biggar’s three tries.

The kicker then rounded off a fine afternoon with his own score, as he breached the now tired Cartha cover.

Wide out on the right he was unable to add to his 19 point tally.

All in all a solid performance with the post match chat about trying to maintain concentration for the 80 minutes.

Given that this was a more complete display than had been endured at Kelso, there was improvement but again, against tougher opposition, there were mistakes which could prove costly.

Guy Napier, Jamie Orr and Rowan Stewart may well struggle to be fit for the coming challenge, this against Heriots who are lying in sixth spot but just five points behind Biggar who are top courtesy of a better points differential over Melrose in second spot.

Biggar have now played almost all of the teams in the bottom half of the table and so the challenges posed in the next two weeks by Heriots then Highland will provide a better indication of where Biggar stand.

Biggar: F. Jackson, R. Bradford, A. Lamb, A. Jardine (Capt), R. Stewart, A. Jardine, D. Reive, A.Orr, E. Stewart, D. Voas, C. Borthwick, A. Peacock, S. King, J. Orr, G. Napier. Reps: L. Henderson, A. Warnock, E. Mitchell, E. Bogle, M. Girdler.