A glorious sunny day welcomed the return of the Ist XV to their home for this friendly match with Biggar. Reports from the recent defeat in the Billy Barnes Cup suggested that there is a lot to work on for the home side before the squad begin their league fixtures next week. Biggar arrived at Braidholm determined to show that they belong in the same league as the home side. Thus the long wait to watch the Ist Xv caused by the lockdown was over. The players were eager to return to their home surroundings. Such a return after the long enforced break which has brought such suffering and sadness to all of us is only possible because of the astonishing efforts of a band of brothers and sisters who kept and continue to keep our club afloat. The recent loss of Ronnie Jamieson is a sad blow to the club and he will be sorely missed.

Considerable work has been carried out on the Ist XV pitch over the months and the pitch looked impressive in the sunlight. The months ahead , when normal Caledonian weather returns will give a truer indicator of the success of the work.On going building work on the stand necessitated this missive being composed from the side of the pitch. The home side kicked off and the deep penetrating ball was effectively cleared by Biggar up to half way. Almost immediately from the resulting lineout , the home side were penalised for not releasing the ball. It was to be a feature of the match that both sides gave away a number of penalties for repeated misdemeanours. Craig Borthwick for the visitors took the ball into contact and as the ball was recycled the Biggar backs wove a lovely pattern of passing only to see it break down inside the GHA twenty two area. The home side managed to clear the ball gaining territory. After four minutes Biggar ran the ball at the home defence , probing for weaknesses inside the GHA half. Another penalty was awarded to the visitors who deftly kicked the ball into the GHA twenty two . The home side crucially won the initial lineout but Biggar recovered the ball in the loose and using a mobile forward unit drove into the heart of the home defence sucking in the home pack who tried to prevent further progress by Biggar.Crisp passing between messrs Borthwick,Jackson and Stewart gave the visitors a good attacking position deep inside the GHA twenty two. Biggar were awarded another penalty as we reached the sixth minute and the astute Jackson kicked into the corner. The home side were under pressure and the visitors sensed that they had to capitalise on this early pressure. In a well executed move the visitors following a catch and drive moved the ball to score in the corner. Fraser Jackson with a superb kick pushed Biggar into a further advantage. GHA 0 BIGGAR 7.

In blistering heat the home side took the match to Biggar from the restart and indeed their pressure in the Biggar half of the field resulted in a penalty for GHA. The home side kicked deep into the Biggar half and gained a further penalty when a contested lineout resulted in the visitors not releasing the ball. The home side gained further advantage by taking play up to the Biggar twenty two area. GHA were now putting pressure on the Biggar defence and messrs Baird and MacFarlane continued to look for gaps in the Biggar rearguard. AFter ten minutes excellent work by Adam Kerr and Jamie McCarthy caused panic in the visiting forward pack as the home side began to put together some penetrating phases. Indeed as the home side retained possession a clever delayed pass by Jamie Mackinnon allowed the ever alert Max MacFarlane to burst through a flat footed Biggar defence to score under the posts. Adam Scott added the conversion to make the score: GHA 7 BIGGAR 7.

As we moved towards the end of the first fifteen minutes both sides attempted to run the ball through the backs with powerful forward support. This resulted in a lot of movement between the respective ten metre areas but solid defensive tackling by both sides, negated a breakthrough. As we reached the first quarter both sides had opportunities to break through but over eager entry to the loose, or over ambitious passes or indeed the wrong attacking option resulted in an untidy period of play. The match was being played at a fast pace and the frustration for both sets of players was evident as passes fell short or penalties were conceded. However this is the purpose of such a fixture to hone the skill sets and game management that will be crucial in the league matches for both sides, the fact that it creates an untidy and scrappy match at times is part of the process. A searing break by Glen Little startled the visitors as he penetrated from his own half almost to the BIggar goal line before desperate defensive cover stopped him. In doing so the visitors conceded a penalty which Adam Scott converted to make the score: GHA 10 BIGGAR 7.

Biggar renewed their efforts and play swung from end to end as neither side was able to gain control of the match long enough to establish a platform. Both sides were winning possession and then losing it through missed passes, knock ons or moving offside. The pace continued to defy the conditions and the water breaks were gratefully received. This tended to break the overall match rhythm but credit to both sides who refused to succumb to the heat and the myriad of errors and continued to apply themselves to the cause. JUst before the thirty fifth minute there was a confrontation between the players which resulted in the referee consulting with both assistant referees before speaking to both captains. I would suggest the incident was as much a part of their frustration that neither side could get into their stride as for any other reason. As we moved towards the interval GHA began to gain a slight ascendency, as a combination of excellent forward work allied to crisp inter passing in the backs pushed the visitors back into their own half. A factor in the breakdown of set moves was the aerial battle between both sets of forwards at the lineout. A high number of lineouts were actively contested in this match which resulted in ragged or scrambled ball which led to further work for both packs and tended to result in rushed and hurried passing which negated forward thrusts. However as we approached the break a spell of pressure for the home side allowed George Baird to make a rapier thrust through the Biggar rearguard and go over to score.Adam Scott converted to make the half time score: GHA 17 BIGGAR 7.

It had in its own way been a pulsating half with neither side able to settle consistently into their rhythm. Certainly the endeavour by all the players was impressive.

The second half began with GHA intent on building on their slight ascendency towards the end of the half and with Biggar determined to pull themselves back into contention. As in the opening half, initial thrusts by either side resulted in a plethora of penalties being awarded. After around eight minutes, a long accurate penalty kick from George Baird ( who was a thorn in the Biggar side throughout) from a penalty took the home side to just inside the Biggar twenty two from his own half. From the accurate lineout take and drive, the visitors were driven back the ball released and Max MacFarlane cut through the Biggar defence to score. Thus after ten minutes the added Scott conversion made the score: GHA 24 BIGGAR7.

Once again Biggar increased their efforts from the restart and following the visitors winning ball only an excellent tackle by Charlie Lonegan prevented Biggar adding to their score. Several minutes passed with Biggar encamped deep in the GHA half. As we reached fifteen minutes into the second half, Biggar were awarded a penalty inside the GHA twenty two. The pattern of kicking such penalties to the corner continued and following a well executed lineout by the visitors quality ball was moved quickly through the ranks to allow Biggar to score in the corner. The conversion attempt fell short and the score was now: GHA 24 BIGGAR 12.

Biggar began to build some control of territory and took every opportunity to run the ball through forwards and backs combining at the GHA defence. Despite a number of insertions GHA tackling managed to blunt advances until just after the twenty second minute some lovely footwork by Robbie Orr allowed him to score and the try was converted. The score was now: GHA 24 BIGGAR 19.

The home side showed no signs of panic as the scores began to move together. Rather the home side continued to apply themselves to attempting to win quality ball , using the impressive organised forward drives before releasing hungry backs to test the resilience of the visiting defence. As the match moved toward the thirty fifth minute, GHA drove once more into the BIggar half and after some intense pressure Jamie McCarthy burst through before offloading to Walker Graham who rounded the last defender to score. An excellent conversion made the score after thirty six minutes: GHA 31 BIGGAR 19.

This match had produced tries, conversions, spills, penalties and non stop effort. Even at this stage Biggar came straight back at the home side and cut through the home defence inside the GHA half to allow Robbie Orr to score. An excellent conversion by Euan Bogle made the score with minutes to go: GHA 31 BIGGAR 26.

The home side carefully managed the remaining minutes to achieve a very hard fought encounter with an opponent who never let the home side settle into any sustained pattern of play. In such conditions it is a credit to both squads that they kept going right until the final whistle. FInal score: GHA 31 BIGGAR 26.







Photo by Colin Robinson

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