National One: Highland see off Biggar while Stirling sneak it against Kelso

Ayr, Gala, Melrose and Watsonians also pick up wins

Charlie Dineen
Charlie Dineen makes a break for Stirling Wolves versus Kelso. Image: Bryan Robertson

BIGGAR’S bid to extend their winning run against Highland to three in the last two seasons hit the buffers at Canal Park where a near gale force wind made matters difficult for the two newly promoted sides.

Having done the hard work in the first half, the Lanarkshire side disappeared from the game in the second half, disappointing director of rugby Ian Notman. ”We played tight, controlled rugby in the face of a fierce wind, and at 7-7 at the break we looked in control, only to fall off tackles, losing our momentum at the same time,” he said. “It’s not the end of the world, but it’s one that got away.”

Not surprisingly, his opposite number Dave Carson was viewing the world in a slightly different light. ”We just never know when we are beaten,” he beamed.  “Very few would have backed us to go on win the game after having failed to harness the gale force wind, but there’s hidden depths in this team. It’s a great start to our campaign in a higher division.”

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Highland dominated the early stages, but found the visitings defence in no mood to give away the first try of the game, although it did come after ceaseless probing when in 12 minutes full-back Ruiraih MacDonald lame into the line to dash over near the posts, allowing stand-off Scott Fraser to add the extras.

Highland continued to press but without seriously threatening the visitors’ line, squandering one chance in the process, only for Biggar to break out three minutes before the interval, enabling winger Mark Bertram to scamper home, and with stand-off James Barr kicking the conversion, an away win looked to be on the cards.

Instead, Highland rose to the challenge in the second half, taking full advantage of poor Biggar tackling to score two tries against the wind, attributed to No 8 Stuart MacDonald-Butler and lock Oscar Baird, one of which was converted by Fraser.

A late spell of pressure from Biggar brought no reward, giving the home side a precious four points, although such was the ferocity of the wind that neither side should be judged on day on which running rugby was difficult, if not impossible on occasion.

Biggar vice-president James Orr was disappointed by the outcome but not too despondent. ”It’s just one game,” he shrugged. “We have done well since being relegated from the old Premiership in 2004, and have been building for the future in recent years. I like to think we are a side on the move, as we proved last season when we were promoted from National League 2 with today’s opponents. We’ll both be a credit to this league.”

Second-row Baird was the stand out for the home team, while Luhann Kortze was a busy, creative number nine for the visitors.

Among the large Canal Park crowd was Ernie Michie, a former British Lion and Scotland player from the late 1950’s who also played for Highland and at one stage for Langholm when they won unofficial Scottish championship in 1959.

Melrose triumph against old rivals

Meanwhile, Melrose were on the road to Heriot’s Blues and it was a cracking contest at Goldenacre. The home side, who had won at Dundee HSFP in week one, were 12-3 up with half-time approaching before Melrose scored two crucial tries. The first one came from Donald Crawford and when David Colvine added the conversion to his earlier penalty it was 12-10. The second converted try came from James Brown and it was 17-12 to the visitors at the interval.

Gavin Wood went over for another converted try in the 52nd minute to make it 24-12 to the Borderers before Heriot’s pegged things back. A Colvine penalty made it 27-17, but again Heriot’s fought back and it was 27-24 heading into final stages.

With four minutes to go, Lewis Mallin intercepted and showed good footwork to go over for the bonus point try and give Melrose a 34-24 triumph.

Ayr were 16-10 down at Boroughmuir at half-time, but dogged it out to win 16-22. The try scorers for the visitors in the bonus point triumph at Meggetland were Harry Lynch, Zac Howard, Matt Donladson and James Pinkerton with Jamie Bova adding a conversion. Boroughmuir picked up a losing bonus point with Gavin Welsh scoring two tries.

“It wasn’t pretty, but it was a bonus point win away from home, so we will take the positives from that,” said Ayr head coach Stewart Fenwick. “It is a tough place to win in a very unknown league, but the young boys involved showed character to get a result in a game that could have gone either way.”

Wolves do it the had way

Stirling Wolves went ahead in the first quarter at Kelso thanks to a try from Alex Black. The hosts then lost Cammy Brown to a yellow card before County lost two men before the break, with Black sin-binned and Blair Gilchrist red carded, but it was the 13 men who scored next when captain Jonny Hope kicked a penalty.

Before the interval, a converted try for Kelso by Frankie Robson made it 8-7. The Poynder Park men then went ahead with a penalty in the second half before a dramatic finale. Good work from Charlie Dineen helped set-up Brandon Mills, who finished very well with Hope converting to clinch a last gasp 15-10 win for the Wolves.

Gala and Watsonians both got their seasons up and running with bonus point home wins. Ruairi Howarth, Lachlan Johnston and Ross Cooke scored tries for Gala in the first half, but they trailed Cartha Queens Park 20-19 after 40 minutes.

Jesse de Vries, Andrew Mitchell (2), captain Euan Dods and Robbie Irvine crossed after the interval as Gala came out on top 55-27. Cartha took home a losing bonus point for their efforts with Sam Harrison, Liam Howieson, Ryan Howie and Juan Phyfer the try scorers.

Watsonians defeated Dundee HSFP 39-16 at Myreside. Willie Thomson and Thomas Klein both scored two tries apiece with Craig Willis, Harry Fisher and Donald Kennedy also crossing for the victors. Captain Chris Bell added two conversions.

National League Division One results –

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Table as it stands –

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About Jack Nixon 74 Articles
Jack is a Borderer, born in Langholm, and a graduate of Moray House College of Education in Edinburgh. He was a founder member of Livingston Rugby Club in 1968 and has been rugby correspondent for the Aberdeen Press and Journal since 1997. He has been going to Murrayfield man and boy since 1954!