National One preview: Biggar out to halt Melrose’s unbeaten march

Table-toppers are missing 13 players but head coach Stuart Johnson believes his team can keep winning start to season going at Hartreemill

Melrose in action during last week's win at Dundee HSFP. Image: Douglas Hardie
Melrose in action during last week's win at Dundee HSFP. Image: Douglas Hardie

THIRD plays first in the big game in National League Division One this Saturday when Biggar host Melrose at Hartreemill. Both sides won last week, against Kelso and Dundee HSFP respectively, but neither were at their best and have been working hard at training this week ahead of this match-up.

Melrose make the trip with six wins from six under their belts and although they have Jake Fairley back from injury, they are missing around 13 players for the match. “It would look like we will be missing that number of players this weekend, but we have to get on with things,” said head coach Stuart Johnston. “On the pitch we need to look after the ball a lot better than we did last week and play in the right areas of the field.

“If we don’t do that against Biggar they will punish us as they have done to other teams already this season.”

Among those missing for Melrose is teenage back-row Trystan Andrews, who still has another few weeks left on the treatment table, but this week was named one of Strathclyde University’s Sports Scholars for 2019-20.

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Biggar have not lost since September 14th, but they know that to have any chance of knocking Melrose off their perch then they have to put together a more complete 80 minutes than they did against Kelso. They should have former Heriot’s man Chris Mulligan back for this one to bring some experience to their pack, while a big crowd is expected.

“When we have opportunities in the ‘red zone’ against Merose we will need to be more clinical than last time out and come away with points because we are unlikely to get a lot of scoring chances against such a well organised team,” said player/forwards coach Craig Borthwick, who returns to the team for this match having passed a fitness test on Thursday night.

“We will need to hold onto the ball far better and get through the phases in the first place to get us on the way to causing any problems.”

Melrose are on 28 points and Biggar on 25 with free-scoring Heriot’s sandwiched in between them in second on 26 points.

The Goldenacre outfit have won four games in a row since a defeat to Melrose in mid-September and they will start as favourites at Poynder Park against Kelso.

Kelso just have not clicked this season yet and are still searching for their first league win, sitting second bottom on three points.

Dundee HSFP are the only team in the division worse off than them with just one point under their belt. This weekend Colin Sangster’s boys are away to a Stirling County Wolves side who will have taken a lot out of their second half comeback to grab a draw at Ayr in week six.

Highland are in fourth place in the table having lost their last two games following a brilliant start. They welcome 10th placed Boroughmuir to Canal Park and ahead of this one home head coach Dave Carson said:  “We want to get back to basics after two close defeats.

“If we had taken our chances last week against Watsonians at Myreside we could have had five points, so we have been working hard on our decision making in training this week. We need to return to turning pressure into points and we are excited to be back at home again.”

That 22-20 win over Highland means that Watsonians have won three home games, but lost three away, so head coach Bruce Ruthven has challenged his team to be break that pattern at Gala this Saturday.

“We need a committed performance and the boys to work hard for 80 minutes to ensure that we can be competitive at Netherdale,” he said.

Gala, in ninth, have struggled to find any consistency this term to date and head coach Opeta Palepoi will be looking for a good showing ahead of a big Scottish Cup tie with Kelso next week.

Ayr are on the road to a Cartha Queens Park side who shot themselves in the foot during the second half of their draw against Stirling County Wolves last week.

“At the end of the day our penalty count in the second half put us to bed last week,” said assistant coach Robbie Fergusson. “They take their toll when you are up against a big pack, but there were positives to take from the performance, especially our first half.”

This weekend’s National League Division One fixtures (all 3pm)

Kelso v Heriot’s Blues

Highland v Boroughmuir

Cartha Queens Park v Ayr

Stirling County Wolves v Dundee HSFP

Biggar v Melrose

Gala v Watsonians

Current league standings –

Heriot's Blues19145067236530716173
Stirling Wolves18981413429-166347
Cartha QP197111559587-2811445
Dundee High203170313695-3823116

National Two preview: vital league points up on the line ahead of mid-season mini-break

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Gary Heatly
About Gary Heatly 174 Articles
Gary has had a love for both rugby and writing for as far back as he can remember. Having cut his teeth in the ‘real world’ of journalism at the Midlothian Advertiser local newspaper for a couple of years between 2005 and 2007, he has since been kept busy covering sport, mainly rugby. He was a member of the editorial team at SCRUM Magazine for 11 years until recently and now provides regular rugby content to various national and local newspapers, magazines and websites via his company GH Media as well as hosting a podcast. Twitter: G_HMedia