National One preview: Dundee face tough start to 2020 against league leaders Biggar

Second placed Heriot's host third placed Highland at Goldenacare, while old foes Melrose and Ayr renew rivalry at Millbrae

Dundee High are aiming to build on the momentum they started to generate at the end of 2019. Image: Jon Mussen
Dundee High are aiming to build on the momentum they started to generate at the end of 2019. Image: Jon Mussen

DUNDEE HIGH are still some way from safety in National League One, but they head into 2020 with a renewed confidence after a win in the final game before the festive break.

The 32-19 home victory over Ayr on December 21st backed up their 14-8 triumph over Watsonians at the start of the month and gave them a glimmer of hope heading into the second part of the campaign.

Make no mistake, they still face a mammoth task on to stay up – sitting 12th on 10 points with Kelso in 10th (just above the drop zone) on 24 points – but after a tough few months at Mayfield they may have just turned a corner.

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They could not have asked for tougher start to the New Year though, welcoming leaders Biggar, who have a 10 point lead at the summit, to Mayfield.

When the two sides met at Hartreemill in October, Biggar put 50 points on the men from the City of Discovery but Dundee High head coach Colin Sangster is looking for a big improvement on that day. “We are improving and will go into this game in much better shape than the last time we played Biggar,” he said.

“The boys are looking forward to the challenge of playing the top team in the league while knowing it will be a testing 80 minutes. It will be a tall order for us to stay up, but the two recent wins have helped confidence massively and we are up for the fight.”

Boroughmuir are second bottom, seven points ahead of Dundee High and seven adrift of Kelso, and they face a crucial home match with Stirling Wolves at Meggetland.

The Wolves won the fixture between the two 47-7 back in October, but Boroughmuir have improved since then with their younger players more used to playing at this level. Both teams lost tight matches last time out on December 21st, so will be keen to get back to winning ways.

Kelso know a derby victory over Gala would help them move further away from the relegation zone and it should be a cracking match at Poynder Park.

“The boys managed to get a good break over the festive period and are now looking forward to the Gala match,” said Kelso skipper Murray Hastie said ahead of the match with the sixth placed Maroons. “Before Christmas we were playing some good rugby, but results weren’t going our way. We know we will have to be somewhere close to our best to win this one.”

Gala defeated Melrose 26-14 at The Greenyards on Boxing Day to win the Waverley Cup so confidence should be high in Opeta Palepoi’s squad.

Second plays third at Goldenacre as Heriot’s Blues and Highland look to keep up some sort of pressure on Biggar.

Heriot’s were frustrated to see their final match before the break postponed due to the weather, but are still in a good position while Highland signed off on 2019 by cutting loose against Kelso. When these sides met at Canal Park just over three months ago, Heriot’s became one of the few sides to win in Inverness, so Dave Carson’s men are sure to be out for revenge.

Fourth placed Melrose travel to Millbrae to take on ninth placed Ayr and while the match may not command quite the same build-up and hype as when the two clubs used to clash in the Premiership pre-Super6 days, it should still be a close fought affair, following a narrow 20-15 win for the Borderers when the two sides met earlier in the campaign. Ayr have former Scotland hooker Pat MacArthur in their line-up at open-side flanker.

Watsonians have moved up to fifth place and will be looking to keep their unbeaten home record going against seventh placed Cartha Queens Park. The hosts have George Watson’s College players Gregor Scougall and Ryan Daley, both named in the Scotland Under-18 training squad last month, set to be involved at Myreside while Cartha’s team also features some good young talent.

This weekend’s National League Division One fixtures (all 2pm unless stated) 

Watsonians v Cartha Queens Park

Heriot’s Blues v Highland

Boroughmuir v Stirling Wolves

Dundee High v Biggar

Ayr v Melrose (3pm)

Kelso v Gala (3pm)

How it stands 

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About Gary Heatly 379 Articles
Gary has loved rugby ever since he can remember and since 2004 he has covered the sport and others in a professional capacity for many publications and websites and runs his own company, GH Media.