Gutsy come-back for Reds away at Biggar
By BEN GLASGOW
Frank the Pug reflects on events from Hartree Mill Sports Ground
Frank the Pug watches Reds come back from 19 points down to win 23-19.
The evening started of badly for the Reds before the game had even kicked off: a broken-down car, some late players and a few last minute positional changes led to the Reds starting with a very different team than had worked together at training. These changes and a somewhat flat warm-up (potentially due to the missing coaches) led to the poor start by the Reds.
Biggar are a National Reserve League 2 side and in the first period they definitely made the two-Division gap count.
The Biggar intensity, line speed and pace had the Reds rocked from the kick-off. The Reds were unable to keep possession and it was from turn-overs that the Biggar back-line really showed their pace to shred the Reds defence. Biggar’s second try was particularly hard to take as it came after a rare Reds attack that ended with a Ryan McConnell knock-on as he reached for the line.
Biggar scored three very good tries during this during this period taking a commanding lead: 19-0 Biggar.
Few Reds players came out the first period with any positive recognition, but the flankers Gregor Nixon and David Brown were the pick of the bunch, Gregor for his relentless carrying in the face of some solid defence and David Brown as we have come to expect absolutely smashing people in defence, one particular huge hit on the rather rotund Biggar no4 raised a particular cheer.
The back-line highlight of this period was a kick return from former Firsts speedster Alan Smellie, after taking a kick he turned and face 3 Biggar defenders, with the option of 20metetre left handed pass or taking on the three defenders he took off up the wing rolling back the years as he beat all three defenders and joined with the retreating forwards. Frank the Pug is convinced he only took this option as he can’t pass off his left hand. This break lifted the Reds and put the Peebles men on the front foot.
Peebles' first score came from an unlikely source with veteran prop Adam Clark scampering in from 20m after a lovely off-load from Dan Edwards in the centre. Rumour has it this is Clarkys first score since 2012, unfortunately he aggravated his slender calf and survived the next 30 mins by trundling form scum to scrum and settling for taking his frustration out the on Biggar front row as part of a dominant Reds scrum. The try was converted by Greg McConnell.
The Reds made several substitutions introducing the boys who were late and young Hamish Bell for his debut in the second-row. These changes made a significant difference as they gave the Reds some direction and a new back-three was able to adjust to the Biggar kicking game. This allowed the pack to begin to establish a foothold, good carrying by prop Rhys Wilson, hooker Mark Munro and the whole back-row combined with a dominate scrum and solid line-out got the Reds moving.
Adam McDonald was able to try and move the team forward, his kicking game was having more luck as the firm Biggar defence continued to shut down the backs, centre Cameron Thrall who had been so effective in the Reds league was shut down at each opportunity and allowed no space to build up a head of steam. Centre partner Dan Edwards was enjoying the physical confrontation with the old-hand on the Biggar backline at 12.
The Reds' next score again came from the forward pack, a lineout on the Biggar 22 was well taken by the impressive Gregor Nixon and as he came down the rest of the pack added their weight and began a march towards the try line where the returning Rhys Wilson flopped over. Subsequent extras were not able to be added by Adam McDonald who missed with his conversion attempt.
The away side remained on top until half time with the second row-combination of the indestructible Jim Weir and debutant Hamish Bell outstanding, Jim was causing havoc with his sheer brute strength in any contact situation and his young apprentice Hamish took every kick off that went his was, bouncing up after several big contacts but never losing the ball. Half-time: 19-12 to Biggar.
The second half-started with more changes of personnel for the Reds as little replaced large with Euan Jackson coming on for Ryan McConnell, with David Anderson replacing fellow veteran Alan Smellie on the wing. The leadership these two guys provide would prove vital during the second half.
The Reds remained on top during the first part of the second half with the tone set straight from the kick-off as replacement Josh Muir put in a huge hit to lay his marker down for a stating jersey. This continued as the Reds forwards kept driving the team forwards as both sets of backs cancelled each other out. Martin Linton replaced Big Jim Weir in the second row and Neil Pate came on for the unlucky James Matthews who suffered a dislocated shoulder. Both added to the game and the gutsy defensive effort.
The physical nature of the game continued with big hits going in from both sides in what was quickly turning into an old school grudge match. A small scuffle broke out - after some windmills and handbags both teams got back to the action.
The Reds forwards continued to drive the team forward and the backs had manged to cancel out the quicker Biggar backline. Territory swung back and forwards with the Biggar 15 and Reds stand-off Adam McDonald both kicking well and looking for any error.
It was the Reds who again made the next breakthrough after a penalty was given close to the Biggar line industrious scrum-half Robert Harrison squeezed over. The conversion was missed by Adam McDonald. 19-17 Biggar.
It was all getting bit much for senior prop Adam Clark who was replaced by Zander Stohart as the scrums went uncontested. Zander has joined the reds this year and continues to grow with every game and he put his body on the line as he threw himself into each tackle for the remainder of the game. This theme continued as the Reds stuck to their ethos of everyone getting game time and the stand-in coaches brought on their own version of Eddie Jones finishers. Callum Gray, Greg Anderson and Thomas Sloan returned as the back three and were a vital part of the final abck to walls effort. Euan Jackson ran himself into the ground and was dragged of the field as captain Mark Munro returned. The huge effort of the whole team was rewarded with the Reds being awarded two penalties in the last quarter to take the lead for the first time. Final Score: 23-19 Peebles Reds.
This was a huge result and sets the tone for the rest of the season. This result was the culmination of a huge team effort, with contributions from each and every player - the subs who came on each raised the level and this can only bode well for the coming weeks.
There were a few stand-out performers this week. The front row of Clark, Munro and Wilson were dominant the entire game with Rhys also standing out in defence. Jim Weir was immense and to make it even more impressive he followed up this performance by playing for the OAPees the next day. Young Hamish had a debut to remember, Josh Muir laid down the gauntlet for starting shot next week and scrum-half Robert Harrison showed he is more than able to step out of the shadow of his big brothers with a great shift.
Man of the Match however went to Gregor Nixon, who not only offered a secure line-out option but carried well and tackled nonstop for the whole game. Gregor without a doubt adds to the Club's significant stock of quality back-rows.
Last word goes to an emotional stand in captain Mark Munro taken from a late-night message to the group… “The question before kick-off was did we have the character to come here and win? To a man, everybody stood up and was counted. Stunning win and something I am proud to have been a part of.”