Biggleswade 1st XV end season on positive note23rd April 2018
In their final league game of the season in Midlands 3 East (South) Biggleswade drew with Vipers (17-17) which really upset the hosts.
Biggleswade may not have bitten the head off the Vipers but they certainly gave the tail a big twist. At the end of the match Biggleswade were the winners as they relaxed in the sunshine drinking a celebratory bottle of beer while the home fled to the sanctuary of the changing room.
Travelling 70 miles at the end of a long campaign certainly tests the resolve and commitment of any team when there is nothing at stake except pride. But all eighteen players from last week’s squad made the journey and nearly pulled off a huge upset.
If Vipers thought that they just had to turn up to win they were rudely awakened and soon found themselves trailing and on the back foot. Biggleswade applied all the early pressure which rocked the Vipers into making mistakes.
Biggleswade bossed the scrums and more than held their own in the lineouts. Around the park the tackling was immense with everyone doing their bit. The rucks were not a place for the faint hearted with both sides clearing out loiters with abandon.
A kick at goal from forty metres plus by Luke Haverly fell just short but the ball was taken over the try-line by a defending player. This meant that Biggleswade was awarded a five metre attacking scrum. From this the ball went wide and the flying Pole Jacob Grabowski went over in the corner. From a difficult angle Luke Haverly added the conversion to give Biggleswade a seven point lead.
The Biggleswade pack destroyed the Vipers outfit at the set scrums. Eventually the referee lost patience and awarded Biggleswade a penalty as the home pack disintegrated again. The Biggleswade forwards have often been the dominant force in matches but it has been a rarity for referees to recognise this authority.
Biggleswade’s second score came after a wayward penalty from the Vipers failed to find touch. Dom Nott passed swiftly to Michael Haddow who fed Coach Shane Manning for a “gallop” up the touchline. Tackled just short of the line flanker Haddow was in close pursuit to get the touchdown.
This second try really stung the home team who were given a verbal lashing by their captain as they gathered under the posts. This seemed to do the trick as with half-time approaching Vipers squeezed over in the corner for their first points of the afternoon.
The second half started badly for Biggleswade who conceded another try which was unconverted to level the scores at 12-12. The loyal band of supporters who had made the trip were thinking have Biggleswade shot their bolt and are now going to pay for their temerity?
The Vipers took the lead with their third try of the afternoon but that was all they got. An injury to prop Jimmy Caulfield who retired leaking from a head wound saw a major reshuffle of the side. Shane Manning to prop, Shaun Munday to the second row and Michael Haddow to number eight allowing Gareth Rutt to drop back to flanker. In the backs Ieuan Evans went to fly-half, Gavin Taylor to wing, Tom Flather to centre and Luke Haverly to full-back. Such is the all-round skills of modern players that no-one looked like a fish out of water.
It seemed to work the trick as Biggleswade started to play again and looked very dangerous on several occasions. Finally the combination of Paddy O’Sullivan and Michael Haddow released the pace of winger Jacob Grabowski to score his second try of the afternoon and his fifth in five games for the first XV. He also showed he was no mean slouch in defence neutralising his opposite number when he threatened to outpace the Biggy defence.
The result means that Biggleswade finish in fifth place in the league table which is an improvement on last year when they finished seventh.
Squad: Dom Nott, Sacha Heath, Jimmy Caulfield (Shaun Munday), Paul O’Sullivan, Gareth Rutt, Liam Dunne, Michael Haddow, Shane Manning, Zac Pates, Luke Haverly, Tom Flather, Michael Hall, Ieuan Evans, Jacob Grabowski, Eliot Tunstall (Gavin Taylor), Arran Pickering