Southgate 35 - 23 Biggleswade 2nd XV
The first rugby weekend after Christmas is always a tough game. After a period of excess, bodies are always shocked when they hit the rugby pitch again. However, this wasn’t just a simple friendly to blow away the cobwebs, instead it was the first round of the cup, so a shot at getting to the main final was on offer.
Away games to Southgate are always a challenge and so it proved from the off. The home side's beefed up pack caught Biggleswade off guard at the first scrum and turned the ball over. Biggleswade did strike back shortly after when Oli Lattimer stole a lineout.
Eventually Southgate's possession and territory caused Biggleswade to give away a penalty just outside their 22, which was duly sent between the sticks to give them a 3-0 lead.
Both sides were showing rustiness after the festive break. Rucks were a key battleground, with each team seeking to gain an advantage, which meant most of the first half was a stalemate.
Southgate did eventually strike gold with a beautifully-worked try to go over in the corner and extend their lead to 8-0.
Knowing they needed to get a score on the board before the break, Biggleswade upped the ante, with Andy Burke leading the charge with multiple breaks and going over for the first of his two tries. With the conversion a tough one, Biggy were happy to have closed the gap and went into the break focused on making greater use of their backline, who had looked threatening when giving the opportunity.
As the second half started the Biggleswade defence continued to set high standards with Tom Harding and Chris Horgan two of the many players racking up large tackle counts.
Eventually Southgate’s advantage in the pack told and they increased their lead with another penalty kick at goal. Biggleswade duly responded in mind and knocked over a penalty of their own via Cameron Plant to make it 11-8.
The game opened up in the final 20 and Southgate got two tries to Biggleswade's fine effort which saw Andrew Applegate show great distribution skills. Turnover ball went through the hands and made its way out wide, which enabled Ben Wischhusen to take the outside arc and smash his way over for a try.
Southgate then struck the killer blow with two further tries which made it 35-16.
Not to be downhearted - and with one eye on the rematch in the league in two weeks - Biggleswade wanted to finish the game with a flourish. With both defences tiring and space opening up, a counter-attack saw the ball worked wide again. A brilliant draw and pass from Angus Thiedemann, followed up by a miss pass to get outside the defender from Jack Unite, sent Lex Jackson down the wing who then passed inside for Luke Fye to jinx his way past two defenders and go over.
Then, despite being down to 14 men due to several injuries, Biggleswade got the final score. A penalty allowed them to gain territory, and after some hard running from the forwards Andy Burke crossed the line again, knocking defenders over like skittles on his way.
Overall a good hit out for the first game of 2020, but Southgate were the deserved winners and stronger side. Biggleswade will be buoyed by some of their great work in attack and defence.
Next weekend Biggleswade travel to Hertford to play Blackhorse; a new team in the league who have dropped down from the division above.