Biggleswade 3rd XV 25 – 12 Bishop’s Stortford 5th XV

In the last league game of this season, Biggleswade 3rd XV put in arguably their most consistent performance yet, beating Bishop’s Stortford, a side that have lost only one game all season.

In the opening exchanges it was clear why the visitors were top of the table. An experienced pack with a mixture of strength and speed in the backs, allowed them to start the game more strongly.

After several phases of play, a penalty kick to the corner allowed a maul to be formed. With the Biggleswade pack slow to react they were easily driven back over their try line. However, the kick was near the touchline and there were no additional two points.

This gave Biggleswade the jump start they needed; for the next ten minutes the game was very much an arm wrestle. Bishop’s Stortford found possession and territory easier to come by whilst the 3rds lacked discipline. However, one quick turnover and Biggleswade jumped at the opportunity to exit their half. From this break Ben Wischhusen went on a powerhouse run to go under the sticks, however, the conversion was missed.

As both teams sought to gain the upper hand, tensions started to flare with a few minor handbags creeping in. Biggleswade’s biggest enemy was their habit of giving away penalties, or getting turned over at the rucks which prevented them from taking control of the game.

Yet Biggleswade were desperate to finish the season in style and both forwards and backs were throwing themselves at everything in defence and eventually they got their reward. Jack Unite won a penalty at the ruck and the kick to the corner allowed a drive to be set up. With Mark Salter first going close with a pick-and-go, the ball was spun out to the backs and Kieren Exley scrambled over the line to make it 10-5. With the conversion missed, the end of the first half allowed an opportunity for both teams to re-group and change tactics.

At half-time the team-talk focussed on making greater use of tactical kicking to help gain the territory Biggleswade needed. Substitutions were also held back to keep some fresh legs in reserve.

This proved to be just what the doctor ordered and, despite Bishop’s Stortford dominating possession and territory at the start, Biggleswade’s defence was on fire with Aaron Surman and Dave Dawes at the forefront. The home side also reduced the numbers of penalties being given away which, combined with some great tactical kicks from the backline, allowed them to control field position.

From a lineout Biggleswade won a penalty just outside the 22; with the game poised so delicately the Biggleswade captain pointed to the posts in the hope of taking the lead to 8 points. Steve Bishop knocked over the penalty with confidence which served to boost the whole team’s morale.

It was to be the set-piece that laid the foundations for the next Biggleswade try. Fancying something special, a 3 man lineout was chosen; this unleashed Ben Wischhusen and onrushing support meant the ball was secured promptly. The ball was spun out to Ollie Vagg (who had his best game in a Biggleswade shirt yet) via fly-half Bishop. Vagg joined the line from fullback with a step and a fend to power over the line. Despite the missed conversion Biggleswade now led 18-5 with around 20 minutes to play.

Bishop’s Stortford, however, had other ideas. Going back to their Plan A of trucking it up with the forwards, a lapse in discipline meant Biggleswade were pinned back on their own try line. Despite

some excellent work in defence, a quick tap caught a Biggleswade player not ten which the referee penalised with a penalty try.

Not wanting to throw away the lead they worked hard to achieve, Biggleswade struck next. After a maul went to ground several attempts were made to get over the whitewash to no avail. Sensing the opportunity was on the ball went wide to Kieren Exley only to be held up resulting in a scrum five. However Biggleswade were not to be denied and nice hands from the backline saw Stuart Puttock dot down in the corner for a brilliant team try. Steve Bishop nailed the conversion to make it 25-12 in what was the last major act of the game.

All in all one of the finest Biggleswade performances of the season resulting in a well-deserved victory to finish the league campaign on the glorious third team pitch. The season is not yet over though, with a huge semi-final game on the 13th April at home to Cheshunt still to play.

Post-game the monthly ‘Captain’s Choice’ award went to Aaron Surman following a series of strong displays, including deputising at 10 in the previous game along his commitment to the team on and off the field.

Biggleswade 3rd XV: A Applegate, J Unite, M Salter, O Lattimer, B Hughes (D Neale), S Rutt (M Cowley), T Harding, B Wischhusen; D Dawe, S Bishop, G Jones, A Surman, K Exley, S Puttock, O Vagg

Tries: B Wischhusen, K Exley, O Vagg, S Puttock

Con: S Bishop

Pen: S Bishop

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