Following their success in the Moffat 10s tournament the previous weekend, Newton Stewart RFC travelled to Annan on Saturday with hopes to put in a strong challenge in what is always a tough contest at the annual 15s tournament.
The Reds have never won this tournament before, but would take with them a new level of confidence following their successful 2015-2016 season.
Five teams gathered to compete for the trophy this year, the awkward numbers meaning that tournament consisted of a league instead, with each game played a 30 minute affair. The weather was nothing short of atrocious - torrential rain falling incessantly throughout, but the pitches holding up well considering.
Newton Stewart’s first game of the day was against home team Annan RFC. Always a gritty and determined team, the home advantage meant this was no easy opener. Newton Stewart managed to maintain most of the possession in this game, but credit to Annan, their defence was hard to penetrate. Forced to do some defending late in the first half, the Reds cleared with a long kick and outside centre Liam Brawls used his pace to put the Annan fullback under immense pressure. The penalty was awarded and Newton Stewart were able to kick to the corner. The resultant line-out and play which followed saw back row Jason McKie score his first try of the day. The conversion from stand-off Jamie Muir was successful and, save for another penalty kick from Muir in the second half, no further scores came. Back row Mark McCornick excelled in this game with his powerful running and merciless tackling, driving a huge opponent back about 5 metres with consummate ease. Final score: Annan 0 - 10 Newton Stewart.
Next up were relatively unknown team Hawick Linden RFC. Newton Stewart were able to build on their earlier success with dominant play, impressing with their safe hands in the wet conditions. The first two tries for the Reds in this game were both scored by Jason McKie to give himself an early hat-trick in the tournament. Muir converted both scores once more. Another converted try came later in the first half for hooker Thomas MacDonald who made an impression with the ball in hand at every opportunity. Hawick Lindon made a come-back attempt with a try early in the second half, but their kicker could not add the extras, and two later penalty kicks also went amiss to leave Newton Stewart winners by 21-5. Regular Wigtownshire player Hamish McGeoch, slotting in at full-back, was impressive in this game with safe hands under the high ball and strong running with some good stepping.
The third game for the Reds was against favourites for the title, Dumfries RFC. Currently playing in National League 3, this was a step up for Newton Stewart. As the rain lashed down heavier than ever an intense battle got underway. The current Newton Stewart team play a very attacking game, however in this instance they were forced to defend for their lives. Dumfries had almost all the of possession throughout the thirty minute game, however despite their best efforts they simply couldn’t find a way through the Reds’ defensive wall. An exhausting game for both sides, the end result was a stalemate, 0-0.
The entire team must take credit for this result, there were no weak links in the chain.
The final game of the tournament for the Reds was against Moffat RFC. In stark contrast to the previous match, the sun finally forced it’s way through the clouds and Newton Stewart began to demonstrate their attacking game. Direct running, great off-loading and impressive set pieces made the Reds utterly dominant in this game. Back row Euan Dewar was a huge nuisance to the Moffat line-out, stealing multiple balls and pressurising at every opportunity. Two tries came in the first half - Jason McKie scoring the first before captain James Wallace, playing out of position at inside centre, proved that McKie wasn’t the only one who knew where the try line was! As the second half got underway, the tries started mounting up.
Three more tries came for James Wallace, the last a long solo run up the pitch, breaking multiple tackles, for a great individual score. Mark McCornick demonstrated some excellent footballing skills on his way to one of his two tries, and stand-off Jamie Muir topped off a very successful day by kicking all seven conversion in this game to give himself an impeccable 100% kicking success for the tournament. The highlight of this last game however was a fantastic off load from winger Ryan ‘Ruggy’ McNeill on from the bench. Galloping up the right touch line, he was nailed into touch by his opposite man, but somehow managed to hurl the ball back to another red shirt before disappearing in a tidal wave of puddle water. Impressive skills from a relative newcomer to the game.
With all their matches played, the Reds watched and waited for the final round of games to finish. The overall result of the tournament depended on the outcome of the Annan v Dumfries game, with Dumfries needing to win by at least twenty points to push Newton Stewart off the top spot. Never did the Reds cheer so strongly for men in yellow, and their support was rewarded with a mammoth effort from the home team to defeat the favourites and leave Newton Stewart RFC victorious.
A tremendous tournament to watch, and very well organised, this was the perfect preseason preparation ahead of the Reds’ first league game.
Newton Stewart RFC will play old rivals Allan Glens RFC at Bladnoch Park on Saturday 27th August. Kick off is at 3pm, the club look forward to welcoming all supporters.