Stewartry 18, Strathaven 17
As much as Stewartry enjoyed last week’s win away at their oldest rivals, Wigtownshire, they were more than relieved to here the final whistle when their newest opponents Strathaven almost took the league points in the first ever game between the two clubs.
As it was, Stewartry held on and, with the Annan v Lenzie tabletopper flooded off, Stewartry moved to the top of the league for the first time this season.
From the kick-off Strathaven were soon in Stewartry faces and had gained some early turnovers of home possession. Their robust play was typified by a late tackle on the Stewartry fullback John Muir. Cammy Fenwick’s first kick of the day came back off the bar. Minutes later a second penalty flew past the front of the posts.
A hectic start to the game with numerous turnovers and penalty awards and good handling moves from both teams delayed the first scrum until the 10th minute. Winger David Kerr tried a kick ahead from the scrum but the ball went dead before it could be touched down. A third penalty kick miss, this time against the post, looked as if they may come back to haunt the Blacks as Strathaven continued to contest every loose ball.
In 22 minutes, captain Ian Fenwick led the way, giving Kerr another chance to kick and chase into the Strathaven 22. From a penalty lineout, the ball was lost but a second lineout proved more productive when prop Kyle Amos gave Cammy Fenwick the chance to open the scoring with a finely worked try, though the conversion was missed.
Stewartry were winning their own lineout ball but the second passes were going astray too often. Five minutes from half-time, after winning a scrum against the head, Stewartry gained another penalty kick which Cammy Fenwick chipped cleanly through the posts – his first in five attempts to go with his try and a half-time 8-0 lead.
Strathaven came out for the second half all guns blazing, forcing the Blacks into a penalty from the kick-off. Two minutes later, the visitors had closed the gap to one point with a converted try in a move between their forwards and backs.
A cut head saw Muir leave the field for some treatment and, before the coach came back out, Strathaven had scored again in a breakaway, with the conversion missed.
Some strong words from the Stewartry captain while waiting for the kick sorted out the Blacks mindset and, within five minutes, David Kerr outran the Strathaven defence to squeeze in at the railway corner for a 13-12 lead.
Stewartry kept the pressure on and, when veteran Paul Swalwell, playing his 351st game (second equal with Chalmers Taylor) for Stewartry, was spear-tackled, the referee did well to stand back and let the players sort it out. No cards, no sin bins just a good talking to the captains and game on.
In the 65th minute came the move of this match – and many other matches at Greenlaw. A multi-passing move from the Stewartry backs and forwards left top points scorer Cammy Fenwick clear for his second try and an 18-12 advantage. However, Strathaven pushed back up the pitch putting Stewartry under pressure for the last 15 minutes. A final breakaway in the last minute of normal time saw the Strathaven centre crash over in the corner but the conversion was missed.
Stewartry played out the injury time in their own 22 before Muir ended the game with a penalty kick to touch the narrowest of wins. This was a game both teams put everything into and was a cracker for a first meeting between the two clubs.
Stewartry: J Muir, A Kerr, C Fenwick, D Boyd, D Kerr, J Fingland, R Wallace, K Amos, D Burton, I McMorran, K McMinn, R Porteous, S McCulloch, P Swalwell, I Fenwick (capt), S Broll, L Henderson, S Hogg.
This week Stewartry are away to Waysiders Drumpellier. The next home game is on November 3 against Strathendrick with a 2pm kick-off.
Stewartry are looking for players to boost numbers for their 2nd xv, with possible promotion to the 1st xv. Training is on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Greenlaw, Castle Douglas, at 7pm.