Stewartry 11, Garnock 17
Stewartry needed a result against the unbeaten league leaders Garnock to keep any promotion hopes alive after slipping down to fifth place with the defeat at McLaren the previous week.
The Garnock team and committee came off the bus and claimed the pitch was frozen and dangerous in parts. With Stewartry keen to play and Garnock not, the referee asked Stewartry to sort out the problem parts before he decided the game could go ahead 10 minutes before kick off.
Garnock kicked off with Stewartry gaining an early penalty. Cammy Fenwick was first to show with some hard tackles. Carrick had the first chance of points with a penalty kick at the clubhouse posts but it slid past.
John Picken and Danny Burton broke out after stealing Garnock ball but play stopped when Danny Boyd had to have a cut to his head patched up. Neil Armstrong replaced him and was soon in the action with John Kerr and Kerr McMinn, who were winning early lineout ball.
Garnock’s tactic was high balls but Stewartry fullback John Fingland took them all cleanly throughout the game and returned them with interest.
After 10 minutes, Porteous and Fenwick charged down a Garnock clearance kick, taking play into the Garnock 22. Four minutes later standoff Craig Mosey opened the scoring with a well hit penalty from the left.
Stewartry had started well in the first 20 minutes with the forwards driving and tackling everything above the grass. In the backs, Boyd was making some good breaks and Porteous and McMinn were winning a good share of lineout ball. Garnock were pushing Stewartry back and after a series of charges at the Stewartry line they kicked a penalty to touch, won the lineout and drove to the corner to score the opening try. The big kick from the touch line went over to give Garnock a 7-3 lead after 25.
Gareth McCall, making his Stewartry debut, replaced injured prop Stuart Broll on the half-hour. Stewartry finished the half on the attack as first TJ McCarney just failed to send Robert Austin with a scoring chance pass and Cammy Fenwick reverted to heading the ball forward through the Garnock defence.
Stewartry kicked off and Picken regained possession, allowing the Stewartry forwards to pick up and drive deep into the Garnock 22, Boyd forcing a lineout with a nifty wee chip ahead. Henry Sainsbury replaced Cammy Fenwick in the back row after a hard shift for 50 minutes.
Stewartry’s defence was posted missing minutes later when Garnock, who had battled hard throughout, saw the winger chip ahead up the left for an easy score in the corner. Another conversion made it 14-3.
Scott Carson replaced Jamie Farquhar and Neil Armstrong replaced Danny Boyd. The changes sparked up the Stewartry backs and from a short penalty 10 metres out on the left, the ball was passed quickly out through Armstrong and Austin to Carson who went over for his first Stewartry try in the corner. The kick was missed.
A minute later Carson was stopped just short of the line. Stewarty kicked a penalty to touch, won the lineout and drove for the Garnock line. Garnock defended well but then were penalised and Craig Mosey added a second penalty, taking his season’s points total to 97.
This 14-11 score spurred Garnock on and, down to 14 men following a yellow card, they battled back into the Stewartry half, scoring a penalty with five minutes to go and leaving Stewartry needing a converted try to win.
This was a hard-fought game which kept the crowd entertained to the end, finishing on a pitch in perfect order. Stewartry gained a losing bonus point and Garnock make it 10 wins in a row.
Stewartry: J Fingland, J Farquhar, D Boyd, R Austin, TJ McCarney, C Mosey, J Picken, M Smith ,D Burton, S Broll, R Porteous, K McMinn, C Fenwick, J Kerr, I Fenwick (captain). Reps: G McCall, H Sainsbury, N Armstrong, S Carson, M McCulloch. Reps not used: A McMorran and D Thompson.
This week Stewartry play Carrick at Greenlaw in RBS West Division Two with kick off at 2pm