Fightback just fails

Glasgow Accies 24, Newton Stewart 19

THE manicured turf of New Anniesland is never an easy place to play but, with memories of last season’s comeback victory not too distant, Newton Stewart must have fancied their chances. Adding to their confidence was last week’s resounding 42-7 victory over Allan Glen’s.

In the end, the comeback was not to be but a valiant second-half performance came within a whisker of pulling it off, a bonus point was gained and many in the home crowd conceded that Accies had a lucky escape.

Midway through the first half, Newton were the first to open their account with Ben Haigh forcing his way over on one of the rare occasions when the visitors threatened the Accies line.

Stung into action, Accies found their feet – and their running shoes – and a golden 20-minute spell saw the Glasgow side’s back division deliver a four-try first-half rout.

Two tries would have been fair, but Newton looked jaded, their defence was in disarray and what little possession they did have was given away all too easily – as were two of the tries.

Accies, on the other hand, had found the weak spots and exploited them well, with their stand-off Ali McLaren orchestrating their running rugby to grand effect.

As with any team under the cosh, Newton perhaps felt the referee’s decision had not gone their way but his whistle to end the first half was music to the ears of a despondent Newton Stewart squad.

The Reds knew they had under-performed, captain Ali Gaw delivered a tirade and no-one could have predicted what was to come.

A re-energised Newton outfit came out with all guns blazing. Accies, with a 24-7 lead, may have thought all they had to do was see the game out but they could not have been more wrong. If Newton had only got into enemy territory on a few occasion in the first half, then, likewise, Accies only managed rare intrusions into the visitors’ half in the second.

Apart from Accies flanker Taylor coming close with a debatable foot in touch preventing a certain score, thereafter it was all Newton Stewart. The Reds’ forwards were awesome at the breakdown and, with the ball being driven forward at every opportunity, the home side struggled legally to control the juggernaut.

An encampment on the opposition line saw Jamie Muir eventually touch down to keep the contest alive. As the Newton Stewart support bayed for blood, a raft of penalty awards against Accies allowed the onslaught to continue.

Newton upped the pace, looked sharp and, with tap penalties keeping the heat on, the Accies defence was left with no option but to commit every offence a forward could think of to keep the rampant Reds out.

With ten minutes to go – and a run of what must have been ten penalties – referee Scott Livingstone had no option but to issue a random yellow card to the Accies defence. A penalty try must have been in his thoughts.

Minutes later, reward came for Newton with Haigh driving over for his second try and, with the deficit at five points with five minutes left, the game was there to be won.

Accies had failed to score a single point in the second half and no doubt would have attributed their failure to the man in the yellow shirt but purists in the crowd could offer nothing but praise for the Newton Stewart second-half performance.

Unfortunately, the clock denied the Reds the chance to deliver the killer blow, but to leave New Anniesland with a bonus point can only bode well for the season ahead.

This week sees the Reds host Kilmarnock at Bladnoch Park with a 3pm kick-off.

Scorers: Tries: Ben Haigh (2), Jamie Muir. Cons: Tyrell Wilson (2).

Man of the match: Ben Haigh.

Newton Stewart: M Wallace; B Haigh, J Causer, M Adams, W McCornick; H Hamilton, J Wallace; A Gaw (captain), P Gordon, J Muir, J Hamilton, I Russell, M McCornick, J McWhirter, T Wilson. Reps: S Fiskin, S Costley.

JOHNNY JOHNSTONE