From a time many moons ago when Newton were entrenched in a mire of losses and when Irvine issued a five-try display of running rugby, how things have changed. Without ball, running rugby is not quite the same. Against a well-organised defence, the touchline tends to arrive before the try and trying to obtain decent ball against a superior pack all make for where Newton Stewart are now as opposed to then.
Near perfect playing conditions allowed both sides to move the ball around in an attempt to probe for that elusive opening but the chess-like posturing kept the score sheet blank for the first 15 minutes or so until Newton were caught in possession, penalised for holding-on, and Irvine stand-off Hobson took the three points on offer.
David Sommerville should have replied immediately for the Reds with Irvine offside at the restart, but the youngster’s boots were not well laced and with another attempt only minutes later also missing the mark well deserved points went abegging. Irvine, on the other hand, added to their tally on the half-hour mark as Newton conceded a penalty when they attempted to quell a concerted attack from the home side.
The following passage of play was the pivotal point in the game and also brought to a close the points-scoring for the remainder of the first half and a fairly uneventful second half.
Illegal Irvine hands in a ruck afforded a kicking opportunity but, considering earlier attempts, Newton opted for the jugular and from a rare straight lineout laid siege to the Irvine line. Sandy Hamilton thought he was over but another scrum relaunched further power play and, with the hosts repeatedly resorting to illegal tactics, referee David Stark had little option but to dismiss Irvine flanker Maxwell to the bin. Total scrum domination should have offered a clean try but as Irvine scrum-half Euan Morrison attempted to clear the ball from the runaway scrum he joined his team-mate – harshly perhaps – in the bin and the inevitable penalty try was awarded, Sommerville managing the conversion. The single-point margin should have been extended as Newton winger Russell stepped up for a penalty attempt late in the half but it became apparent that he and Sommerville had obviously got their boots muddled up and the normally reliable kicking machine failed to
show his less experienced counterpart how to do it.
The second half saw Newton thwart an Irvine revival and, although they sailed close to the wind on a couple of occasions, with the last defender just beating his man to the ball, the home side’s opportunities from their bright restart gradually fizzled out as the Newton pack grew in confidence and asserted themselves on what developed into a scrappy affair.
Irvine stand-off Hobson obliged Newton with a couple of missed penalties, one striking the post, the other barely struck, and as the game wore its way to a tense climax, Newton enjoyed long spells of possession in the opposition half but never really threatened their try line. Increasingly frustrated by their inability to breach the staunch Red defensive line and a comprehensive cuffing in the scrum, the Irvine lads lost the place not just with Newton Stewart but among themselves and this was just the tonic the Reds needed to see out a boisterous last 10 minutes of what was a hard-fought but nonetheless deserved victory.
With no other fixtures played in RBS West Division 1. Newton elevated themselves to a creditable fourth position and one which assures them that, no matter the outcome of the remaining matches against East Kilbride and Marr, this will be where they will be playing next season in what promises to be a league bursting with quality teams.
Man of the Match, As voted for by Irvine: The Newton Stewart squad collectively.
Newton Stewart: M Wallace, R Fiskin, S Hamilton, M Adams, R Vance,
H Hamilton, S Wright, A Gaw(Capt), D Sommerville, J Muir, J McWhirter, M McCornick,
S Costley, I Russell, G McMillan. Subs: B Haigh, C Johnstone, J Wallace