Newton Stewart RFC returned their attentions to the league campaign last weekend following the festive break.
As we approach the end of the season every game counts and this away trip to Helensburgh RFC was no exception.
If the Reds were looking to get points on the board early and make their intentions known, they certainly achieved. With only one minute played Newton Stewart were in possession and poised within the Helensburgh half. As scrum-half Robbie McCornick secured the ball at the breakdown, centre Fraser Morton shouted his presence for the kick through. McCornick’s chip was weighted to perfection and Morton caught it on the full before running in under the posts for a sensational first try for Newton Stewart. Stand-off Jamie Muir converted for the extra two points.
With the restart came a spell of mixed possession. As both teams tried to settle into the game and find some rhythm, it was Helensburgh who dominated at the breakdown, stealing the ball on a few occasions and proving themselves up to the physical challenge of the game.
With fifteen minutes played, Newton Stewart were awarded a scrum in a useful attacking position. Having secured the ball, it was passed out to back row Euan Dewar who actually crossed the line, but was held up by some resolute Helensburgh defence, and the teams came back for a scrum once more. Proving that the Reds had the upper hand in the set-piece, the forwards got a good squeeze on and successfully pushed the Helensburgh pack over the line for a pushover try. Back row David Montgomery touched the ball down to claim the score. Muir converted once more to make it 0-14.
Another spell of mixed possession followed with Newton Stewart clearly dominant in the scrums, but Helensburgh defending well to limit the scoring opportunities. Turning over the ball at a ruck once again, Helensburgh quickly tried to counter-attack, however back row Jason McKie played them at their own game and snatched the ball at the next ruck to earn the Reds a penalty near the midway line. Kicking for territory, Newton Stewart had a line out from which to attack.
Having secured the ball the Reds attacked and looked like scoring until an unfortunate knock-on halted their progression. A series of scrums followed, all clearly in Newton Stewart’s favour, pushing their opposition well back and the referee eventually awarded a penalty try. Muir converted once more for 0-21 going into half-time.
After the interval, Newton Stewart hit the ground running once more. Jason McKie immediately put Helensburgh under pressure from the restart, stealing the ball at the first ruck and passing it quickly through the hands to centre Craig Johnstone who galloped up the left sideline to score. Another perfectly placed conversion followed from Jamie Muir from a wide angle.
With the bonus point safely accomplished the Reds could start to relax and enjoy the game. Second row Duncan Skimming demonstrated some previously unseen pace breaking up the middle of the park to push Helensburgh back into they own half once more. Another scrum was awarded and Newton Stewart took advantage, Montgomery on hand once again to score another pushover try. Muir’s conversion found the mark again to extend the lead to 0-35.
As the second half progressed the Reds started to take apart the Helensburgh defence. Hooker Robbie Smith and back row McKie in particular made some powerful carries, running good incisive lines.
Helensburgh had another spell of possession, but found the Red defensive effort to be solid. Regaining possession once more, Newton Stewart quickly made yards, passing the ball confidently around the park. As they teetered on the try line once more both Montgomery and full-back Tyrell Wilson came close to scoring. Tight-head prop Richard Fiskin actually made it over the line, but was held-up at the last and the referee set another Red scrum five yards out.
A few injuries had enforced some personnel changes in the pack, however they did not lessen the effectiveness of the scrum and Helensburgh found themselves pushed well back before the ball was thrown left to Johnstone for his second try. Another wide conversion from Muir was perfectly placed for a 100% kicking record in this game.
The last fifteen minutes of the game saw Helensburgh successfully break through the Newton Stewart defences, running a textbook line through the gap off the back of a line out to score a consolatory try. The conversion followed for a final score of 7-42.
The Reds will be delighted with this comprehensive victory away to a physical Helensburgh side. Jason McKie, Craig Johnstone and Robbie Smith all stood out in attack, whilst Euan Dewar impressed with his formidable tackling once again. Man of the Match this week however was stand-off Jamie Muir for his impeccable kicking and good game management.
With four difficult games left to play in this league, Newton Stewart sit top of the table with a game in hand. Their three closest rivals are all yet to be played again and as such the standings all still hang in the balance. Next weekend the Reds are at home to Carrick RFC in what will be viewed as a must win match for both teams. All supporters are welcomed at Bladnoch Park for a 2pm kick-off.
Team: Tyrell Wilson, Craig Murray, Fraser Morton, Craig Johnstone, Liam Brawls, Jamie Muir, Robbie McCornick, Martin Wallace, Robbie Smith, Richard Fiskin, William McCornick (capt), Duncan Skimming, Euan Dewar, Jason McKie, David Montgomery.
Subs: Kit Wright, Graham McMillan, Thomas MacDonald, Russell Morton.
Man of the Match: Jamie Muir (sponsored by Eric Hyslop Ltd)