Irvine 21, Newton Stewart 12
A half-time scoreline of 6-7 in favour of Newton Stewart was a carbon copy of last year’s “upset” at Marress Park and the only question to be asked was: “Could Newton Stewart hold out for the second-half and claim another win? Answer? No!
They comfortably kept their try line intact but sadly their posts were well abused by the boot of Irvine stand-off Ross Bryan who would claim the complete haul of Irvine points with seven penalty kicks.
The opening encounters saw Irvine livelier and, with a hefty tussle up front, the hosts were keen to move the ball wide to winger John Carson. Newton’s defence, however, was a match for the home side and although Irvine were ahead in possession and territory they never looked like scoring a try.
The 30-minute mark saw Bryan start his work with a penalty but Newton responded with a well executed attack from their backs but, with the final pass harshly adjudged to be forward, centre Graham McMillan was denied a try.
Injury forced the centre to depart and as Hamish Hamilton joined the fray his first tackle on Irvine’s winger was high-ish, and the tiger was immediately back on the touchline for 10 minutes and Bryan took the three points on offer.
From the restart a good kick-off and chase saw Newton awarded a penalty. From a line-out deep in enemy territory Ben Haigh was released for a trademark unfollowable run. Fortunately, the big blindside needed no support to force his way over and, with McCornick taking over kicking duties, Newton took a slender lead. The half-time analysis would conclude that this game could go either way.
The second-half opened with Irvine dominating and 10 minutes in Irvine were back in front courtesy of Bryan’s boot.
From the restart a break from the hosts No 8 Kevin Lang would result in another dubious high-tackle from Newton captain Alisdair Gaw, who did his sin-bin time while Bryan’s boot extended the Irvine lead to 12-7. Only moments later a yet another award in front of the posts saw Bryan make it five from five.
Newton should have countered when Lang became the perpetrator and as he was despatched to the bin Newton failed to recover the three points on offer or to capitalise on his absence. Irvine would see themselves awarded yet another penalty in front of the posts and Bryan slotted his sixth of the day.
With 10 minutes to go, Newton were still not done and a penetrating kick from Jamie Muir afforded an attacking lineout to the Reds. A rolling maul ended with a trundle over for Sandy Hamilton. The conversion was missed but with a six-point deficit the visitors were back in striking range of victory or a losing bonus. In the end neither would come Newton Stewart’s way.
The ref had become fixated with the Newton defence and every foray Irvine made into kicking range ended with a penalty. Accordingly, seven from Ross Bryan would snatched victory. Three yellow cards, seven penalties in reply to two tries and, in all honesty, probably an honours even draw would have been fair. Newton Stewart bad need a win.
This week the Reds host East Kilbride at Bladnoch Park, kick-off 3pm.
Newton Stewart: M Wallace, R Fiskin, S Hamilton, M Adams, W McCornick, B Haigh, J Wallace, A Gaw, J McWhirter, J Muir, J Hamilton, M McCornick, G McMillan, I Russell, T Wilson. Subs: H Hamilton, K Faulds, S Costley.