Newton Stewart grind out win

Newton Stewart 10, East Kilbride 3

A 13-3 victory against Annan four weeks ago brought forth the following phraseologies: “Ssticky underfoot and westerly cross-field gales”, “a no-frills and only a few thrills affair”, and “a gutsy 10-man rugby performance from Newton Stewart against an Annan side that are no novices at this style of play”.

For Annan, substitute East Kilbride, remove a Newton penalty and – voila! – it was a carbon copy of the previous dull encounter.

With East Kilbride making hard work of finding Bladnoch Park, it was little wonder that Newton came out of the blocks the sharper and, for the first 10 minutes or so, the Reds dominated the game. However, domination of the scoreboard was not a reflection of the play and, as the visitors got their warm-up out of the way, they settled into a midfield tussle that afforded few opportunities for either side.

As the forwards battled it out, the Newton half-back pairing of Sommerville and Muir tried to get in behind the East Kilbride defence but ball was kicked away cheaply on more than one occasion. Accordingly, East Kilbride stand-off Greenfield obliged with his own fair share of pointless kicking when the better option was to keep the ball in the hands of a none too shabby set of Killie forwards.

As the first half wore away, watching the clock was probably as entertaining as the game and, save the odd half-break from both sides, it would be fair to say neither try line was challenged.

For Newton, Scott Costley put in a couple of good solo breaks but with little support it all fizzled out and, other than an East Kilbride penalty that gave them a half-time lead, nothing much happened.

In fairness to both sides, conditions were far from ideal and it was always going to be a struggle to provide even a modicum of what could be interpreted as running rugby. Fortunately for Newton Stewart, a try from the second half kick-off gave afforded them that slender advantage which they managed to retain for the remainder of a game.

An East Kilbride knock-on was seized upon by the Reds and, putting their advantage to good use, they were soon deployed on the opposition line. Scrum-half Sommerville could have been tempted to use the blind-side but, in going open, Jamie Muir required no-one else from the assembled backs as he stepped inside his defender to touch down for a guaranteed seven points.

From the restart the referee had tired of the visitors’ repeated offending at the breakdown and dismissed East Kilbride hooker Anderson to the bin. However, the Reds did not exploit their manpower advantage and the game gradually descended into a war of attrition in the midfield – with Newton only just managing to control their bulkier and very physical counterparts. A passage of pressure from the Reds mid-half resulted in a welcome three points to ease the margin to a more comfortable seven but, as Newton prop Hamilton was binned in what could be construed as an evening-things-up decision, East Kilbride seized their opportunity. They seemed to find another gear to take the game to Newton and a closing 10-minute period saw the none too diminutive visiting second-rows – Alistair Dalglish and Paul Rosie – lead their lads forward in a last-gasp attempt to force a draw. Like they have done for the past few games, the Reds’ defence withstood anything the opposition threw at them.

This was another ground-out win for a Newton side that has grown in stature and self-belief throughout the season. Newton have attempted to play nice rugby but they have learned to win ugly first, then, and only if possible, play nice rugby.

With only pride at stake, in two weeks the Reds travel to Troon to see if they can thwart the potential promotion chances of Craig Redpath’s much vaunted superstars at Marr in their last league fixture.

Man of the match: Ross Vance (second row).

Newton Stewart: M Wallace, R Fiskin, S Hamilton, M Adams, R Vance,

H Hamilton, J Wallace, A Gaw(Capt), D Sommerville, J Muir, I Russell, M McCornick,

S Costley, J McWhirter, G McMillan. Subs: S Wright, A Gibson, J Ritchie.

John Johnstone