Newton Stewart 15, Marr 55
To have given themselves any chance of beating the league champions, Newton Stewart needed to severely limit the opposition possession and play their AAA game.
In the event neither scenario played out and the Marr side run amok in a nine-try display of 15-man rugby.
The firm underfoot conditions were just what Marr needed and with wind advantage it was not long before they had the Reds hemmed into their own red zone. For 10 minutes or so the home side defended bravely and for those who say Marr are all about their back division, the crowd witnessed what was a none too shabby forwards onslaught.
Ten minutes in and a rolling maul from five metres out yielded the first try for Marr’s second row Kris Kirk. Only minutes later, with Newton failing to find touch from a penalty, Marr stand-off Rory McGee kicked the Reds back to their five metre line and, in what looked to be a carbon copy of the first try, instead the visitors spun it out for McGee to complete the move he started.
A botched restart for the Reds saw the Marr forwards collect, drive to the Newton 22, release the backs and Connor Bickerstaff sped over for try number three.
It was all too easy and being made easier by Newton being unable to retain any sort of possession.
Tries four and five were both long-range efforts for the Marr back division, with centre Ness from 25 metres out and a second for Bickerstaff from even further out.
As half-time loomed for a welcome respite, a yellow card for Newton prop Sandy Hamilton only added to the Reds’ woes and at 33-0 this was in danger of becoming a rout.
Marr, with a cup final visit to Murrayfield next weekend, had arrived at Bladnoch Park with a point to prove and they were in no mood for letting Newton Stewart off the hook. Second–half wind advantage would normally ease the pressure but Marr are not a side you can afford to kick to and without pinpoint accuracy from the boot they collect and let loose with yet another onslaught.
While Reds prop Hamilton saw out his sin bin, Marr added to their tally with a forwards score for their prop Robert Kennedy from far too far out for a front row player. A further five minutes and it was Marr winger Scott Bickerstaff who added his name to the try count and at 43-0 this affair had the makings of a cricket score.
The return to full-strength seemed to give the Reds a much-needed boost and they started to enjoy some prolonged possession. A concerted spell of pressure 15 minutes in saw hooker Ben Haigh drive over to lift the gloom from the scoreboard and give the home support a suggestion of a late comeback.
The suggestion was short lived. As the Reds launched their own backs, the line speed of Marr centre Ness allowed him to intercept the final pass and move their haul to eight tries.
As rain began to fall the game had settled into a more even midfield affair and although Marr added a ninth try Newton enjoyed a closing 20 minutes of much improved play.
Russell Gaw joined the back row and never fails to up the tempo and as Marr found themselves on the back foot for the first time in the game, another drive from the forwards would see Ben Haigh add a second try to his ever mounting season’s tally.
Only minutes later the big prop was over again and although conversions were not in abundance the chance of a fourth try and losing bonus brought the game to an exciting close. The Reds battled their socks off to collect the bonus point but Marr were not minded to capitulate and afford the home side a soupcon of satisfaction for their much improved second half-performance.
Much as Newton Stewart enjoy the challenge of a quality side they are not alone in RBS West Division 1 in bidding farewell to this Marr outfit who had to mark time this season in a league which is well below their capabilities.
This week sees Newton Stewart close out their season with a final home game against Irvine at Bladnoch Park at 3pm.
Man of the match : Ben Haigh
Newton Stewart: M Wallace, B Haigh, S Hamilton, K Faulds, R Vance, W McCornick, J Wallace, A Gaw (captain), R McCornick, J Muir, J Hamilton, I Russell, G McMillan, J McWhirter, T Wilson. Subs: M Adams, H Hamilton, J Ritchie, S Costley.