Reds go down with heads high

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Marr 37, Newton Stewart 8

“Those who were on the touchline today will wonder why Newton Stewart are in the league position they are in. They played with guts, determination and skill that merited much more than the points they scored.” The words of the Marr match reporter and a view shared by Marr coach Craig Redpath.

Marr is a side built by ex-Ayr coach Redpath and ex-Scotland Club flanker Paul Burke and what a fine side they have assembled. However, over the past few years why is it that Newton Stewart play their best rugby when playing against the best sides? They matched the Marr forwards at the set piece and in the loose but unfortunately the blistering pace of the home side’s back division was too much for the Reds and, with all the will in the world, it is not possible to keep the ball away from these fleet-footed youngsters.

Newton got off to the perfect start only a couple of minutes in with James Wallace picking his way over from short range after a Sandy Hamilton drive had nearly taken the big fella over from a well worked attack. The conversion went wide but the Reds had avoided whitewash fever and the confidence builder was under the belt.

Shocked into action, Marr replied only minutes later with a scorching run from winger Gregor Ness that brought a penalty wide on the touchline. A text book catch and drive trundled over the line and, although the pile of bodies was high, the try was awarded with little complaint from the Reds.

From there on it was end-to- end stuff with opportunities for both sides. The Marr backs cut loose at every opportunity but some excellent defensive work kept them at bay and if anybody were to query why Mark McCornick was awarded Man of the Match, then Marr’s words should expel any doubts. “He made a series of textbook tackles that prevented Marr’s backs cutting loose and this included an exemplary tap tackle on Scott Bickerstaff to prevent a certain try.”

The home side’s reward was a penalty with stand-off Rory McGee slotting to take the advantage but when Sandy Hamilton crossed the line for the visitors he was unfortunate to be adjudged held up. None­theless, Newton were giving the hot shots a run for their money.

The half-hour mark would see Marr at their best with a Newton Stewart clearance kick fielded and, as the Marr backs countered at pace, the Reds ran out of defensive numbers to concede under the posts and stand-off McGee converted his own try.

Newton battled on and it was Ben Haigh who was next to come close but illegal hands on the ball would constitute a professional foul but a penalty was the only reward which thankfully Iain Russell managed to kick to close out the half with a creditable 15-8 scoreline.

This was probably the home side’s first game that was not over by half-time, a meagre two tries scored and Marr’s Bickerstaff brothers, who have amassed some 23 tries this season, not on the score sheet.

With a squally shower in the offing and a strengthening breeze against, the second half was always going to be tough for the Reds and a purple patch for the boys in purple in the opening 10 minutes put an end to any aspirations Newton had of creating an upset. A penalty from long range opened their efforts and three tries in quick succession – courtesy of Scott Bickerstaff (2) and Rory McGee – took the tally to 37-8 and ended the day’s scoring.

Newton battled hard and as the further onslaught was averted eventually got ball in hand to make the hard yards back into Marr territory.

Best opportunity came 10 minutes from time when James Wallace broke but with a two-on-one available Scott Costley was obviously not shouting loud enough and the attack petered out as the flanker was wrapped up by the Marr defence.

The Reds fought to the end to wrest some sort of consolation but they left Fullarton Park with their heads held high and in awe of many who had seen their mightier opposition having to be patient and persevere to conquer this hardy bunch.

This week sees the Reds return to Fullarton Park, Troon, to face Marr again in the RBS West Regional Shield, with a. 1.30pm kick-off. Man of the match: Mark McCornick

Newton Stewart: M Wallace, R Fiskin, S Hamilton, H Hamilton, W McCornick, S Wright, J Wallace, A Gaw (captain), J McWhirter, J Muir, J Hamilton, M McCornick, I Russell, S Costley. Subs: M Adams, C McNeill, R Vance, B Haigh.

JOHNNY JOHNSTONE