Newton Stewart 20,
If ever there was a game that Newton Stewart needed to win, then this victory could not have been better timed.
If relegation from RBS West Division 1 is to be implemented in accordance with current SRU rules, this defeat of the much fancied GHK secures Newton Stewart’s place in the same league next season – and deservedly so.
The Reds are more than capable of holding their own in this company and both GHK and Glasgow Accies have congratulated Newton Stewart on their great escape.
Newton Stewart got off to a dream start and before the clubhouse had emptied were seven points to the good. A collection from their own kick-off, a ruck, a pop to Ben Haigh and the mobile hooker was straight through a sleepy GHK defence to plant between the posts for an unmissable conversion by Iain Russell.
Newton’s forwards looked sharp and with a constant supply of ball the backs launched successive attacks down the flanks in a complete role reversal of how the teams should be playing.
However, no team can be starved of possession for the full duration and mid-half GHK launched their first serious attack through their backs and with possession inside the Newton red zone the home side strayed offside to allow GHK’s centre, Scott Robertson, to reduce the lead to four points.
From the restart it was Newton again on the offensive and for most of the remaining 20 minutes or so. Returning from injury captain Gaw set the platform time and time again with his No.8 pick-ups and with the forwards supporting each other as well as they have done all season much advancement was made into enemy territory and the potential of a further seven points was never far away.
It may be unfair to single out individuals but William McCornick from the back row is a Newton player who has moved on in leaps and bounds this season and the leaner, fitter flanker’s workrate improves with every outing.
The half-hour mark would see Newton pressure the visitors’ line and with the GHK standing firm the only spoils for their efforts would be the restoration of the seven-point lead courtesy of a Russell penalty.
The much improved playing surface had allowed some decent rugby to be played and for those who think Newton Stewart prefer a “gitter hole” then they are badly mistaken. This season the Reds’ best performances have come when playing against quality sides on decent surfaces.
GHK certainly came out of the blocks looking to make amends and, in complete contrast to the first half, the first 15 minutes belonged to them.
Centre Hoffman was running the show and with Newton camped in their own 22, it was only a matter of time before the visitors made the breakthrough.
GHK looked to have reached the line on a couple of occasions from a succession of five-metre scrums but eventually it was full-back Mike Aird who slipped through for the score in the corner and five points. Without conversion the visitors were still playing catch up and probably fancied their chances but Newton rallied and for the last 20 minutes it was a nail-biting roller-coaster ride for the home support.
GHK attacked, the Reds counter-attacked and so on it went. Coach Gaw replaced captain Gaw. Jack Ritchie replaced centre Iain Russell and Graham McMillan took over kicking duties.
The lively centre took the three points on offer when GHK offended on their own 22 to restore a five-point lead but the GHK threat never diminished. A further missed penalty from McMillan would have added comfort but it was the visitors who would slot at the other end for a 13-11 last 10-minute decider.
GHK spun the ball wide down the flanks but as the Reds defended as though their lives depended on it.
A counter-attack would see the final pass escape the outstretched hands of Jack Ritchie for what would have been the decisive score. Having missed an earlier penalty attempt and the opportunity to open his try tally for the 1st XV the youngster was obviously gutted but there are still plenty of positives to build on for the future.
The Reds future was eventually decided in the final passage of play when all GHK attacks had been repelled and in one final onslaught the spent forwards provided one final drive to force prop Sandy Hamilton over for the try, conversion and a deserved victory.
All sides in defeat say they were missing key players and did not play to their potential. In this instance the Reds did not allow GHK to play to their potential and showed that given the right conditions they can also play running rugby.
This week Newton Stewart welcome league champions Marr. The Troon outfit are a class act with a clean sweep of 16 victories and no-one coming close to threatening their domination. Can the Reds spoil their party? Bladnoch Park 3pm will provide the answer.
Man of the match : Jamie Muir (stand-off)
Newton Stewart: M Wallace, B Haigh, S Hamilton, K Faulds, R Vance, W McCornick, J Wallace, A Gaw , R McCornick, J Muir, J Hamilton, I Russell, G McMillan, J McWhirter, T Wilson. Reps: J Vance, R Gaw, J Ritchie, S Costley.