This year's match for the Spice Cup between Wigtownshire and Newton Stewart was played at London Road on Sunday in near perfect conditions.
Wigtownshire RFC 1st VX 5 Newton Stewart RFC 1st XV 19
The game was played in front of the biggest crowd, in excess of 200, seen at London Road for many a year. Newton Stewart had brought a sizeable following, and there was plenty of noise from the touchline.
It has to be said that the visitors won convincingly. They are two divisions above 'Shire and were a much slicker and well-drilled outfit. Their backs always looked dangerous and put 'Shire under a lot of pressure. Having said that, the 'Shire defence was outstanding. Unfortunately, 'Shire backs were rarely seen in attack and it was inevitable that the 'Shire try scored in the second half was a forward effort with Keith McNeil getting the touchdown.
The 'Shire forwards gave 100 per cent throughout the game and, in spite of a malfunctioning lineout, matched their opponents. The two tries scored by the visitors in the first half, after 20 minutes and 35 minutes, were both scored from lineouts near the 'Shire line with the forwards driving over and securing the touchdown. One try was converted, so the score at the interval was 12-0.
The lead was deserved. Their lineout was immaculate and they used the ball effectively. For 'Shire, their outstanding quality was their defence. The second half began disastrously for 'Shire, when an attack by the visitors led to a simple try under the posts which was converted with a minute of the half gone.
'Shire, as so often before, dug in and denied Newton Stewart any further scoring. The robust defence forced the visitors into errors and frustration became evident. With some 30 minutes of the half gone 'Shire were awarded a series of penalties and were camped on their line for some time.
Eventually after wining a scrum in the Newton Stewart 22, Rob Thomson made a solo break. He was held up on the line but support arrived in time and 'Shire drove over the line and were awarded the try. William Parker missed the conversion so it was 19-5 to Newton Stewart. That was to be the final score.
Eddie Stevenson was 'Shire man of the match. This was a typical local derby in many ways. Both sides wanted to win and passions ran high at times.
'Shire can take consolation in matching a team two divisions above them for much of the game. Haigh, Love, Wilson and Forsyth, the new 'generation' of 'Shire players are settling in well and the game against Newton Stewart will have helped to broaden their experience.