Newton Stewart 7 Helensburgh 14
THE RBS West Division 1 league table is probably the best indicator of what Newton Stewart have been about this season.
One win from five, third bottom, plenty of points scored and a bonus points tally to match the league leaders. Reason - playing some good rugby, scoring tries but failing to complete the task in hand.
Previous games have cited the clock as the stumbling block to completing a win but sadly this week’s affair was not a continuation of this scenario - the damage was done pure and simply by some poor decision-making and a plethora of unforced errors, the latter being the primary cause.
Helensburgh, like Newton Stewart, are a forwards orientated side and so the power struggle up front was underway right from the off with the visitors being the more effective in early engagements. Their weapon of choice was a very effective rolling maul and they executed well to gain a lot of yards in the direction of the Newton line. Ten minutes in and a penalty was ‘Burgh’s reward for their hard work, but Newton - not ones to be too easily intimidated - were soon on the counter and some open play took their forwards to the opposition line where a rumble on the line was enough to release Ben Haigh to drive over for the try. Iain Russell converted but sadly as the tale was to unfold it was his only success of the day and it would be fair to comment that if Newton Stewart are to survive at this level of rugby then a reliable kicker is a prerequisite.
The game resumed and as Mark McCornick was penalised for holding-on from the restart the visitors closed the margin with another decent penalty kick from their stand-off Jim Drake.
Only minutes later Russell had his opportunity to take three points after Helensburgh were penalised for the tackler not rolling away but sadly this was the first of three very kickable penalty misses which ultimately would cost Newton the game.
Helensburgh, on the other hand, were more than capable in the kicking stakes and as the first half neared its end another penalty award would edge the visitors 9-7 ahead but, to be fair, Newton had got to grips with the ‘Burgh offensive game and the home side closed out the half looking the stronger side.
With Helensburgh fielding a bulky pack it was no surprise that they began to fade in the opening stages of the second half and with the Newton scrum firmly in the ascendancy this should have been the platform to provide enough ball to take a comfortable win. Unfortunately, unforced errors crept into all aspects of the Reds play and, with hardly anyone exempt, their expectations of a second half domination degenerated into a frustrated battle with themselves. Helensburgh took advantage of the errors and as the Newton side battled their way into the visitors red zone the ‘Burgh stand-off and full-back were always on hand to kick deep back into the Reds half and quell any inkling of points. Fortunately Helensburgh’s first half form had deserted them and for most of the second-half neither side posed any threat to the opposition line.
As the prolonged stalemate lumbered along a penalty award with only ten minutes left should have put the Reds on the right side of the score but Russell pushed it wide and only moments later another award saw a change of kicker but again to no avail. The visitors couldn’t believe their luck and buoyed by their fortune they seemed to reassert in the power stakes and the closing minutes were played in the Newton half. If heads were down in the red camp then the icing on the cake which failed to rise would be Helensburgh sneaking a try in the final play of the day but without conversion gladly a bonus point would come the way of the home side. Scant consolation for a game that should have been won.
The disappointment amongst the Newton players was all too apparent and they in themselves do not need reminding of what went wrong - they are painfully aware of their shortcomings.
This week they travel to Irvine to try to make amends with memories of last year’s epic win.
Newton Stewart statistics:
Scorers- Tries - B Haigh; conversions - I Russell.
Man of the Match - R Fiskin.
Team - B Haigh, R Fiskin, S Hamilton, M Adams, W McCornick, S Wright, J Wallace, A Gaw (Capt), J McWhirter, J Muir, S Costley, M McCornick, I Russell, P Gordon, G McMillan.
Subs - M Wallace, J Causer, H Hamilton, R Vance.