Derby day excitement at London Road

Newton Stewart stalwart James Wallace sets off on a run with the ball.'Photo by Billy Broll
Newton Stewart stalwart James Wallace sets off on a run with the ball.'Photo by Billy Broll

The Spice Cup

Wigtownshire 1st XV 10

Newton Stewart 1st XV 25

The most anticipated and important games of rugby of the year in the County of Wigtown were played at London Road, Stranraer last Friday afternoon when Wigtownshire met Newton Stewart.

Wigtownshire RFC hosted the annual fixture, which was originally the “Rhins v Machars”, now contested by the two clubs based in those locations.

Despite the home side presently playing a league two divisions below Newton Stewart RFC, the fixture is always well contested.

In recent years, Newton Stewart have very much had the upper hand, however nothing is left to chance or taken for granted when the two sides meet. It is also a huge match for the local supporters and there is always a tremendous turn out on the touch line to see their teams do battle for the bragging rights for the rest of the year. Before the games the teams stood side by side, observing a minute’s silence, as a mark of respect for the passing of local rugby great, John McTurk, who died in October 2014.

Newton Stewart kicked the seniors game off, playing against the wind in the first half.

After some early pressure Wigtownshire worked a line out with clean ball from Gary Dunlop, followed by a maul drive taking them back into the visitors half, only to drop the ball behind the maul giving the scrum advantage to the visitors. They kept the pressure on and were soon on the five metre line with a line out. A clean take and drive took them over the line but the home team could not get the ball down.

However the referee had noticed a defender offside in front of the posts and Isaac Porter stepped up to kick the three points with 17 minutes played.

From the restart Newton Stewart came out all guns blazing. Repeatedly they attacked the “Shire” line, running and passing, rucking and mauling. The “Shire” defences was tested and tried, but the tackling was sound.

A knock on resulted and a home scrum awarded. The visitors turned the scrum and won the put in at the reset. This time Newton Stewart spun the ball wide, the “Shire” tackles went, but Duncan Skimming in support, picked up the ball crossed the line in the corner. Following consultation with the touch judge the try was awarded, thirty two minutes into the game.

The conversion kick was missed. From the restart the visitors went straight onto the offensive again.

On this occasion the home defence held them out, but as the half was drawing to a close a penalty gave the visitors another scoring chance. Newton Stewart Stand-off Jamie Muir stepped up and added three points to end the half with an eight point to three lead.

Wigtownshire kicked off the second half as badly as it was possible to do. The kick did not go ten and none of the chasing players played the ball. Newton Stewart grabbed the advantage, and the ball, sprinting through the watching “Shire” players. Luckily they managed to recover the situation and turned the ball over.

Porter made a good break from deep in his own half, Camie Craig was on hand to take it further, and passing to Forsyth, who was tackled into touch on the visitor’s twenty two.

Newton Stewart managed to clear the danger from the line out. Wigtownshire then compounded their difficulties with a number of penalties over the next ten minutes.

The last awarded in front of their posts. Newton Stewart elected to kick to touch. A clean line out take and a maul drive brought them to the line. The ball was passed out the line, Craig Johnstone, at Outside Centre, ran a line back across the park toward the maul. He took the ball at pace, avoiding the defenders coming out to cover, going in for a fine try. Muir added the conversion. It was Wigtownshire who came back hard following the score.

They built some fine attacks, but the Newton Stewart defence held. The Wigtownshire enthusiasm to come forward eventually proved costly. A kick and chase, left a huge space at the back. Newton Stewart exploited this with a kick and chase of their own. All Wigtownshire Hooker Gordon Keith could do was get the ball out of play to prevent a score.

Line Out Five Metres, Newton Stewart. Once again the “Newton” line out worked well, clean ball driven forward the passed out. On this occasion Ben Haigh was on hand to score the try. Muir added the conversion.

Once more both side came out fighting, end to end rugby, Wigtownshire got to the Newton Stewart line but failed to score, “Newton” brought the game back up the park and Muir added another penalty to his tally following another “Shire” player off his feet at a ruck. As the game was coming to a close Wigtownshire never gave up. They were reward at the end with a try for Forsyth.

The forwards worked the ball towards the line, going through the phases, then out to the backs.

Fullback Blair joined the line to create the extra man and go in despite the attention of strong Newton Stewart tacklers. Jason McKie stepped up to add the conversion.

Wigtownshire 1st XV: B Forsyth, S Cameron, C Craig, G Henry, J McIntosh, D Lawson, C Reid; R McCrindle, G Keith, M McConnell, G Dunlop, K McNeil (Capt), H Parker, J McKie.

Replacements: D Watson, B Graham, A Love, C Stephens, J Patterson, H McGeoch, J Dalrymple

Newton Stewart 1st XV: F Morton, J Wallace, C Johnstone, G McMillan, J McWhirter, J Muir, R McCornick; K Wright, M Wallace, S Hamilton, A Gaw, B Mulder, D Skimming, W McCornick (Capt) B Haigh.

Replacements: I Russell, J Vance, R Gaw