Newton Stewart RFC travelled to Bishopbriggs in north Glasgow last weekend to play old rivals Allan Glens.
Always a tough team to play, Allan Glens should never be underestimated, especially on their home turf.
Currently they sit middle of the league table with Newton Stewart in second place behind leaders East Kilbride.
Newton Stewart kicked off, recovered possession and started to go through the motions of building some solid attack. Going through the phases, second row Craig Johnstone ran a good, flat line and received the ball from scrum-half Robbie McCornick to force his way over for an early lead. Stand-off Jamie Muir found his conversion kick a straightforward one and sealed the extras.
In the 15 minutes that followed neither team managed to maintain possession for too long and the play swung from one end of the pitch to the other. Both sides threw the ball out wide when they had the opportunity and ran at their opponents, forcing the big tackles to come and promising a physical game to follow.
A charging Allan Glens attack midway through the first half was stopped short by a superb covering tackle from winger Russell Morton. Maintaining their pressure however, Allan Glens forced Newton Stewart back into their own half and they spent ten minutes there looking for a way to her try line. The Red wall stood firm however and eventually cleared their lines breathing a sigh of relief.
Scrum-half Robbie McCornick made a good break up the left wing now and it was the home team’s turn to defend. Not only closing the door, they also turned the ball over and went on the counter-attack once more.
The game was fast paced and possession altered all the time. Newton Stewart back row Mark McCornick made a huge carry, utilising his powerful hand-off to good effect to make some hard yards. Recycling the ball well, Newton Stewart passed the ball right before throwing it back left and finding hooker Thomas MacDonald running hard onto the ball from short distance, screaming for the pass, before crashing over for a well-worked second try under the posts. Muir’s conversion was another simple one and the lead extended to 0-14.
With ten minutes left to play, Newton Stewart found themselves in charge of a driving maul bundling towards the try line once more. Deeming it obstructed, the referee blew for a penalty. Mark McCornick took a quick ‘tap and go’ but Allan Glens defended it well and neutralised the Red attack before turning the ball over and doing some damage of their own.
Pushing forward, Allan Glens had some sustained attack now and drove their opponents back into their own half once more. Securing a penalty within kicking distance, Allan Glen’s demonstrated their confidence by kicking to the corner instead. The subsequent line-out ended with another penalty to Allan Glens and they took it quickly. Working through the phases, their big centre eventually made it over for a good try under the posts to open their scoring. With the successful conversion kick, the whistle blew for half-time at 7-14.
In the early minutes of the second half Newton Stewart butchered an opportunity to extend their lead further. Sitting right on the try line, they spilled too many balls and handed Allan Glens a ‘get out of jail free’ card which they gratefully accepted.
A tight ten minutes of play followed before Reds centre Liam Brawls made a great break up pitch to liven things up, with Fraser Morton running a good line in support. The move ended with Brawls running in a try after an arguably forward pass back from Morton at the last. This conversion kick was a difficult one for Muir from far right, but he struck it perfectly and the ball sailed between the posts to extend their lead to 7-21.
With the play continuing to fluctuate from one end of the pitch to the other, the pace remained fast and was testament to the fitness of both teams.
The set pieces, which have at times been a weak point for Newton Stewart this season, looked solid. The Reds stole ball at line-outs as well as taking a few scrums against the head, a far cry from the struggling scrums of a few weeks ago.
The final score of the game came for the home team who used one of their subs to great effect when he ran straight through and around too many Newton Stewart players for an admittedly soft try. When the conversion followed and narrowed the gap to one score, the Allan Glens players started to sense an opportunity for a late steal.
Defending now with all their might, Newton Stewart were forced to knuckle down and maintain their focus and their discipline. Committed to their tackles, they shut out the home team and counter-rucked to good effect to turnover the ball at the right moment and clear their lines, holding out until the final whistle.
This certainly wasn’t the most polished of Newton Stewart performances, although they managed to exact the win from a spirited and fast-paced Allan Glens’ side who certainly never allowed them to feel comfortable.
There were good performances from second row Duncan Skimming and scrum-half Robbie McCornick, but Thomas MacDonald at hooker sealed Man of the Match this week. Scoring a superb try in the first half he communicated well, took several balls against the head in the scrum and was a solid link in the defensive line. A great performance from the youngster.
The league action is halted for the next few weeks with the Autumn International matches underway. This Saturday Newton Stewart will instead play their opening gambit in the Shield tournament again Garnock RFC at Bladnoch Park. Having narrowly beaten Garnock a month ago in the league this will be a close game, and a real test of the recent work which has been done in the scrum.
Kick-off is a 12.30pm, with the Scotland v Australia match shown in the clubhouse afterwards. All are welcomed, but the club would like to extend a particular invitation to all former players to attend the match and they will find some hospitality on offer thereafter.