With Bladnoch Park waterlogged at this early stage in the season, Newton Stewart RFC were forced to welcome Perthshire RFC to the 3G pitch at Blairmount Park last weekend.
A good crowd of supporters turned out to cheer on the Reds in their first home match of the season, with the artificial surface promising a fast-paced game.
The early minutes of play were fast and furious, with both teams looking dangerous when in possession. A couple of handling errors by Perthshire hindered their attack, while Newton Stewart came within metres of scoring, but back row Jason McKie couldn’t quite find the final offload needed to secure a try.
A high tackle on centre Fraser Morton gave the Reds a penalty kick to the corner. The resultant line-out misfired and it appeared to be an opportunity lost until a Perthshire knock-on gave Newton Stewart the put in at the scrum. The scrum was solid and produced the platform from which hooker Thomas MacDonald made a superb break before passing out to winger Liam Brawls to score the first try of the game. Stand-off Jamie Muir couldn’t quite make the conversion and the score was 5-0 with five minutes played.
A period of mixed possession followed with Perthshire utilising their strong runners. Thomas MacDonald made some immense tackles to head up the defensive effort. The visitors efforts were blighted by handling errors, whilst Newton Stewart were repeatedly penalised by the referee for holding on when it seemed there was not enough support at the breakdown.
With twenty minutes played, young winger David Adams made a great break up the left wing. His kick through was unfortunately charged down but the move ended with a line-out for Newton Stewart. With ball secured, Muir ran a great line with fullback Tyrell Wilson there in support to receive the pass. When the ball made it into the hands of prop Gavin Freeland travelling at pace, he was unstoppable from five metres out and crashed over the line for a second Red try. Morton was able to add the conversion points this time.
A prolonged spell of Perthshire attack followed with the Red wall defiant for a long time, but ultimately the visitors drew in the defence before throwing the ball wide to score a converted try.
Newton Stewart seemed to be counting down the minutes to half-time, defending with all their mettle, until from nowhere a break from second row Allan Ferrie saw him run in a fantastic individual try from within his own half, bursting tackles for fun on his way to the line.
With the final play of the first half the Reds were able to bundle a Perthshire attacker into touch to save a potential try, however they gave away a penalty as a result. Their kicker slotted it home to give a half-time score of 17-10.
The second half began as the first had ended: fast-paced and with Perthshire attacking. The Red defensive effort withstood the barrage of the first few minutes until suddenly a spark was lit in the Newton Stewart team and they went on the attack once more. What followed was a very hard-worked try, with patient recycling of the ball through the forwards allowing the Reds to sneak ever closer to the line before McKie made it over for the bonus point try.
When Newton Stewart stole the ball in the line out following the restart, Perthshire were caught off guard and McKie made an incisive break through the gainline with Thomas MacDonald on his shoulder to receive the offload and run in a very well deserved try for 27-10.
With fifteen minutes left to play, the so far heroic MacDonald made a blunder, tackling an opponent in the air and receiving a yellow card as punishment. With only fourteen men on the pitch, Newton Stewart had to defend defiantly but continued to be heavily penalised by the referee. Repeated infringements resulted in a second yellow card against the Reds, this time shown to prop Ronan McDonald, to leave them with only thirteen players on the field.
Some reshuffling of positions followed and Newton Stewart now had their work cut out to contain the Perthshire attack. To their credit the Reds held out for some time, but the visitors made the most of their numbers advantage to run in a try, and convert it, with five minutes left to play.
With MacDonald back on the field Newton Stewart secured ball at a line out and made a final push up the field. James Wallace (captain) playing out of position at outside centre, burst through the gainline before passing through the hands until Muir found himself in space to score the final points of the match and give a full-time score of 32-17.
With two wins from two games, Newton Stewart have had a dream start to their national league adventure. The strength and depth of the current squad, with so many young players coming through, makes for exciting times for the club.
The notable performances of this match came from second row Allan Ferrie who ravaged the Perthshire defences and scored his first try for the team, and Jason McKie who made so many hard yards and big tackles yet again. Man of the match this week though is Thomas MacDonald - he made some superb breaks with the ball in hand, tackled with ferocity and scored a try of his own. The yellow card towards the end of the game would slightly sully his game, however he had already made his mark on the game and deserves the accolade no less.
Next weekend the Reds and a band of supporters travel to Kirkwall in Orkney for what promises to be great experience for the club. With the team in form and spirits high, there will be great optimism that the points on offer at the most northerly club in the country can be taken by the most southerly!
Team: Tyrell Wilson, Liam Brawls, James Wallace (capt), Fraser Morton, David Adams, Jamie Muir, Robbie McCornick, Richard Fiskin, Thomas MacDonald, Gavin Freeland, Allan Ferrie, Duncan Skimming, Jason McKie, Mark Craig, Euan Dewar. Subs: Ronan McDonald, Martin Wallace, James McMiken, John Hamilton.
Photos (all credited to BB Photography)
Liam Brawls scoring the first try for Newton Stewart RFC.
Gavin Freeland proves a force to be reckoned with.
Allan Ferrie bursting the tackle.
Man of the Match Thomas MacDonald makes another powerful break.