Newton Stewart close in on division 3 league leaders

Mark McCornick braces for impact!
Mark McCornick braces for impact!

Newton Stewart RFC 21

Ardrossan Academicals 8

BT National League Division 3

At long last Newton Stewart RFC were able to welcome their opposition and supporters alike to Bladnoch Park last weekend in the first home game this season which has been playable on the grass pitch.

The visiting team were Ardrossan Academicals RFC, a somewhat unknown team to the Reds, but who have had a solid start to their league campaign this year and arrived sitting in fifth place in the league.

The weather was refreshingly dry if a little cold and breezy and the pitch stood up remarkably well to the play, although the heavy going made it hard work for both sides.

The early exchanges in the match favoured Newton Stewart, with flanker David Montgomery making a superb break and swatting aside any Ardrossan players in his path as he made some good ground for the Reds. Maintaining possession, the forwards patiently went through the phases and pressurised the visitors defences. Have spent some minutes camped deep in the Ardrossan half, Newton Stewart eventually found their way to the try line via a rolling maul, the ball being touch down by Montgomery to open the scoring. Centre Fraser Morton secured the extra points with an impressive conversion kick from out wide.

Following the restart Ardrossan Accies secured some possession and looked to make an impact on the game. A big and physical side, they made some powerful ball carries and then burst up the right wing, however the covering Reds’ defence bundled the threat into touch at the corner flag.

Having regained possession at the line out, Newton Stewart attacked once more. Their superb offloading play was on show now although the sticky conditions underfoot slowed their progress.

When Ardrossan overthrew a line-out Reds’ prop Ronan McDonald showed his quick reflexes to make a great take and this then proved the catalyst for further attack. Back row players Ewan Dewar and David Montgomery both made some big carries and winger Liam Brawls demonstrated some good hands when he gathered the ball from his ankles to maintain pressure.

When the ball went loose the visitors gathered it up and countered. Galloping up the wing, Ardrossan made the offload but found scrum half Robbie McCornick a little too close for comfort. When he batted the ball down the referee deemed it to have gone forwards and awarded a penalty to Ardrossan.

The big Ardrossan pack then showed what they could do in the scrum, getting a nudge on and pushing Newton Stewart right back off the ball and securing another penalty. The kick to touch gave them a line out just five metres out from the Reds’ try line.

Prolonged and patient attack followed from Accies and although it was defended with vigour for some time, when the ball was thrown wide right their fullback was able to run in a try and close the gap to 7-5.

Looking to stretch their lead once more, Newton Stewart immediately pressurised. Dewar made himself known again with a great break, running right over his opposite man and the play ended with Montgomery scoring his second try right under the posts, this time at full stretch. Morton converted again for a 14-5 lead.

A period of attack and counter-attack followed with Mark McCornick standing out with the ball in hand, whilst brother William made a spectacular tap tackle in defence to save a certain try and the half-time whistle blew with the Reds in control.

The restart after the break saw Newton Stewart put themselves under unnecessary pressure when the kick off failed to go ten yards and Ardrossan were given the put in at the scrum instead. Fortunately the Red pack made amends for this mistake when they won the scrum against the head and gave themselves a platform from which to attack from. Dewar, Montgomery and front row Ronan McDonald all got involved in moving the ball upfield before ultimately prop Richard Fiskin scored a deserved try. Morton once again made his conversion kick, maintaining his excellent record so far this season.

Thereafter the game consisted predominantly of Ardrossan attack with Newton Stewart defending for large spells, although there was little fluidity to the game as the referee interfered with play much more than was needed. A large number of penalties built up against the Reds - not all of them justified from this perspective - and eventually a yellow card was shown to the next offender, which for the second week in a row fell a little unfairly on Fiskin.

Full credit to the defensive efforts of Newton Stewart again however they stood firm and only a penalty within kicking distance gave Ardrossan any further score.

There were odd moments of excitement for the plentiful Reds supporters in the second half. A fast-paced break from Morton up the field was supported by second row Allan Ferrie. When the pass was made it was frustratingly forward, however the incredible display of athleticism from Ferrie to secure the ball at full stretch and maintain his balance drew much appreciation for the crowd.

Hooker Thomas MacDonald also showed a moment of brilliance in attack, and even made it over the line, however another forward pass meant the score didn’t stand and the Reds finished the game without the bonus point, but delighted with the win.

There were numerous stoppages in this game, both through the referee’s over-zealous use of his whistle and through multiple injuries to various Ardrossan players. It was frustrating to watch at times, and the heavy ground hindered Newton Stewart from playing their usual quick ball, however their opponents are a powerful and effective rugby team and the win was a crucial one at this stage in the season.

The entire back row (David Montgomery, Mark McCornick and Ewan Dewar) made an impressive account of themselves in this game and any one of them could be awarded Man of the Match again. However, 17 year old lock Allan Ferrie did a power of unseen work, tackling ferociously and stealing ball at the ruck, and that combined with his moment of dazzling brilliance in the second half have secured the title for him this week.

Elsewhere in the league, leaders Glasgow Academicals lost their first match of the competition away to Highland RFC. This leaves them leading the Reds by only two points now and makes the upcoming match between the two sides in December a much-anticipated contest

This weekend Newton Stewart travel to fourth placed St Boswell’s RFC. Having been beaten by them in the cup at the start of the season, the Reds will be fired up and aiming to redeem themselves in this match.

Team: Tyrell Wilson, Liam Brawls, James Wallace (capt), Fraser Morton, Calum Gaw, Jamie Muir, Robbie McCornick, Richard Fiskin, Thomas MacDonald, Ronan McDonald, Allan Ferrie, William McCornick, David Montgomery, Mark McCornick, Ewan Dewar.

Subs: Mark Craig, James McMiken, Martin Wallace, David Adams.