Newton Stewart RFC played host to Haddington RFC in miserable conditions last weekend.
The game was played on the 3G pitch at Blairmount Park in Newton Stewart due to Bladnoch Park being waterlogged once again. With both teams usually playing in red, Newton Stewart had the responsibility of changing colours, and turned out in white jerseys for the match.
The early play saw both teams try to find their feet in the game. Centre Fraser Morton ran a great angle to break the gainline before finding second row Alan Ferrie in support and making the pass. Ferrie was brought down but Haddington gave away a penalty at the breakdown and Morton slotted it over neatly to open the scoring with only five minutes played.
From the restart Newton Stewart came on the attack once more. A powerful break from second row William McCornick, bulldozing his opposition, was the start of some slick team play. Their attack was fast-paced and exciting to watch, with some good ball handling in the slippery conditions. Hooker Thomas MacDonald and back row Jason McKie were both notable ball carriers in the thick of the action, but a penalty against the Reds gave Haddington a chance to clear.
Having gained some territory at last, the visitors now looked to make their mark on the game. They positioned themselves right on the Newton Stewart line and were camped there for some time, however the defensive line which has proved so effective for the Reds so far this season was impenetrable once again. Ultimately a scrum was set, Newton Stewart got the upper hand and were awarded a free kick to allow them to clear.
A spell of attack and counter-attack followed with both teams competing hard at the breakdown. William McCornick once again stood out, stealing balls at the ruck, and demonstrating a deadly hand-off which must put fear in the heart of his opposite man. The Newton Stewart play was once again quick and accurate, but the Haddington defences were organised too and some huge tackles came in from the visitors.
A scrum for the Reds gave them a platform from which to pressurise and they quickly pushed the ball wide to winger David Adams who nearly made it to the line but was bundled into touch at the last.
A real physical battle was underway and back row players Jason McKie and Mark McCornick, along with centre James Wallace, led the charge.
Haddington produced a super kick through to put full back Tyrell Wilson under some severe pressure behind his own try line. Tackled by the chasing player, Wilson was the epitome of composure, protecting the ball long enough to allow scrum-half Robbie McCornick to get back to help and then producing a remarkable pass from the floor which allowed McCornick to clear.
Haddington were awarded a penalty right on the halfway line when Newton Stewart were deemed to be holding on. The kick from stand-off Morley went wide and with thirty minutes on the clock the Reds quickly went on the attack themselves. Morton made another superb break and once again found Ferrie on his shoulder in support. Receiving the pass, Ferrie backed himself and outpaced his opponents to the line for the first try of the game in the left corner. The conversion kick from out wide wasn’t quite there from Morton.
In the late stages of the first half there was more mixed possession. Newton Stewart made some errors in the set pieces which hampered their progress, however their fluency in open play was impressive. James Wallace (captain) and Jason McKie linked well, and prop Richard Fiskin worked hard at the breakdowns.
With the last play of the first half Haddington knocked the ball on and as the referee’s hand went up to show the Red advantage, second row Duncan Skimming scooped up the loose ball and ran in a rare try under the posts. Morton secured the extra points and the half ended with Newton Stewart 15-0 up.
The second half began with the Reds in control. There were long spells of attack from the home team, but credit to Haddington, they gave everything in defence. Despite the possession Newton Stewart had, and some big carries from Wallace and Ferrie, the Reds could only score two penalty kicks in the first fifteen minutes of this half, both from the boot of Morton.
As with previous games this season, the fitness of the Newton Stewart squad really started to show in the later stages. As the visitors tired, gaps in the defensive line appeared and the Reds took advantage of them.
Winger John Hamilton, on from the bench, was the try scorer at the end of a great team play where the ball flew smoothly through hands. The conversion kick was a tricky one from out wide and Morton couldn’t quite find the target.
With ten minutes left to play Jason McKie broke off the back of the scrum with purpose and passed to Robbie McCornick. The scrum-half ran a flat line and showed impeccable timing, floating a perfectly weighted delayed pass into the hands of Wallace who was travelling like a freight train and slammed over the line to score. The move, straight from the training ground, was exciting to watch and drew great cheers from the supporters as it also secured the bonus point. Morton converted to extend the lead to 33-0.
As the clock ticked down, the action was end to end. Haddington kept their chins up and refused to go home without making some impact on the game. They made good ground with a rolling maul, then ultimately scored a converted try, their second row Hamilton rumbling the ball over before Morley added the extras.
The last word of the game however was to go to Newton Stewart, and specifically stand off Jamie Muir who got the final try. Receiving the ball in space he ran directly, bursting a tackle on the way and tumbled over for the score.
There were many great performances again this week. William McCornick put in a huge shift and showed real ferocity in attack. Alan Ferrie continued to demonstrate what an asset he is becoming to the 1st XV, with an impressive physical presence for such a young player. Man of the Match (as chosen by Andy Vance this week) was Robbie McCornick, who made a huge number of tackles and whose delivery of the ball in poor conditions was exceptional.
With this victory Newton Stewart remain top of the league this week, not yet having dropped a point. The next few weeks look set to be truly testing however, as the Reds will face some of this year’s toughest opponents back to back. First up is an away trip to Murrayfield Wanderers RFC this weekend who were also promoted into the league this season having completely dominated the East regional league last year.
They will be another unknown entity for Newton Stewart to face - however if the Reds can play their own brand of rugby, which is proving so successful in these early weeks of the season, they will put themselves in contention once again.
Team: Tyrell Wilson, Liam Brawls, James Wallace (capt), Fraser Morton, David Adams, Jamie Muir, Robbie McCornick, Richard Fiskin, Thomas MacDonald, Ronan McDonald, Allan Ferrie, Duncan Skimming, William McCornick, Mark McCornick, Jason McKie.
Subs: Mark Craig, Gavin Freeland, Ewan Dewar, John Hamilton.