Last weekend saw Newton Stewart RFC begin their foray into the national leagues with a trip to Motherwell to play Dalziel RFC, mid-table finishers in National 3 last season.
With a nearly full strength squad making the trip, the mood was one of anticipation and excitement. The team were keen to prove to themselves, and their opponents, that they could hold their own at this new, more advanced level of rugby.
However they need not have worried as the Reds romped to an incredible 81-0 win.
The Reds kicked off the game and Dalziel gathered. With possession secured the home team looked to make an early attack but found themselves contained by the Red defensive line which was quickly bearing down on them. Competition at the breakdown forced a holding on offence from Dalziel and Newton Stewart had the put in at the resulting scrum. Having secured the ball, the Reds quickly lost it again when a loose pass was intercepted, however Dalziel were careless also and when the ball failed to find hands fullback Tyrell Wilson was first on the scene to scoop it up and used his pace to run in an early try for Newton Stewart. Centre Fraser Morton converted to make it 0-7 with only four minutes on the clock.
Young prop Ronan McDonald showed his value in the loose when he was first up the pitch at the restart to receive the high ball. A very marginal forward pass to fellow youngster James McMiken gave Dalziel the possession back, but the Reds refused to give them any room to play and the home team were once more deemed to be holding on. A Newton Stewart line out from deep in the opposition half gave them a great platform from which to attack, but when stand off Jamie Muir was on the receiving end of a high tackle the Reds were awarded a penalty which was narrowly missed by Morton.
Some brief Dalziel possession after the restart was halted by the referee for a crossing offence and Newton Stewart had the free kick. The resultant line out from deep in the opposition half was secured and a driving maul formed. The pack trundled forward steadily until flanker Jason McKie got the ball down over the line for a try. Morton’s conversion kick went wide and Newton Stewart were 0-12 up with ten minutes gone.
The next ten minutes saw some scrappier play from Newton Stewart and Dalziel started to push them back towards their own line. Patient and consistent defensive effort paid off however when a Dalziel knock-on resulted in a Red scrum and a chance to clear their lines.
Newton Stewart attacked again, Ronan McDonald making a superb break. There was some nice fluid attack from the Reds but they seemed to lack the final finishing move on more than one occasion and the ball was ultimately lost when they were pinged by the referee for crossing.
Another spell of mixed possession followed with some impressive tackling from centre Mark McCornick, and a fantastic break from back row Euan Dewar the highlights from a Red perspective.
With five minutes remaining in the first half Newton Stewart got the nudge at a scrum and scrum half Robbie McCornick burst down the left wing with impressive pace. Jason McKie was there in support and the ball then went through the hands, ultimately to James McMiken who scored his debut try for the 1st XV. Morton’s conversion was good, 0-19.
Newton Stewart had the momentum now and made the most of it with a further two tries before half-time. The first was a superb team effort with some great interaction between Mark McCornick, new Kiwi prop Gavin Freeland who was on from the bench, and Jason McKie before Fraser Morton scored in the left corner and promptly converted his own try.
The last play of the first half saw a brilliant display of speed from second row William McCornick who burst through the field. The off load didn’t quite make hands, but was scooped up off the floor by his team mate in the second row Alan Ferrie who delivered it to Jamie Muir to score. There was no conversion this time and the half finished with Newton Stewart 0-31 ahead.
As the second half got underway, Freeland immediately made an impact again, bulldozing at the rucks to clear a path for his team mates to steal ball. Mark McCornick’s tackling was ferocious as ever and Newton Stewart were dominant in the scrums. Only some unlucky knock on’s hindered the Reds’ progress.
With fifteen minutes played in the second half hooker Thomas MacDonald made a superb break through the field. Dalziel were penalised at the resulting tackle for not releasing and Newton Stewart had the put in at the scrum. This was the moment the coaching staff chose to utilise the substitutes bench and it proved effective. A massive Red push in the scrum allowed Jason McKie to scoop up the ball and slip around the side to for his second try of the game, Morton adding the extras for 0-38.
From here on Newton Stewart ran amock, scoring a further seven tries in this half. Euan Dewar toyed with his opponents at times, simply swiping them aside as he ran through the middle to set up several of the tries and score one of his own. Jamie Muir finished three of the second half tries, Fraser Morton got his second and both Robbie and Mark McCornick got in on the action too.
With a total of thirteen tries in this match, Newton Stewart have much to celebrate and applaud. In the front row Ronan McDonald and Gavin Freeland proved their power and skill in the loose, William McCornick made some ferocious ball carries and Alan Ferrie was a solid link in the defensive chain and an important supportive runner.
The entire back row ripped shreds in the Dalziel defences, Mark Craig doing a power of unseen work. Jamie Muir was dangerous in attack, scoring four tries and assisting in others. Fraser Morton kicked solidly throughout, scoring eight of thirteen conversions, as well as two tries of his own.
With such an impressive team performance Man of the Match is not an easy accolade to assign, however Euan Dewar just clinches it for his masterful demonstration from the back row. A constant thorn in the side of his opponents, he seems unstoppable in attack and unbreakable in defence. An outstanding performance.
There can be no doubt that Dalziel were below par on the day with an under strength team due to injury, however that should not take away from the accomplished team performance of the Reds.
There will be far greater challenges to follow for Newton Stewart in this league, however they will be bolstered by this win and can look forward to this weekend’s home game against Perthshire RFC with optimism. Kick off will be at 3pm at Bladnoch Park on Saturday 9th September. The club looks forward to welcoming a big crowd of supporters.
Team: Tyrell Wilson, Liam Brawls, Mark McCornick (capt), Fraser Morton, David Adams, Jamie Muir, Robbie McCornick, Richard Fiskin, Thomas MacDonald, Ronan McDonald, Alan Ferrie, William McCornick, Mark Craig, Jason McKie, Euan Dewar. Subs: Gavin Freeland, Martin Wallace, Duncan Skimming, James McMiken.