On Saturday (September 15) Newton Stewart RFC are in league action at Bladnoch Park where they will welcome Ardrossan Academicals RFC.
Always difficult opponents, this promises to be a physical game and the strongest challenge yet for the Reds this season in Tennant’s National League Division 3. Kick-off is at 3pm.
Newton Stewart were on the road last weekend, travelling to East Lothian to visit Haddington RFC where they were looking to follow up their impressive opening win with another solid performance in the league.
Blue skies overhead made for ideal rugby conditions as this game got underway, and the early play was competitive and mixed in possession. Newton Stewart spent some time deep in the Haddington half, but some nervous mistakes thwarted any real threat of scoring.
As both teams fought to get their nose ahead in these opening exchanges, the Reds were forced to keep their defences tight, winger Robert Service notable for an instinctive tackle to stop Haddington breaking through the defensive line.
With 25 minutes played centre Fraser Morton picked up a loose ball in space around the half-way line. Spotting the narrowest of gaps he backed his own pace and accelerated, slipping between the Haddington defence and running for the line to open the scoring with a great individual try. He followed this up with an accurate conversion kick to give Newton Stewart a 0-7 lead.
Just five minutes later the Reds looked to attack again as full back Jamie Muir made a break upfield. Second row Alan Ferrie ran a superb supporting line but couldn’t quick collect Muir’s pass cleanly and a knock-on gave Haddington the possession back.
The roles were reversed a moment or two later when Haddington lost the ball forward and Newton Stewart countered quickly. Some nice interplay between brothers Russell (stand off) and Fraser Morton created an opportunity, and winger Liam Brawls finished off the move to score for 0-12.
In the dying minutes of the first half the Reds were camped on the Haddington line once more. The home team were penalised for sealing off the ball at the breakdown and Newton Stewart took a ‘tap and go’, back row Jason McKie thundering over the line to score the third try. Morton’s conversion kick missed wide and the first half finished with the visitors 0-17 up.
Haddington gathered the kick-off after the restart but a fumble on their 22-yard line gave the Reds an opportunity once more. Quickest off the mark was centre Calum Gaw who picked up the ball and ran in to score before Fraser Morton converted for the extra points.
Only five minutes later Newton Stewart regained possession close to their own line and youngsters Alan Ferrie and Mark Craig (back row) made a break upfield. Fellow back row Mark McCornick (capt) followed on an excellent support line and receiving the ball on the halfway line ran the rest of the way himself to score. Haddington’s centre battled hard to make a good tackle right on the try line, but McCornick managed to ground the ball for the try. No conversion followed, 0-29.
The next quarter of an hour saw Haddington’s brightest spell of the game, pressurising the Newton Stewart defences and consolidating some possession. This foundation of pressure ended with a push-over try for the hosts after an hour played to narrow the gap to 7-29.
Some errors started sneaking in from Newton Stewart now: Fraser Morton found himself on the receiving end of a yellow card from the referee and had to spend 10 minutes in the sin bin. Taking control of the kicking duties in his brother’s absence, Russell Morton now failed to find touch with a penalty kick. With some self-induced pressure mounting, an unfortunate knock-on from the Haddington winger relieved it somewhat. Winger David Adams collected the ball, which went through the hands of Gaw before finding it’s way to Mark McCornick for him to run in his second try of the day. Russell Morton converted for 7-36.
The final minutes of the game saw Mark McCornick yellow -carded now for a high tackle. Working on the premise that attack is the best form of defence, Newton Stewart set off on a blistering offence with 14 men. Some good hands from stand off Robbie McCornick and Calum Gaw put the third McCornick brother, William, in a great position to crash over and score. Fraser Morton converted for a final score of 7-43.
This was an entertaining game to watch, with some very pleasing play from Newton Stewart. There were errors here and there and the pair of yellow cards will serve as a warning about discipline, however the overall impression was of another comfortable performance from this young team which will set them in good stead for the challenges ahead.
Stand-out performances came from Fraser Morton who was a confident presence in the back line, and Mark Craig who carried well and made an impact in the line-out.
Man of the Match however (as chosen by Haddington RFC) was captain Mark McCornick. His tackling was fearsome once again, his work rate unparalleled, whilst his two second half tries completed an excellent performance.
Team: Jamie Muir, Robert Service, Calum Gaw, Fraser Morton, Liam Brawls, Russell Morton, Robbie McCornick, Ross Campbell, Thomas MacDonald, Gavin Freeland, William McCornick, Alan Ferrie, Mark Craig, Mark McCornick (capt), Jason McKie. Subs: Ronan McDonald, Connal McDonald, David Adams, Martin Wallace.