Newton Stewart RFC reign victorious on borrowed pitch

Newton Stewart RFC 44 - 0 Helensburgh RFC

BT West Division 1

Saturday 9th January 2016

Newton Stewart RFC returned to league business at the weekend following an extended break over the festive season due to some weather induced match postponements. Bladnoch Park was unfortunately waterlogged once again, however Wigtownshire RFC very kindly allowed the Reds to use their pitch in Stranraer and this match against Helensburgh RFC to go ahead.

Saturday was a bitterly cold day, but the clouds had parted in time for kick-off and an impressive number of supporters for both sides took to the sidelines for this game. Helensburgh took the kick-off and Newton Stewart gathered the ball and immediately came on the attack. Their intentions were clear from the off, however a few handling errors stalled play a little.

After five minutes of play, one of the Helensburgh players was penalised for an offside offence within kicking range for Reds’ stand-off Jamie Muir. This first attempt at goal was relatively easy and it was a good settler for Muir who slotted it home to open the scoring.

After the restart the home team once again came on the attack. Helensburgh’s defence was determined however and Newton Stewart were forced to be patient and recycle the ball a few times. Eventually player/coach Martin Wallace took the ball at close range and the prop forward bulldozed his way over the line for a try near the posts. The conversion which followed was almost a carbon-copy of the previous penalty for Muir, and he repeated the accurate kick to lengthen the lead to 10-0.

Helensburgh had been rattled by the early scores, but now began to settle into the game and had some possession of their own. A couple of Newton Stewart offside rulings allowed the visitors to march upfield, however some impressive tackling from the Reds stopped them progressing any further and eventually the home team took charge once more.

With Newton Stewart beginning to find their rhythm, the backs got a chance to stretch their legs and make some incisive runs. Repeatedly the backs found themselves with ‘numbers’ on the wing, but once again handling errors hindered their progression to the line each time. By keeping the ball in hand and going through the phases however, another close range try was eventually created, this time Kit Wright (tight-head prop) was the scorer. Muir was unlucky not to add the extras this time as the ball sneaked narrowly wide.

Confidence boosted by having widened the gap, Newton Stewart began to work again at running hard and getting the ball out wide. Finding the Stranraer ground refreshingly firm beneath their feet, they started to increase their pace, and the Helensburgh defence were stretched to capacity. After 33 minutes of play winger Fraser Morton put his foot to the floor and found his way to a great try in the left corner. This time the kick was from a very wide angle and although Muir made a good attempt the ball once again went narrowly wide.

The half-time whistle blew a few minutes later with the Reds in control at 20-0. The team talk that followed was focused on securing the bonus point with a fourth try and maintaining their resolute defence to keep a clean scoresheet.

The first ten to fifteen minutes after the break saw mixed possession and a few more handling errors from Newton Stewart which once again frustrated their scoring chances. Despite this, the Helensburgh defence couldn’t push their hosts back and the Reds’ attack came again and again. As the visitors became a little desperate, the referee set a scrum on the 5 metre line with a Newton Stewart put-in. The aim was clear and the execution perfect: the Reds’ pack in control all the way to push their opposition, and the ball, over the line allowing back row James Wallace to claim the score and the bonus point. Muir converted cleanly.

With ten minutes to play Newton Stewart put their subs bench to good use, bringing on long-time player Russell Gaw for a cameo appearance. This game marked Gaw’s 25th consecutive year pulling on a red jersey for the club, an impressive feat in any sport, but particularly in one as physically demanding as rugby. Despite his seniority in years, Gaw made a real impact when he took his place in the second row and showed his team-mates why he can still threaten their first team places.

Having already put seven points on the board with his right foot, Muir now started to show his flair with ball in hand too. The Newton Stewart backs began to run at their opponents and the handling errors now disappeared to produce some of their most clinical rugby. Muir was the deliverer of two successive tries now, one in each corner.

As the game moved into the dying minutes the Reds continued to hammer away at the Helensburgh line. Second row Duncan Skimming was last man over the line to complete the seventh try of the game with Muir converting once again. Final score 44-0.

Newton Stewart will be delighted with the final scoreline - particularly the impenetrable defence. Helensburgh were very able opposition, and the scoreline reflects the prowess of the home team rather than any failing on the part of the visitors. The players, coaching staff and supporters who travelled the long road with Helensburgh were all gracious losers and made for a very enjoyable day of rugby both on and off the field.

Man of the match for Newton Stewart this week was youngster Thomas McDonald in the second row. He played with confidence and determination, making a real impact with the ball in hand. Other players standing out this week were scrum half Robbie McCornick dictating the play with confidence and proficiency, William McCornick (captain) for his completely merciless tackling once again, Craig Johnstone at centre for his impressive running with ball in hand and old-timer Martin Wallace for his good offloads and scoring a rare try!

Newton Stewart RFC would like to express their gratitude to Wigtownshire RFC for the use of their pitch for this game. Their willingness to help the club in this way was a great display of their generosity and the good relationship that exists between the two clubs.

Saturday 16th January will see the Reds travel to Carrick RFC in Maybole for another important clash to determine position at the top of the table. Currently sitting second and third in the league, these two teams have met twice already this season; once in the league and once in the cup. They have won one match apiece so far, and this will be a key match this season for Newton Stewart RFC.