Newton Stewart RFC welcomed their old rivals from Bishopbriggs, Allan Glens RFC, to Bladnoch Park on Saturday for the opening match of their 2016-2017 BT West Division 1 league campaign.
The club and its supporters have high expectations for the season ahead following their second place finish in the league last year. If the team can emulate the free-flowing, running rugby which they excelled at last season, they will be well placed to challenge for the league title this year.
The warm and sunny conditions on Saturday made for an enjoyable day on the side-lines, but an exhausting one on the pitch. The Reds ran out wearing their new strips for this season, kindly sponsored by Mathers Dairy Supplies.
The opening spell of play was a little unsettled from both sides, with possession shifting repeatedly. An early penalty kick for Newton Stewart was taken by stand-off Jamie Muir and slotted neatly through the posts to give the home side an early lead by 3-0.
As play continued Allan Glens were the first team to find their rhythm. Dominating in the scrums, they were able to maintain possession, and were rewarded with an excellent kick and chase from their full-back McConnell to score the first try of the game with only 15 minutes on the clock. The conversion attempt went awry, 3-5.
As the first half continued, Newton Stewart struggled to show the flair which had characterised last season’s play. The Reds made unnecessary mistakes and Allan Glens applied pressure during a series of scrums.
The oncoming assault eventually eased however, when Newton Stewart were awarded another penalty. Muir maintained his impressive pre-season form by converting a further three points for his team.
Starting to settle into their stride at last, Newton Stewart began to put the opposition under some pressure now. The Allan Glens’ defence found themselves stretched and an infringement within the Reds’ 22m line resulted in a yellow card for the visitors and another successful penalty kick for Muir. The scoreline was 9-5 at half-time.
The second half began at the first had finished - with Newton Stewart controlling the play. Another penalty came for the Reds, but this time they chose to back themselves and kicked to touch. The line-out that followed allowed them to apply further pressure, and back row Mark McCornick soon scored to make the scoreline a little more comfortable for the home supporters. Muir converted once more.
No sooner had play restarted than a penalty came for the visitors following a knock-on by a red shirt. Their kick was good; 16-8.
Determined not to let Allan Glens back into the game, the Reds started to pile on the pressure once more. Their opponents defensive line was forced into another infringement and yet another penalty followed for Newton Stewart. Muir hit the post with this one - his only miss of the day.
Play became a little disjointed now and after some scrambling for the ball, outside centre Fraser Morton ran down the wing with impressive pace to score under the posts. Muir converted: 23-8.
The Reds’ scrum had now found it’s feet and allowed the home team to secure the ball and create more pressure. Jamie Muir ran over a try, then added the extras himself.
A penalty to Allan Glens after the restart saw them kick to touch and find excellent position right on the Newton Stewart 5m line. Forced to close down any gaps in their defence, the Reds held firm and were able to clear their lines.
With only ten minutes to go, Allan Glens rallied and showed why they have always been such formidable opponents. Newton Stewart made multiple infringements to allow their visitors repeated line-outs, eventually leading to a converted try for Allan Glens.
With the very last play of the day, leading scorer from last season David Montgomery crashed over the line for a fourth try to give Newton Stewart a bonus point win. Muir converted again and the game finished with the Reds winners by 37-15.
The stand out player from Newton Stewart in this game was second row William McCornick. Solid in defence as always, he also proved a menace to the opposition at the breakdown, securing turnover ball on more than one occasion.
The Reds secured the maximum number of points they could from this game, however their play was interrupted consistently by an Allan Glens side who stifled their flowing style. This was a case of job done for this week, but there is work to be done ahead of next weekend’s trip away to Irvine RFC.