Last weekend saw Newton Stewart RFC host Orkney RFC at Blairmount Park for an evening game to accommodate Orkney’s travel arrangements.
A good number of supporters braved the cold to watch the game played under floodlights on the artificial pitch which created a great atmosphere.
The visitors kicked off and the ball was received by acting captain Mark McCornick who immediately broke up the park. Fellow back row player Ewan Dewar made sure he was on hand to clear out the Orkney bodies at the breakdown, and there were further carries from William McCornick and centre Calum Gaw. An unfortunate knock-on then handed the possession to Orkney, who were visibly fired up and ran hard at the Reds defences. Some big hits went in from the boys, and although there was no path through for Orkney, they were awarded a penalty within kicking distance and took the early lead.
For the next 15 minutes possession was predominantly Newton Stewart’s, and there were some good carries from Mark McCornick and lock Alan Ferrie. Another knock-on resulted in a scrum for Orkney, and their pack sent the Reds backwards in this first exchange. Having secured the ball however, the visitors found it stripped from them shortly after as Newton Stewart went on the attack.
Some strong running from the second row combination of Ferrie and William McCornick, as well as centre Fraser Morton, gave them good field position. A long spell camped on the Orkney line followed, stopped and started a few times for penalties against the visitors, whose defences did not yield easily. The forwards worked hard, grinding through the phases and drawing in their opponents until finally the ball was thrown wide and Calum Gaw crossed the line in the right corner. Morton couldn’t quite make the difficult kick and the score remained tight at 5-3.
Mark McCornick was tackled in the air from the restart and the resultant penalty gave the Reds a chance to attack once more. Newton Stewart were warmed up now and looked sharper than in the earlier exchanges. There was some fast off-loading play, with William McCornick, winger David Adams and fullback Tyrell Wilson all getting involved. The impressive move ended with a try for Mark McCornick, the conversion not quite there once again.
As play got underway once more it was Newton Stewart who took possession again. The forwards made some hard yards, Ferrie standing out once again along with hooker Thomas MacDonald and prop Martin Wallace. Another handling error handed the ball back to Orkney and the remainder of the first half was end to end stuff with both teams countering at every opportunity. Stand-off Jamie Muir controlled the territory battle well in this exchange with some accurate kicking.
A scrum for Newton Stewart right on the visitors line was a great opportunity to widen their lead, however some an excellent defensive effort from Orkney left the Reds going into half-time ahead, but feeling that a few chances had been left wanting.
The early play after the interval was once again predominantly in Newton Stewart’s favour, but there were still a frustrating number of handling errors. An early penalty opportunity went wide again, missing the chance to stretch their lead. The substitutes bench proved their worth with prop Gavin Freeland coming on to make an impact in the scrums, whilst Connor McCaig proved a level head under pressure on the wing.
A yellow card reduced Orkney to fourteen men and the Reds saw a chance to gain some momentum. When the visitors tried to utilise a driving maul, Freeland and back row Ewan Dewar used their strength to hold them up, and Newton Stewart were awarded a penalty as a result. The ball was thrown out to Morton who had to collect it well above his head before he ran 60 metres unopposed. Mark McCornick was once again present on his shoulder in support and received the pass before sending it on to veteran Russell Gaw who scored the try in his first appearance for the side this year.
There was a spate of Orkney attack now, but Newton Stewart survived it. William McCornick secured a penalty at the breakdown, allowing Morton to kick to touch and give the Reds another chance to attack.
Having secured the ball from the resultant lineout, Ferrie burst through the gainline once more. He made the offload to Morton, who then threw the ball wide to McCaig on the wing. The pass was a bit loose, but the young winger did well to pick it up from his feet and run in for the bonus point try. This conversion went awry once more to make the score 20-3 with a quarter of an hour to play.
With the restart came another attacking effort from the Reds. Orkney continued their impressively physical defensive effort, some huge hits coming in against the Newton Stewart players. McCaig resiliently got straight up after a massive tackle which made the spectators wince! Young David Gaw came on from the bench now to make his debut for the Reds, and it was cause for a greater celebration as he was playing alongside his dad Russell.
With a line out secured on the Orkney 5-metre line, Newton Stewart pushed forwards once more and Dewar added his name to the scoresheet with a try right by the posts. Morton made this final conversion kick to end his uncharacteristic spate of misses.
The final ten minutes was all Orkney. Demonstrating a good level of fitness and a dogged determination not to accept defeat, they battled on until the final whistle, scoring two tries on the way to give a final score of 27-13.
With a few key players missing this week, this was no easy victory. Full credit is due to Orkney who were deemed the most physical opposition they have faced so far this season.
This Newton Stewart side comprised many young players and they made a fine example of themselves in a difficult game. James McMiken was solid in the back row making some important tackles, McCaig held his own on the wing and Ferrie was once again dynamic in the loose. Man of the Match was reserved for Mark McCornick however who is made for physical games like these. As acting captain he led the defensive efforts, seemed to be omnipresent around the pitch and scored a try to boot. A fantastic performance.
There will be no competitive games now until 2nd December when Newton Stewart will host lead leaders Glasgow Accies in what promises to be a fantastic game.
Team: Tyrell Wilson, John Hamilton, Calum Gaw, Fraser Morton, David Adams, Jamie Muir, Robbie McCornick, Martin Wallace, Thomas MacDonald, Richard Fiskin, William McCornick, James McMiken, Mark McCornick, Ewan Dewar.
Subs: Gavin Freeland, Russell Gaw, Connor McCaig, David Gaw.