Newton Stewart remain in second after league defeat at St Boswell’s

editorial image

St Boswell’s RFC 27

Newton Stewart RFC 14

BT National League Division 3

Newton Stewart RFC made their second trip of the season to St Boswell’s RFC last weekend.

Having lost to the Borders side in the cup earlier this year the Reds knew they had tough opponents, and with both sides having made strong starts to their league campaigns it promised to be a very tight match.

The early exchanges saw both teams share possession as they looked to settle into the game. The play was fast-paced and there were handling errors from both sides as a result. Prop Ronan McDonald made a good early impression making a real nuisance of himself at the ruck and was unlucky not to come away with the ball.

The first scrum was St Boswell’s put in, but a big effort from the Newton Stewart pack very nearly pushed them back off the ball. Just securing possession, the home side went on the attack and looked to find a hole in the Reds’ defence. For ten minutes St Boswell’s knocked on the door, but no weak links presented themselves and brothers Robbie and Mark McCornick (scrum half and back row respectively) stood out in particular with their determined tackling. Newton Stewart temporarily came away with the ball, however when the clearance kick failed to find touch they found themselves under pressure once again. With a second chance presented to them St Boswell’s needed no further invitation and ultimately found their way to the try line with fourteen minutes on the clock. The conversion kick from wide was missed.

From the restart there was more of the same. The Reds failed to maintain possession and St Boswell’s attacked once again. Back row Mark Craig made more than one important tackle in this exchange to keep the home side at bay. When Newton Stewart secured the ball at last back row Allan Ferrie made a superb break up the pitch to gain some territory. The Red pack once again got the nudge at the scrum which followed and at last an attacking opportunity presented itself. Hooker Thomas MacDonald burst across the gainline and found Ferrie on his inside shoulder in support. With the pass secured Ferrie then switched the play back outside to Mark McCornick who took the ball over the line to score a very slick try for Newton Stewart. Centre Fraser Morton then added the extras to secure the lead at 5-7.

Newton Stewart’s confidence grew with this score and a period of fluid and fast-paced play followed with some good offloads. When stand-off Jamie Muir’s kick for territory was unexpectedly charged down the ball went loose. Fortunately a Red boot found the ball first and it was knocked downfield for Morton and full-back Tyrell Wilson to chase. St Boswell’s secured possession but they were deep in their own half and under pressure, so when Newton Stewart stole the ball winger Calum Gaw broke up the left wing and was only stopped by a high tackle from the panicked home defence.

With a line-out on the 5 metre line the Reds did the necessary, securing the ball and launching forward for a second try, Mark McCornick once again the scorer. Morton converted again to extend the lead to 5-14 with five minutes remaining in the first half.

St Boswell’s found themselves deep in their own half again and were under considerable pressure to push the Reds back. Credit where it is due, they did exactly that and managed to run their way to the halfway line before possession was stolen by Newton Stewart. Mark McCornick, who had been nothing short of exceptional up to this point, was unfortunately lost from the game when he sustained a facial injury requiring stitches. McDonald and Dewar both made fantastic carries now, however the home team were dominant at the breakdown and stole the ball once again before the half-time whistle blew.

After the break Newton Stewart came out feeling confident and Morton was inches away from securing a pass which would have left him charging up the wing for an almost certain try. This small rub of bad luck seemed to set the tone for the remainder of the match and St Boswell’s took advantage. With knock-ons and charged down kicks giving the home side possession, the Reds’ front row found themselves penalised in the scrum too and St Boswell’s kicked to just 5 metres out. The aimed for a catch and drive, however some superb Newton Stewart defence allowed them to steal the ball and clear.

Some mixed possession followed with Wilson and winger Liam Brawls making some important tackles, whilst Ewan Dewar, James Wallace and William McCornick impressed with the ball in hand.

With the sun dropping low as the afternoon progressed, Newton Stewart found themselves looking into the glare. Defensive accuracy definitely suffered with the poorer visibility and their hosts capitalised.

Pushing forwards to the line, St Boswell’s looked to have scored, however the referee deemed it to have been lost forward. Some vocal protestations from the home side resulted in a yellow card for their scrum-half, but any advantage this might have brought the Reds was lost when Ferrie suffered the same fate minutes later. For the third game in a row Newton Stewart have lost a player to the sin-bin due to a cumulative penalty count and Ferrie’s failure to stay on his feet at the ruck sealed his fate.

Some loose play and flaring tempers made for a tense fifteen minutes that undoubtedly favoured the fired up St Boswell’s side. Three tries and a penalty came in quick succession for the Borders team as they started to run over the top of a frustrated Newton Stewart side not used to being found wanting defensively.

As captain, Wallace, (and Brawls were both lost through injury, the full subs bench was utilised. David Adams and Connor McCaig (making his debut for the Reds) came into the back line, whilst the experienced head of Martin Wallace went into the front row to try to restore focus and calm.

The replacements all made a good account of themselves and there was at last some possession and attack from the Reds in this half. Breaks from Ferrie and Craig gave the travelling supporters some late hope for a resurge, however there was a lack of fluidity caused largely by the glare which meant Newton Stewart were just not clinical enough to make any further impact on the scoreline.

This was a frustrating loss in a game which seemed to be there for the taking at half-time. The Reds put undue pressure on themselves at times with some poor kicking and misfiring line-outs, however that does not lessen the fact that St Boswell’s were simply better at the breakdown and took the opportunities presented to them.

Mark McCornick was exceptional in the first half and his loss was felt sorely after the break. Younger brother Robbie was another stand-out player in this match, once again impressing with his physicality, a real asset in a scrum-half. Man of the Match goes to back row Mark Craig who made a huge number of tackles and although less powerful than some of his counterparts always impresses with his tenacity.

This loss gives league leaders Glasgow Accies some breathing room at the top table, whilst Newton Stewart remain in second, albeit in a much tighter battle for this position.

This Saturday (11th November) the Reds will play Orkney RFC on the 3G pitch at Blairmount Park. This game will have the added excitement of being played under floodlights as a 5pm kick-off has been arranged to allow for the travel arrangements of the visitors. Orkney were fantastic hosts to both the team and their supporters at the away game, and the club looks forward immensely to returning the favour.

Team: Tyrell Wilson, Liam Brawls, James Wallace (captain), Fraser Morton, Calum Gaw, Jamie Muir, Robbie McCornick, Richard Fiskin, Thomas MacDonald, Ronan McDonald, Allan Ferrie, William McCornick, Mark Craig, Mark McCornick, Ewan Dewar.

Subs: James McMiken, David Adams, Martin Wallace, Connor McCaig.