Newton Stewart steady the ship at Garnock

Man of the Match James Wallace gets head and shoulders above his opposition.
Man of the Match James Wallace gets head and shoulders above his opposition.

Following the previous week’s disappointing first loss of the season, Newton Stewart RFC travelled to Garnock RFC last weekend in west division one looking to rectify their mistakes and to steady the ship as we approach the deciding games of the league this season.

Garnock have been fierce competitors this year, with this the third meeting between the two clubs between league and cup ties. A very physical team with a solid defensive line, they are always difficult to beat and never more so when at home.

The opening minutes were frantic with both teams looking to apply some early pressure. Garnock had a penalty opportunity with only a few minutes gone, however the kick was off target and the Reds could take a moment to settle into the game.

With ten minutes played hooker Thomas MacDonald made a superb break up the field. Quick supportive play from the rest of the team saw Newton Stewart quickly bearing down on the Garnock try line. As they battled with the formidable home defence, the referee blew for a penalty in front of the posts and the Reds took the early points via stand-off Russell Morton’s boot.

Garnock had a good spell of possession in the middle of the first half. They retained the ball well and tried repeatedly to force gaps in the Newton Stewart defensive line, however none appeared. A few spilled balls hindered any significant progress down the field and the pressure subsided.

With twenty-five minutes gone a Garnock second row player was yellow-carded for playing the ball on the ground. With an extra man on the pitch for the next ten minutes, Newton Stewart saw an opportunity to extend their lead.

As the Reds broke up the left wing debutant prop Ronan McDonald, on from the bench, made a tidy off-load to fellow front row Thomas MacDonald who then drew the last man before passing inside to winger Liam Brawls who ran in for a try. Morton converted from a difficult position to mount further pressure on their opposition, 0-10.

The last few minutes of the first half were played with Garnock in possession of the ball. Newton Stewart defended diligently once more and resolutely held their line. Once again the home team lost the ball forward in contact and the half-time whistle blew.

After the break Garnock came out fired up and knowing they needed to score next to stay in the game. Their early attack looked promising, but some fierce tackling from Brawls and prop Martin Wallace kept them at bay.

Back row David Montgomery made an excellent break up the field off the back of a well executed pass from scrum-half Robbie McCornick. The quick reactions of his unlikely supporting act, front row players Martin Wallace and Thomas MacDonald, kept the play alive a little longer however the when Montgomery got isolated a few phases on he was penalised for holding on and Garnock breathed a sigh of relief once more.

It was Garnock’s turn to attack with pace, breaking up the right wing to the delight of their home support. Some brave covering tackles by Brawls and full-back Tyrell Wilson held them up, however Garnock remained camped on the Newton Stewart line with a series of scrums from which to attack.

The Reds were dominant in the scrums and kept their opponents at bay until Garnock set a driving maul off the back of a line out to score in the left corner at last. The difficult conversion kick was wide and the gap narrowed to 5-10.

Newton Stewart stayed focused and went on the attack once more. A direct and fast-paced break from Tyrell Wilson took the Reds back to the Garnock try line, but a knock-on frustrated them once more. With a scrum on the five metre line the Newton Stewart pack took no prisoners and a huge push put Garnock under a lot of pressure to clear their lines. Robbie McCornick charged down the clearing kick and with a lucky bounce it fell straight into the hands of winger Jamie Muir who ran in a try in the right corner. Russell Morton converted his kick once more to extend the lead to a more comfortable 5-17.

The remainder of the game was played out without further score. There was possession for both sides, but some determined defensive work from each team nullified the attacks.

The entire forward pack performed well in this game with effective scrummaging and some impressive breaks up the park. Youngster Ronan McDonald impressed on his debut, running some powerful lines and tackling fearlessly. Liam Brawls played well in the backs and got an important try to boot. Man of the match this week though was captain James Wallace who utilised the very effective Red scrum, breaking repeatedly off the back of it and creating opportunities for Newton Stewart.

This was a much more composed performance from the Reds this week and will settle the nerves ahead of their next league game, away to Oban Lorne RFC on February 11th. A win in that game would seal the league title, and promotion, for Newton Stewart RFC.

Ahead of that game however, is the next round of the cup away to Annan RFC, where a long hard shift at the office is guaranteed to await the Reds. Their two previous meetings this season have been tight affairs and more of the same is expected to come.

Team: Tyrell Wilson, Liam Brawls, Fraser Morton, Craig Johnstone, Jamie Muir, Russell Morton, Robbie McCornick, Martin Wallace, Thomas MacDonald, Richard Fiskin, William McCornick, Euan Dewar, David Montgomery, Jason McKie, James Wallace (capt).

Subs: Craig Murray, Graham McMillan, Ronan McDonald, Duncan Skimming