Newton Stewart welcomed one of Scotland’s most high-profile rugby clubs to Bladnoch Park on Saturday when they took on Stewart’s Melville in their latest National League 2 fixture.
The visitors ran out 12-0 winners but, overall, Newton Stewart played well in what was the first ever meeting between the clubs.
Newton Stewart had most of the early possession but couldn’t find their way through to the visitors’ defences. An eventual missed pass gave Stew Mel an opportunity to counter and they quickly pushed the Reds back on to their try line.
Despite prolonged brave defence from Newton Stewart, the attack from the Stewart’s Melville forwards was relentless and, from a five-metre scrum, they burst over to score under the posts. However, the conversion was miskicked and the score remained 5-0.
Stewart’s Melville maintained good possession after the restart and Newton Stewart fiercely defended once more, with superb tackles coming in from hooker Thomas MacDonald and centre Liam Brawls.
The Reds forced mistakes from their opponents and got opportunities to attack but gave the ball away too readily at the set piece and piled more pressure on themselves.
A superb break up the left from full-back Russell Morton gave Newton Stewart their closest chance of scoring in the first half but receiver Jamie Muir was forced into touch by the covering defence.
Reds’ captain Mark McCornick was the subject of a dangerous tackle moments later which resulted in a yellow card for the visitors and a penalty for Newton Stewart. Morton lined up to kick for the points but, unfortunately, missed it wide and the first half finished with Stewart’s Melville 5-0 ahead.
The second half began with the Reds camped out close to the Stew Mel line and they were awarded a penalty by the referee only five metres from the line. Choosing to take the tap and go instead of kicking for points, they surged forwards once again but the ball was lost and the momentum gone.
The visitors kicked their way back upfield and then utilised their dominant scrum to pressurise Newton Stewart, scoring a second try as a result and, this time, also converting to put the Reds 12 points behind.
Newton Stewart dug deep and battled right to the last. They were forced to defend with all their mettle at times and did so valiantly.
Overall, the Reds played well in this match but they did struggle in the set piece and Stewart’s Melville pressurised them constantly at the breakdown. Craig Wilson Ltd Man of the Match, though, was Mark McCornick. His work rate was sensational both in both attack and defence.