Newton Stewart 3, Irvine 9
A dismal day at Bladnoch Park brought forth a dismal result but, for the merry band who turned out in some atrocious overhead conditions, the game was a surprisingly entertaining affair.
With neither side ever being more than a single score away from victory, this one went to the wire and, albeit with a slightly reddened view, it would fair to say Newton Stewart could have, should have and would have been worthy winners of an evenly matched game.
Once again the difference between those challenging for the top spot, Irvine, and those languishing in mid-table, the Reds, was negligible.
Unfortunately for the Reds, the scoreboard exposed the weakness of not being able to goal penalties – just one from three – while, conversely, Kris Hobson for Irvine slotted three from four and shows why they can wrestle a result from not playing their best rugby.
The first half was like most encounters with Irvine: fairly even with the visitors just edging the possession and territory. But with both sides trying to move the ball around in open play it was surprising that neither side could complete a try-scoring opportunity.
Blustery conditions did nothing to help but both defences did sterling work to keep each other at bay.
Hobson opened his account after only a few minutes, with Iain Russell missing his early attempt to level the score. However, the ageing kicker did make amends on the 10-minute mark to level and, apart from Irvine prop Blair Jardine being deemed held-up late in the first period, it looked as if the stalemate would see the half out.
However, Newton’s penalty concessions were moving on a bit too frequently and the closing play of the half saw Irvine edge ahead with Hobson doing the deed.
Half-time saw Newton’s wind advantage drop away to be replaced with torrential rain and this did nothing for what was shaping up to be a grand encounter.
Handling became a bit of a nightmare for both sides, but accordingly the Reds’ forwards appeared to revel in the rain and took control of the battle up front and dominated of the scrummage. Once again David Montgomery at No 8 for Newton showed what a good player he is with a fine performance.
Another penalty, among the many, saw Irvine extend their lead but only by that inconclusive six points and Newton set about the closing quarter with a side who scented victory. Jamie Muir put up an enterprising run which could have spelled a try but his offload was not good and from the subsequent play a penalty award to the Reds was again squandered.
Ten minutes from the end, that age old cliché “we were robbed” came to be and even the Irvine faithful struggled to disagree.
A promising attacking scrum saw Newton trundle the ball forward with a pace more akin to Trammondford Park but as they appeared to ground and Irvine appeared to spoil illegally another attempt was offered up to the Reds. A carbon copy saw the home side race the ball forward in the scrum again and the penalty try was surely there. Incredibly, and, more disturbingly, unexplicably, the referee awarded a penalty to the defending side and Newton Stewart’s moment had gone.
The closing encounters offered nothing further with Irvine graciously accepting their fortunate escape in their quest for league leadership and Newton Stewart graciously accepting a losing bonus point from a thoroughly entertaining affair.
Next up for Newton Stewart is the Spice Cup encounter with Wigtownshire to be held at Bladnoch Park on Saturday, January 4. 2nd XV kick-off at 1pm with 1st XV kick-off at 2pm.
Newton Stewart: M Wallace, B Haigh, I Matier, D Skimming, A Gaw, W McCornick, J Wallace, D Montgomery, R McCornick, J Muir, J McWhirter, M McCornick, G McMillan, I Russell, T Wilson. Reps: K Wright, C Johnstone, J Ritchie, F Morton.