Reds battle all the way

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Garnock 16, Newton Stewart 12

NEWTON Stewart travelled to Beith on Saturday for a first ever league meeting with Garnock.

After arriving and getting ready in changing rooms akin to the Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai, the boys headed out for a sharp warm-up hoping to start better than the previous two games. This proved to be the case.

Reds’ captain Adams decided to receive the kick, and a good take and drive from second row McCornick and the rest of the forwards set the tone for the first half. Good ball was recycled and stand-off J Muir drilled a nice ball into the opposition’s half, an excellent chase meant the Garnock fullback had no choice but to kick the ball back. Ben Haig collected the kick and made a trademark 60-yard run down the touchline.

The Newton forwards worked well to recycle the ball and it found its way into number eight J Wallace’s hands and, with the Garnock defence posted missing, he had the simple task of sauntering over the line for the first score. From a tight angle the conversion was missed by I Russell but it was certainly a better start from the boys in red.

Garnock were stunned and, through some slack play and missed tackles, kept Newton pinned back in their own half. Eventually the Reds’ defence was punished and centre McCornick was harshly punished for diving over a ruck to give the Garnock goal kicker an easy three points.

After the whirlwind start, the game settled down with both teams battling for possession in the middle of the pitch, rucking well and kicking into the corners but Newton had the upper hand.

After 22 minutes, the Newton forwards did well to turn the ball over and released the backs who made good yards. Some good forward play and rumbling runs from Haig and Hamilton got Newton into the danger zone and the ball found its way into centre McCornick’s hands who ignored the overlap and showed good strength to slip a couple of tackles to score. This time Russell converted to add to his 1000+ career points total and give Newton a 12-3 lead.

Garnock kicked off looking to hit back and Newton found themselves under the cosh and unable to clear their lines. Some poor tackles allowed Garnock within five metres of the Reds’ line. With Newton running out of defenders, the Garnock number 10 crashed over for a try that was easily converted to make the score 10-12 with 15 minutes of the half to play.

A knock-on from the restart allowed Newton a scrum inside the Garnock 10-metre line. This released the backs and some good wing to wing play saw Ben Haig make a good run breaking three tackles and being stopped short on the five-metre line. A couple of silly penalties let Garnock into Newton territory and a harsh penalty for offside in the centre gave their kicker an easy three points with 10 minutes remaining.

A good scrum from Newton saw them winning the ball against the head. Wallace picked up and a 30-yard side-stepping run was stopped when he was bundled into touch just at the corner flag for another let off for Garnock, Newton were then awarded a kickable penalty but Russell put his attempt inches wide.

Just before half-time Newton had more chances to score with S Hamilton being stopped inches before the line and brother John being bundled into touch at the corner flag after some good backs play.

Going in for the oranges, Newton were upset at being behind and should have been leading comfortably.

Newton kicked off the second half with their tails up but found this Garnock team hard to break down. With Garnock using pinpoint kicks into the wide open spaces of their park to keep the Reds pinned back on their own line for 30 minutes of the half, Garnock were stopping the rumbling runs from Newton forwards Haig, Hamilton and Wallace. Newton were struggling to find any momentum and eventually another penalty for offside at a lineout allowed Garnock another easy three points to make the score 16-12 with 10 minutes to play.

This was the rocket the Newton boys needed and after changing tactics to a more expansive game, moving the ball away from the tiring forwards, they started to gain territory. This resulted in the last five minutes being played on the Garnock five-metre line.

A series of scrums and penalties followed with Newton knocking on the door and trying to force the winning score but sadly the boys in green were equal to the task repelling 15 plus attacks at the line from the Reds’ forwards. Sadly the boys just ran out of time and the game was over

A good performance from the Reds looking much fitter than an experienced Garnock team but again unable to turn pressure into points.

Newton’s next game sees them travel to Glasgow to face GHK on September 29 looking to avenge three losses to the same opposition last season.

Team: M Wallace, R Fiskin, S Hamilton, M Adams (capt), W McCornick, B Haig, S Wright, J Wallace, J McWhirter, J Muir, D K Hamilton, M McCornick, S Costley, I Russell, Scrapper Wilson, J Causer, G McMillan, Peter Gordon.

Iain Russell