Stewartry slump to surprise defeat

Strathendrick 10, Stewartry 0

Once again Stewartry found their trip to the Campsie Hills a trip too far.

Ten years ago, the Blacks were beaten in a Scottish Cup tie shock on their only visit to scenic Fintry.

As RBS West Division Two league leaders, Stewartry were expected to win, having beaten Strathendrick 38-5 at home in November and being unbeaten in their previous five games.

The game kicked off in perfect conditions on a well cut and rolled pitch. Stewartry saw Strathendrick field the kick and send it back and into touch in the Blacks 22, and the catch being missed was a sign of things to come.

Strathendrick gave away a series of penalties in the first 10 minutes, mostly in the Blacks’ half. Stewartry were winning the penalty lineouts with first Paul Swalwell and then Stevie McCulloch taking clean ball. From one shortened lineout, Swalwell broke with Ian Fenwick reaching the Strathendrick 22 for the first time in the opening 10 minutes.

The home side were soon back into the Blacks’ half with some fine flowing rugby between their backs and forwards. Stewartry stopped an early scoring chance as the Blues were held up on the line and Craig Mosey kicked clear.

Colin Davidson, starting his first game for Stewartry, and Danny Burton set John Muir away on his own, breaking out to the halfway line. From the lineout it was Swalwell, Burton and Davidson who drove into the home 22. John Muir was next to show a bit of pace but ended up injured for his trouble.

A penalty against the Blacks’ captain gave Strathendrick a first kick at the posts to open the scoring at 3-0.

Stewartry’s restart was short, the Blacks losing possession at the scrum back and found theselves on the defensive again. Five minutes from half-time, Stewartry lost a scrum against the head as the home team’s old boys turned up the pressure. Mosey kicked a penalty into the corner, Stewartry’s only third visit to that area of the field in the first half.

Strathendrick kicked off the second half and the Blacks knocked on to give Strathendrick possession and put pressure on in the Blacks’ 22 again.

From a lineout on the right, Strathendrick won the ball and swung it out left to score the game’s only try. The conversion was added to give them a 10-0 lead.

Five minutes later the home team missed a penalty kick at the posts.

Stewartry continued to give away a number of penalties, knock-ons and just could not keep the ball. On the hour Cammy Fenwick and Robert Wallace won possession through the middle before Rory Porteous won a lineout that saw Swalwell and Tommy Cannon stopped five metres from the line. Strathendrick fought back and mauled Stewartry back 30 metres.

With five minutes left, the home side prop was stopped just short of the Blacks’ line with three more drives to the line halted by the Stewartry defence.

John Muir broke from his own line to halfway but was swamped by the Strathendrick defence.

Scrums were now rotating at each put in as the Blacks failed to make any progress. A final John Muir break from his own 22 to the home 22 came to nothing in the final minute as he tried to at least gain a bonus point.

Strathendrick, who had 80% of the territorial advantage in the game, held onto their unbeaten home record over Stewartry. This was a poor display by Stewartry, made even worse with the lost chance to make ground on Lenzie, who lost at home to Cumbernauld.

New league leaders Annan are now unbeaten in 15 games and defeated Strathaven 25-10 to move three points ahead of Stewartry with three games in hand and a double header to come in the next few weeks.

Stewartry: J Muir, J Fingland, C Fenwick, Danny Boyd, R. Wallace, C Mosey, J Farquhar, T Cannon, D Burton, C Davidson, R Porteous, M Smith, P Swalwell, S McCulloch, I Fenwick (captain). Reps: S Broll, S Hogg, M Taylor.

Stewartry’s next game is on March 16 away to McLaren. The next home game is on March 23 home to Annan.

John Low