Aiming to continue their winning start to the season, Newton Stewart RFC travelled to Annan last weekend to play rugby in some extremely warm and pleasant conditions.
The early play saw the Reds attacking with some lively, up tempo rugby. Possession passed back and forth a little, and both teams defended well. Annan were penalised a few times for lacking discipline, and after a warning from the referee, they were eventually punished with a yellow card after 15 minutes.
With the advantage of an extra man on the pitch, Newton Stewart attacked from the line out. Centre Craig Johnstone put in a big carry, but couldn’t quite take the ball to the line. Quickly passing the ball out wide, Fraser Morton put a in perfectly weighted final pass to winger Jamie Muir who ran over for the first try of the match. Muir then duly added his own conversion to give Newton Stewart a 0-7 lead.
Both teams gave away penalties during the subsequent twenty minutes: Annan predominantly for voicing their displeasure to the referee a little too loudly. It was a Newton Stewart offside offence however that resulted in a kickable penalty for Annan, and the gap was narrowed to 3-7.
With only two minutes left in the first half, the Reds put in a forceful attack. Pressurising the Annan defence with some tactical kicking, Newton Stewart had the put in for a scrum on the Annan 5m line. Back row Euan Dewar burst off the back of the scrum running powerfully, before passing out to Jason McKie in support. McKie crossed the line to score, however the try was immediately disallowed as the whistle had gone for a head knock to the huge Annan centre who had attempted to bring down Dewar.
The Reds won the resulting scrum however and McKie made sure that his name did indeed make the score sheet by crossing for a valid try this time. Muir converted to 3-14.
After half-time the Reds started back with some sustained pressure, but Annan were able to clear. The Annan stand off now put good pressure on the Newton Stewart line. A ‘tap and go’ penalty to Annan, taken by stand off, resulted in a converted Annan try 10-14.
Play saw both sides involved in the game with some good defensive work from both teams. Some repeated penalties against the Reds gave Annan a kick to touch. From the resulting lineout the Annan winger crashed over for their second try of the game. Newton Stewart suddenly found themselves three points each down with only ten minutes left to play.
The Reds seemed unable to keep the ball and when they did have possession, the gain line seemed impenetrable. Determined not to give up without a fight, the Newton Stewart team dug deep.
With only two minutes left on the clock, Newton Stewart captain for the day, William McCornick, picked up the ball from well inside his own half and ran at the opposition. Forcing his way through the defensive line, he burst tackles before dummying the Annan stand off and running around the full back to score a sensational winning try for the Reds. Having started in the front row, McCornick defied the longstanding belief that props can’t run fast!
With less than two minutes on the clock, Newton Stewart just had to hold on. The Annan kick-off went straight out and allowed the Reds to regain possession and simply watch the seconds tick down until full-time, recording a 21-17 victory.
This was a very tight game and the win was secured through McCornick’s sublime individual effort coupled with a team spirit and determination that is a credit to the Newton Stewart.
Man of the Match is a tough decision this week, with multiple candidates worthy of the accolade. Euan Dewar made some huge ball carries and William McCornick scored the aforementioned glorious try, however it has to go to Jason McKie who was consistent throughout in his defensive effort and scored a try of his own.
Next weekend the Reds make the long trip to Oban for the next league game. Always a big and physically strong team, Newton Stewart will need to match them to bring home the points.