Newton Stewart draw away to Caithness
By Jo firstname.lastname@example.org
Strong defensive performance from Reds
The Reds travelled the length of the country and back last weekend, a 720-mile round trip to Thurso to face Caithness RFC. Always a difficult side on their day, and particularly on their home turf, Caithness promised to be tough opponents for Newton Stewart.
A strong wind blew straight down the pitch, a blessing for whichever team it was behind, and a curse for the other. Newton Stewart had the benefit of it in the first half and set out to try to capitalise on it if possible.
Early pressure from Caithness forced some strong defensive work from the Reds. The home side were dominant in the scrums right from the get-go, and it was immediately apparent that this would be a weakness they would look to exploit in the game.
Newton Stewart’s first real opportunity for attack came when stand-off David Gaw chipped the ball over for centre (and captain) Fraser Morton to run onto. He collected it neatly before running on through to score the opening try of the match, converting it also.
Caithness came back on the attack once again following the restart and doggedly made their way towards the Newton Stewart try line. With a scrum given in the danger area the Reds were under real pressure. The Caithness pack tightened the screw causing the Newton Stewart scrum to collapse and the referee to blow for a penalty try to level the scores at 7-7.
With their next scoring opportunity Newton Stewart set about establishing the lead once more. The Reds backs certainly looked the more dangerous with the ball in hand and they threw the ball about with confidence until Fraser Morton found space out wide once again to run in his second converted try, 7-14.
Newton Stewart had their tails up now. When back row Alan Ferrie turned the ball over deep in his own half, the team collectively pushed forward. Ferrie carried well before scrum half Robbie McCornick chipped the ball over. Caithness gathered, but were quickly turned over once again and David Gaw threw a great long pass to ultimately find speed merchant Robert Service on the wing. He burned up the pitch for Newton Stewart’s third try under the posts. Fraser Morton converted once again, and the score sat at 7-21 as they went into half-time.
With the wind against them going into the second half the Reds knew they had their work cut out to maintain their lead. Only minutes after the break winger Jamie Muir exploded up the pitch and kicked the ball through. Full-back Russell Morton gave chase and began dribbling the ball up the pitch looking almost certain to score when he was pushed off his feet by the covering Caithness defence. The referee controversially gave a penalty rather than a penalty try, however an unusual miss from Fraser Morton meant there was no change to the scores in the end.
Caithness used the wind to gain territory now, with their stand-off making the most of his big boot. Newton Stewart’s defensivemwas resolute for a long spell, but eventually relented as an opposition prop crashed over from short range to narrow the gap to 14-21.
Most of the game thereafter was played within Newton Stewart’s half, with the Reds stoically defending their line. The effort was immense, the impacts relentless. For half an hour the boys put their bodies on the line repeatedly and so nearly came out the other side with a deserved victory, but alas it was not to be.
With only three minutes left on the clock another strong Caithness scrum on the 5-metre line resulted in a second penalty try being awarded to level the scores. The final whistle blew for a draw, a rare result in rugby, and some mixed emotions came with it.
Whilst Newton Stewart will feel robbed of a victory in this match with two or three key moments conspiring against them, they must also take heart and have real pride in their defensive display. It was applauded afterwards by Caithness and made for a superbly entertaining game for the supporters on the side-lines.
The spirit of the team was fantastic and consistent across every Reds’ player, but Man of the Match was Connal McDonald. With an unrelenting work rate and a huge tackle count, he epitomises the true team player. A fantastic performance.
Next week Newton Stewart host Peebles RFC in the second round of the National League Cup. Peebles play one division higher than the Reds and will no doubt be difficult opponents with aspirations of progressing further in the Cup. The home advantage may play to Newton Stewart’s favour however and the club looks forward to welcoming the local support along to Bladnoch Park for a 12.30pm kick-off.
Team: Russell Morton, Robert Service, Fraser Morton (captain), Jack Gaw, Jamie Muir, David Gaw, Robbie McCornick, Martin Wallace, Gavin Freeland, Ronan McDonald, Connal McDonald, William McCornick, Alan Ferrie, Calum Gaw, Thomas MacDonald. Subs: David Adams, Liam Brawls, Russell Gaw.