Big win for Reds in crunch game against West of Scotland
By Jo firstname.lastname@example.org
Three games to go in hunt for promotion!
After a month’s break from rugby Newton Stewart RFC welcomed West of Scotland RFC to Bladnoch Park for one of the crunch games of the season. With the Reds sitting second in the league table, and West of Scotland just one place behind them, the race for promotion is well and truly on.
Running out for the first time on their newly renovated pitch, Newton Stewart started the first half playing into a strong wind which made long passes and high kicks nearly impossible to control.
The Reds took control early on and looked the more dangerous team despite their weather-related disadvantage. Ten minutes in back row James Wallace made an impressive break through the field before forcing an offload under pressure which captain Mark McCornick managed to scoop up to crash over the line and open the scoring. Full-back Jack Gaw took a stab at the conversion kick, but the gale force wind blowing against the ball hindered its progress and the score remained at 5-0.
Any time West of Scotland got the ball in this first half their possession was short-lived as Newton Stewart tackled impressively, Russell Morton at centre standing out in this regard.
A prolonged spell of pressure from the Reds finished with a sublime try on the half hour mark. Winger Liam Brawls cut through the West of Scotland defensive line perfectly before passing out wide to second row Alan Ferrie who demonstrated excellent strength to finish the try. An amazing conversion kick from Jack Gaw found its way over to add the extras for 12-0.
Overall the first half was dominated by the home side, their only real struggle coming in the scrums where West of Scotland had the upper hand.
There was a sigh of relief for Newton Stewart when the half-time whistle blew, knowing that they went into the second half ahead, but with the significant advantage of the wind behind them now.
The restart brought a resurgence of accuracy and effort from the visitors, who came out all guns blazing. Utilising the ‘pick and go’, they maintained a long spell of possession and gradually edged their way further and further downfield. After a couple of infringements from Newton Stewart, West were awarded a penalty on the 5m line. Choosing to go for the scrum, they put a squeeze on and the Reds faltered – another penalty being given away resulted in the referee awarding a penalty try, and therefore 7 points, to West of Scotland. The score was suddenly less comfortable at 12-7.
As Newton Stewart kicked off again West received and looked to repeat their previous effort. Chipping away at the Reds’ defence, they made good progress once more before a loose ball was gathered up by Newton Stewart and hooker Thomas MacDonald made a superb break up the left wing. A high tackle came in against MacDonald, and the referee awarded a penalty. Electing to try to widen the gap, Jack Gaw stepped up once more to kick for the posts. His effort sailed over with ease and Newton Stewart went 15-7 ahead.
Thereafter, the home-side gradually drew away from their opponents. Alan Ferrie scored a second try, once again supporting an incisive run from Liam Brawls, with Russell Morton helping to bundle him over the line. Scrum-half Robbie McCornick wrestled his way over next to the posts to earn the bonus point, before James Wallace scored a try of his own right on the final whistle. Jack Gaw converted all three to finish his game with a remarkable kicking record given the conditions. Final score, 36 – 7.
There were some stand out performances in this game: hooker Thomas MacDonald was excellent in the loose, making some important carries and supporting the other runners too. Back row James Wallace is an experienced head in a young field and led by example in this game. His work rate was exceptional, tackling ferociously and bursting with power through the field with ball in hand. Calum Gaw did a power of work in defence, holding his own against sizeable opponents in the West of Scotland back row.
Man of the Match however was second row Alan Ferrie who excelled in attack. His rapid turn of pace and raw power made him a thorn in the side of his opponents, while his two tries were important in securing the victory.
This victory is an important milestone in Newton Stewart’s battle for promotion this season, but there is no room for complacency. West of Scotland have now slipped ten points behind in the league table, but Ardrossan Accies continue to threaten, just five points behind with three games to play. The Reds must maintain their focus right to the last to succeed in their bid for promotion.
Newton Stewart’s next game is on Saturday 16th March away to St Boswell’s RFC.
Team: Jack Gaw, Robert Service, Fraser Morton, Russell Morton, Liam Brawls, David Gaw, Robbie McCornick, Ross Campbell, Thomas MacDonald, Ronan McDonald, Alan Ferrie, James McMiken, Mark McCornick (capt), Calum Gaw, James Wallace. Subs: Gavin Freeland, Mark Craig, David Adams, Duncan Skimming.