Match Report v Newton Stewart RFC | Saturday 28th September
It’s a long way to Tipperary, I know that only too well. It is also a hell of a long trek to Newton Stewart, but if it’s any consolation, it’s a lot easier now than it was in the ‘old days’. The website notes that Newton Stewart RFC was established in 1984, however I know for a fact that the foundations for rugby were laid way before that in 1939 when a teacher from Hawick (where else) by the name of Jack Frame arrived at the Douglas Ewart High School with a rugby ball under his arm, pushing the round one aside. My father and his two brothers were beneficiaries of this sea change and went on to enjoy illustrious careers representing the districts of Edinburgh and the North & Midlands. So it’s in the blood! History lesson over.
Now back to 2019 at Bladnoch Park. A great set up for a club that has moved up through the leagues, having been promoted last season, and, to top that, a perfect day for rugby. As they took to the sunkissed pitch there was a familiar line up, the only changes being Geoff Angco at 12, James Ferguson at 15 and Scott Murchie joining the back three at 11.
Stewart’s Melville started proceedings, kicking deep into Newton Stewart territory, and our hosts were immediately put under pressure. From a successful line out, Stewart’s Melville mounted the first attack of the afternoon with Jamie McGurk breaking through. The ball was, however, lost, but good defence by his fellow centre Geoff Angco kept the hosts at bay, although they managed to gain some territory and a scrum around 10m out from the Stewart’s Melville line. Our set piece was solid, an early indication of how it would perform all afternoon. With possession changing hands in the early exchanges, Stewart’s Melville eventually held on to the ball before pushing the opponents back, winning a scrum 5m out. Number 8 Scott Alldritt picked and drove over for the first try of the afternoon. Unfortunately the kick wasn’t as clinical. 15 minutes played, Newton Stewart 0 – Stewart’s Melville 5.
From the restart the ball was well taken by Captain Momo, who found his scrum half Fraser and the ball was lobbed downfield. The short line out that followed ultimately led to Newton Stewart getting some possession, and, with a penalty coming their way, they managed to launch an attack before the Stewart’s Melville tacklers wrapped them up and regained the advantage. It was, at this stage, one way traffic, with Stewart’s Melville enjoying the majority of possession, and Newton Stewart were finding it difficult to get out of their own half. They were, to be fair, soaking up the pressure, which, at this stage was relentless, led tirelessly by Scott Alldritt the try scorer.
Our scrum was dominant, the line out was working well and the forwards were obviously enjoying themselves, giving their back line opportunities which perhaps could have been better exploited. Stewart’s Melville, at this stage, should have had more points on the board, and Newton Stewart, to their credit, were making it difficult for us despite being under the cosh. With 25 minutes played, we only had 5 points to show for our efforts, despite our dominance.
A scrappy period then ensued and some good defensive play from Newton Stewart allowed them to clear their lines with a large boot downfield, wind assisted and with the low sun making it difficult for Stewart’s Melville – an old Apache trick! Newton Stewart then enjoyed a period in the Stewart’s Melville half but couldn’t break through the resolute defence despite keeping the attack going well with ball in hand. It wasn’t long before the first yellow card was produced and a penalty was awarded in Newton Stewart’s favour. Although within reasonable distance of the posts, our hosts didn’t manage to secure the three points – it wasn’t going to be their afternoon. Half time, Newton Stewart 0 – Stewart’s Melville 5.
The second half was soon underway and it wasn’t long before the full RBG complement returned to the park. Newton Stewart were managing to live on scraps but they were still unable to capitalise on any opportunities that came their way – and there were a number of those, partially due to some erratic play by the visitors. Stewart’s Melville were, however, soon back in the driving seat, and, with a scrum 10m out in front of the posts, reset three times, eventually drove over, with Scott Alldritt touching down again to make up for his trip to Le Sin Bin. Michael Miller this time added the extras. 50 minutes on the clock, Newton Stewart 0 – Stewart’s Melville 12.
At this stage I felt it was in the bag for Stewart’s Melville and I did think that there possibly should have been more tries. With our dominant scrum and tactical kicking pinning Newton Stewart back, they only had one option, Route One, but the Stewart’s Melville defence was exemplary, preventing even a sniff of the line. The final whistle soon came and I am sure it made the long journey home much easier to bear. Final score Newton Stewart 0 – Stewart’s Melville 12.
Not a big scoring game but all credit to Newton Stewart in doing their upmost to prevent any kind of rout. They certainly have some outstanding individual players, particularly in their back row. It was, however, a day for the Stewart’s Melville forwards, an impressive performance. Scott Alldritt was outstanding all afternoon – well, 70 minutes of it – ably assisted by his fellow back rowers, Joe Bailey and Matt Sanderson. A special mention, also, to Jamie Sword in the boiler house, who had a great game, particularly in the line out. Our mobile front rowers did the business and the midfield of Geoff and Jamie put in a massive defensive effort, assisted by the back three who ensured that the Newton Stewart score remained at 0, a result of their all important cover tackles.
At times we could and should have been more clinical. Having earned the right to play wide (reference previous report!) we should have possibly displayed a bit more decisiveness when the opportunities presented themselves. At times players were finding themselves isolated, and, as a result, our play lost cohesion. I am sure this will come.
A good win on the road, undoubtedly, and, by all accounts, an enjoyable bus trip both ways, with no mishaps as far as I am aware. A short trip to Inverleith on Saturday is a bit of a respite, but, perhaps, that is an unfortunate choice of words as our visitors are Peebles RFC. It certainly isn’t going to be an easy afternoon. We sit in seventh place, having won three, and there are still three teams above us who have only won two. Back to my maths tuition!