Annan 15's Tournament
Saturday 12th August 2017
Newton Stewart RFC continued their preseason preparations last weekend by taking part in the annual Annan 15's tournament. The Reds won this event last year and went into this year's competition hopeful of another successful trip.
The group stages of the competition comprised two matches for Newton Stewart: the first against local rivals Stewartry RFC. The Reds were dominant in this match, playing some nice fast-paced rugby and utilising their pacy backs. The opening play of the game resulted in a try for fullback Tyrell Wilson and set the tone for the remainder of the match. There were four tries for back row Mark McCornick, interspersed by two for Wilson and one apiece for wingers David Gaw and Callum Gaw, both of whom were making their senior team debut for Newton Stewart. Centre Fraser Morton put six of his eight conversion kicks on target, with some impressive efforts from out wide to make the final score 52-0.
The second match in the group stages was against Cumbrian team Wigton RFC who were new competitors in this tournament and an unknown entity to the Reds. They proved to be a very large and physical team and made Newton Stewart work hard for their points. The early stages saw Newton Stewart pressurising Wigton and keeping them back in their own half. Some poor discipline from their opposition gave the Reds a penalty which Fraser Morton scored to give them the lead. A short time later this run of events was mirrored when Wigton were awarded a penalty on the halfway line and their kicker struck the ball perfectly to equal the score at 3-3. Some patient play from Newton Stewart eventually allowed Tyrell Wilson to cross the line for a try in the left corner and Morton once more converted a difficult wide kick to put the Reds 10-3 in front. Possession was mixed for the remainder of the first half but no further scores followed.
The second half was predominantly spent in defence for Newton Stewart. Wigton found some gaps in the Red defensive line and spent a good spell camped on the try line. There were some occasional counters from Newton Stewart, but handling errors made them fruitless and ultimately Wigton were able to score a try in the left corner. Unable to convert for the extra points, the Reds remained 10-8 ahead. Wigton were a very physical team and it was testament to Newton Stewart's fitness that they were able to push forward again to pressurise. Awarded a penalty within the Wigton half, Morton kicked for the three points which ensured that their opponents needed a try to steal the game. The match finished 13-8 and sent Newton Stewart through to the final.
The winner of the other group was Hawick Harlequins and so they were the Reds' competitors for the trophy. It was clear within the first few minutes of the game that Hawick were a well-organised outfit and would provide a close contest. They played an exceptionally fast-paced game and forced some disciplined defence from Newton Stewart. Having barely touched the ball in the first ten minutes, when the Reds got an opportunity to attack they took it. Running hard at their opposition, they broke the gainline and powered forward for the line. Having firmly established himself already as the top try scorer for the day, Mark McCornick touched the ball down once more for an opportunistic try which Morton converted to seal a 7-0 lead. Hawick immediately resumed their possession and position within the Newton Stewart half. As the pressure mounted some desperate defence from the Reds resulted in a penalty for Hawick following a high tackle. The kick for goal was good to finish the first half at 7-3.
The second half resumed with spells of pressure from both sides. Competition at the breakdown was fierce and possession changed regularly. Both teams had to prove their defensive abilities, and Newton Stewart in particular showed once again how solid the Red wall is, repeatedly refusing to give in to the Hawick charge even metres from their own line. The second half was ultimately a stalemate - neither team scored and Newton Stewart came away victors of the tournament; Hawick probably feeling frustrated that they had been unable to capitalise on their greater possession.
There were some great performances from the Reds in this tournament: Fraser Morton kicked with composure and accuracy and young Ronan McDonald put in a solid performance in the front row, while William McCornick and Jason McKie tackled mercilessly as ever. All the younger team members moving up from U18 level (Mark Craig, David Adams, David Gaw, Callum Gaw and Ronan McDonald) showed they were ready for the task. Man of the Tournament had to go to Mark McCornick though for his incessant competitiveness at the breakdown, powerful running and five tries to boot.
Winning this tournament for the second year running will give the Reds a good psychological boost ahead of their first competitive match of the season, a cup fixture away to St Boswell's RFC on Saturday 26th August.
Team: Tyrell Wilson, David Gaw, James Wallace (capt), Fraser Morton, David Adams, Jamie Muir, Robbie McCornick, Martin Wallace, Thomas MacDonald, Ronan McDonald, William McCornick, Duncan Skimming, Mark Craig, Mark McCornick, Jason McKie. Subs: Callum Gaw, Russell Gaw.