Newton Stewart RFC 47 – 0 Wigtownshire RFC Spice Cup 2016

Saturday 2nd January saw the annual local rugby derby, the ‘Spice Cup’, played for between Newton Stewart RFC and Wigtownshire RFC. This fixture is always a hotly contested match with the healthy rivalry fuelling enthusiasm both on and off the pitch. Bladnoch Park was the venue this year and the saturated ground there made rugby conditions extremely difficult, but did nothing to dampen the spirits of the huge crowd of supporters that gathered.

The day kicked off with the second XV teams playing for the Galloway Quaich. In an effort to limit turf damage ahead of the main event to follow, the organisers elected to shorten the game to thirty minutes each way. Unfortunately, a nasty knee injury to one of the Wigtownshire players meant that the final whistle was blown even earlier, however some expert first aid delivered on site meant that the player in question was able to walk away from the game to enjoy the after-party! Newton Stewart RFC, fielding an interesting mix-up of old timers and young blood in their team, were the winners of this prelude with a final score of 35-0.

The Spice Cup commenced at 2pm with a superb crowd gathered to support both teams. Wigtownshire RFC kicked off into the Newton Stewart half and so began a great wrestle in the mud which had some moments of very good rugby despite the quagmire underfoot.

Newton Stewart had the bulk of the early possession, however Shire were ready for the onslaught and made some big and important tackles in the early minutes to make their presence known and ensure that the Reds knew they wouldn’t have things all their own way. Eventually however, the Newton Stewart backs found some space and winger Stuart McAllister crossed the line for a try in the corner within the first ten minutes. Stand-off Jamie Muir attempted the conversion, however the slippy ground and wide angle put the extra points beyond his reach.

A spell of battling for territory followed, with some turnovers for both teams. An offside offence from a Wigtownshire body resulted in a penalty within kicking range for Newton Stewart. This time Muir’s kick was on target and the Reds went 8-0 ahead.

Two further tries followed for the home team in the first half. Back row David Montgomery was stopped just short of the line, but a good supporting run from number seven Mark McCornick meant he was able to pick up the ball and get his name on the scoresheet. The final try of the first half came for centre Craig Johnstone who made an impressive charge through the Wigtownshire defence before touching the ball down. Muir was unable to convert either try to finish the first half with the score 18-0 to Newton Stewart.

A rousing team talk at half-time for Wigtownshire was apparent to all spectators. As the boys chanted together before taking back to the field it was clear they were behind in points but not in spirit or determination. Both teams knew the next score would be vital in determining the outcome of the game.

Newton Stewart had a spring in their mud-laden steps, and only a few minutes into the second half full-back Tyrell Wilson showed some safe hands and blistering pace to widen the points gap with a try in the corner. No conversion followed again from a difficult angle.

To their credit, Shire refused to lie down and be beaten. Just when it began to feel comfortable for Newton Stewart the Wigtownshire scrum found some impressive form and put some serious pressure on the Reds’ pack. Tight-head prop David Watson showed some particular strength and all the Wigtownshire forwards found firm footing in the mud to dominate the scrum for a time.

The tussle in the forwards was heating up, but out in the backs Newton Stewart began to show the slick passing and direct running which has characterised much of their play this season. Jamie Muir was the next man over the line for a try in the corner, this time adding his own extras with a well-placed conversion.

Only minutes later David Montgomery, who was immense with ball in hand throughout the game, crashed his way over too to score his first try and allow Muir another successful conversion. The score was now 37-0 with twenty minutes to play.

Wigtownshire had a spell of possession now and with commendable patience they worked their way up the pitch to get close to the try line. Winger Ewan Jamieson came agonisingly close to scoring, but some heroic defence from Reds’ centre David Sommerville saw the ball ripped from his hands on the line to shut the visitors out once more.

The final five minutes of the game saw the Newton Stewart forwards find their form again and recover their prowess in the scrum. It was second row Duncan Skimming’s turn to shine when after a few phases of play he collected the ball running an excellent line to slide right through the middle of the Shire defence to score.

As the game moved in the final seconds, David Montgomery used his power to force his way over the line from close range to score one last try for the Reds. No conversion was made for the last two tries; final score 47-0.

Special mention to Newton Stewart players William McCornick (captain) and David Montgomery for their excellent presence on the field. McCornick dominating the midfield with some huge tackles, and Montgomery perfecting the ‘hand-off’ on his way to scoring his two tries.

Newton Stewart take home the bragging rights and the cup for another year, however there is no doubt Wigtownshire will be hungrier than ever to rectify that next year. There was a fantastic turn out of support for both teams, and the party which followed was a great demonstration that the rivalry which is so apparent on the pitch, is matched with exemplary camaraderie in the clubhouse.

Story from Newton Stewart RFC  and Photos supplied by BB Photography

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