This was always going to be a match in which both teams were going to give it 100%. Newton Stewart are sitting two points behind Accies and with everything to gain from their home advantage. Two seasons ago Accies travelled to Stranraer to take on Newton Stewart (or as they like to be called the S.O.N.S. i.e. the sons of Newton Stewart) on Wigton rugby’s 2nd XV pitch, as their own pitch was unplayable and it was played with total commitment from both teams and despite the fact that there were no tries the 80 minutes flew by and the 9 – 6 result was Accies first grip on the league trophy. Thus that encounter became known as ‘El Classico’
So today was clearly going to be another ‘Classic’ encounter, and it has to be said that both teams once again were not prepared to take a backward step. So it was no surprise that this encounter was another game that would have graced any of the National rugby leagues.
So the game kicked off with a really good crowd in attendance, which included a fantastic number of travelling support from Glasgow. They clearly made their presence felt and were a serious help in this tough encounter. I am convinced that their presence had a really positive effect on the players, especially when they were under real pressure towards the end of the match. So on behalf of the players and coaches can I take this opportunity to say a big thank you to all of the large numbers of committed supporters.
Accies kicked off playing up the hill and took control of the early period of the game. They camped themselves well inside the S.O.N.S. half for the first 20 minutes. However all this pressure did not produce any points and when the S.O.N.S. broke out and produced their first incursion into Accies half saw them create a good move with a pass outside then inside and again outside for their wing forward to cross for the first try of the match. Their kicker was successful from close to the posts. 0 – 7
Accies, as had been their form this season, immediately ran back at the S.O.N.S. and from a scrum just outside the S.O.N.S. 22 metres and too the right of the pitch, scrum half Josh Waldin, who had dragged himself out of his sick bed, produced a piece of individual brilliance and stamp his authority on the game as he dummied and side stepped his way to the try line to score under the posts, to bring the score level with Stewart Gray’s conversion. 7 – 7
Newton Stewart came back at Accies and when another ruck resulted in a penalty for the S.O.N.S., today’s referee pulled the captains to one side and was clearly laying down the law. S.O.N.S. raised their game and drove their way into Accies 22. Despite some heroic defence, Ryan Sweeney committed some error, at the next breakdown, and the referee had no choice but to pulled out his yellow card, so Accies were down to 14. From the resultant penalty Newton Stewart took full advantage of their extra man and drove over for their second try, but missed the conversion. 7 – 12
Once again, in response and despite being down to 14 men, Accies worked themselves into the S.O.N.S. 22 metres area and were testing their opponents defence to its limited. After 3 penalties at the breakdown, and no result on the score board, Stewart Gray decided that three points were better than nothing and the first half came to an end with Stewart successful penalty.
Half-time 10 – 12
With Accies now playing down the hill and the fantastic travelling support in good heart, despite the fact that the team were behind by 2 points, it was felt that Accies could go on and win this encounter. Unfortunately no one told the home players. They proceeded to take full advantage of a forward pass, which was unseen by today’s referee, and the S.O.N.S. players took full advantage and with a crisp piece of rugby, their centre crossed out on the left for their third try. Missing the conversion meant that the score was now 10 – 17
Accies were stung and with the last 35 minutes of the game to go, and being back to 15 players, they set about getting back into the game. It has to be said that these are two teams that can defend and are totally committed to do so. It was therefore no surprise that it was going to be a really difficult task for Accies to get another try, let alone win this game.
A win for our hosts would take them ahead of Accies at the top of the table and their players most definitely were putting their all into defending and it took a massive effort from Accies forwards, in particular, to get them into the opposition 22, but that they did and after several sorties the ball was passed to a rampant Jamie Coskry who crossing the whitewash beside the post for Accies second try and a successful conversion brought the scores level at 17 – 17
The game now moved into the final quarter and it was clearly going to be as tough a 20 minutes as Accies have played this season. This was, as was the last encounter down here in season 2015-16, a game when the players were totally committed in both defence and attack. A period of pressure by Accies was repelled with some ferocious defence and when S.O.N.S worked their way back into Accies territory they in turn defended with some truly committed tackling. This was a feature of the whole game from both teams and no mercy was asked for or given. It is never good to pick out individuals in these games but both sets of back rows had truly stamped their mark on this game where defence was to prove influential.
With moments left on the clock Newton Stewart worked themselves to within 10 metres of Accies line and the whole crowd began to get frantic, with the home support seeing the chance of a late winner and the travelling support encouraging the players to stay focused and committed. With some outstanding defending, after a really tough 80 minutes on a heavy pitch, Accies stood firm and when there was a knock on the referee drew a close to the match. This is always a tough place for any visiting team to get a result and it was clear, from today’s encounter, that the S.O.N.S. players have raised their game and that this fantastic and spirited Accies team are going to be hard to beat.
Full-time 17 – 17
Next week sees Accies travel to Ardrossan to start off the second half of the season and it is clear from Ardrossan’s recent results that they are going to be seriously hard to beat at home. So another strong support could well be crucial. It would be great to start off the second half of the season with a strong win and support.