National Two: Stew-Mel extend lead at top of table, while Gordonians edge out of drop-zone

Three matches went ahead before Covid-19 induced lock-down which will run until the 29th of March

Jamie Sword of Stewart’s Melville breaks through the Newton Stewart cover defence. Image: FOTOSPORT/DAVID GIBSON
Jamie Sword of Stewart’s Melville breaks through the Newton Stewart cover defence. Image: FOTOSPORT/DAVID GIBSON

STEWART’S MELVILLE extended their lead at the top of National League Two on the day before the campaign went into Cover-19 induced hibernation thanks to a 45-8 home win over Newton Stewart on Saturday. Meanwhile, Hamilton Bulls turned on the style to defeat Whitecraigs 59-5 and leave the latter club bottom of the table and 16 points from unlikely safety. And on Friday night, Gordonians battled back from 19-8 down at GHK to win 22-19 with a last gasp try, to simultaneously boost their own survival hopes and severely dent GHK’s promotion bid.

Stew Mel now have a seven point lead at the summit after their fifth win on the spin. The Edinburgh side have now scored 124 points in their last two outings although they had to press the reset button at half-time at the weekend to get this one done, according to head coach Jonny Else.

“Firstly, huge thanks to Newton Stewart for agreeing to travel to play the game in these challenging times,” he said. “In the end, the scoreboard makes this looks like a straightforward win for us, but it was anything but. Newton Stewart were excellent in the first half and played with real dynamism, pace and width. I had warned our players before kick-off that they were a really good side and they were extremely dangerous with the ball. Acouple of last ditch tackles kept them out as our defence was really stretched at times.

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A converted Willie Malcolm try, countered by a Jack Gaw penalty, had the home side 7-3 up at the interval. After the break, Scott Alldritt (2), Chris Baikie, Jamie Thompson, Fraser Strachan and James Ferguson all crossed to make sure of the five points for Stew-Mel. Malachy Wright was Newton Stewart’s sole try scorer.

“We stood firm and scored a good try through Fraser Strachan’s excellent pass to Willie Malcolm,” added Eelse. ” After a couple of tactical changes at half-time, we pressed the reset button and played much better than the first half.

“We dominated at scrum time and Jamie Sword was immense in his leadership of our driving line-out. Our front five were excellent, with Chris Baikie having an outstanding game, yet again. Mike Miller controlled the game well when he was introduced at 10, and our man-of-the-match James Ferguson was direct in attack and defended with poise, intelligence and skill.

“We don’t know what will happen for the rest of season, but the second half performance was very impressive given how good Newton Stewart are.”

Gordonians snatch a lifeline

There was drama at Old Anniesland as Gordonians battled for their fifth league win of 2019-20. The four points earned moves them up to 10th in the table ahead of Falkirk, with GHK’s losing bonus point now leaving them fourth, although they are just six points behind Dumfries Saints in the second promotion spot with a game in hand.

When GHK scored first half tries through Ben Frame and Hugh Parker, with one converted by Kyle Henderson, it looked like it might be a long evening for Gordonians under the lights. However, Simon Orr went over for the visitors to make it 12-5 at the break. Then, early in the second half, GHK lost a man to the sin-bin and a Graeme Crawford penalty closed the gap to 12-8.

Parker’s second converted try gave GHK a buffer and, at that point, they were on the search for the bonus point fourth try before the game turned on its head. Orr’s second try, converted by Crawford, made it 19-15 with 20 minutes to go and then, with the clock approaching the 80 minute mark, the winner came.

The forwards punched holes up the middle, Crawford beat a couple of defenders and managed to offload to Emmet Strachan who went over. Crawford converted to take a 22-19 win back to Aberdeen.

“We went in to the game under no pressure, everyone outside of the club thought we were relegated already after the disappointing performance at Falkirk,” said Gordonians head coach Ryan Morrice. “Our scrum gave us a good platform to play off and we dominated, the boys went out there and backed themselves and as a coach it’s been great to see the improvements we’ve made since the turn of the year. We still need a few favours [to stay up], but we’ve given ourselves a chance and the win keeps the pressure on Falkirk.”

Hamilton see off Whitecraigs at Laigh Bent

The home side got off to the perfect start with an Andy Wilson try, converted by Ross Inglis, in the first minute. Whitecraigs fought back with an unconverted score by Michael Christine, but that was as good as it got for them, with Gary Adams, Ross Jamieson and Taz McLaughlin all scoring tries to make sure of the bonus point for Hamilton by half-time. And in the second 40 minutes, Euan Ferrie, Greg Richardson, David Aitken and Adam Ryan added to the scoresheet.

“It was a really good win,” said Bulls assistant coach Alex Edmonstone, with his side sitting eighth in the table. “The boys put in a performance for the whole match. In light of everything that is going on, it was good that the players were able to get a game of rugby.

“We started well with a try straight away and continued to apply pressure, ensuring we finished well, too. Defence was solid, and only an interception try kept us from a clean sheet.

“Special mention for David Aitken, who played well on the wing and took his try well. Young players Billy Simpson, Andy Crawford and Max Crumlish also really continued to show the potential they have.”

Like the rest of rugby in Scotland, National Two action has now been suspended by Scottish Rugby from this [Sunday] evening at 6pm until after March 29th due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) situation.

National League Division Two results –

GHK 19 Gordonians 22

Stewart’s Melville 45 Whitecraigs 8

Hamilton Bulls 59 Whitecraigs 5

How it stands –

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About Gary Heatly 462 Articles
Gary has loved rugby ever since he can remember and since 2004 he has covered the sport and others in a professional capacity for many publications and websites and runs his own company, GH Media.