West of Scotland travelled nearly as far South as is possible in Scotland to play second placed Newton Stewart on Saturday in a vital encounter.
Unfortunately it was a long journey back for West as their seven-match unbeaten run was ended by a Newton Stewart side who put themselves in pole position for promotion from National League 3.
It was the first match on Newton Stewart’s new pitch, beside the picturesque Bladnoch distillery. Conditions were far from idyllic however, with strong Southerly winds bending the goalposts and making kicking, passing and lineouts very difficult.
The home side started best, their no 8 James Wallace breaking through the West defence and finding flanker Mark McCornick who scored under the posts.
The wind was so extreme that Jack Gaw’s conversion blew back 180 degrees to him, but West were already 5-0 down.
Neither side could make much in the howling gale but Newton Stewart who increased their lead when a passing move off a scrum saw lock Alan Ferrie score. Gaw managed to convert and it was 12-0 at half-time.
West worked out how to play the conditions when a series of powerful pick and drives went three-quarters of the length of the pitch before Newton Stewart held it up illegally and West were awarded a penalty try.
At 12-7 a win looked in reach, but it wasn’t to be. Gaw landed a penalty before winger Robert Service broke through the West defence to score under the posts, Gaw converting.
Another Newton Stewart breakaway from a lineout saw scrum half Robbie McCornick score, Gaw converting, and they had the bonus in the bag.
West were tiring and Wallace scored off a catch and drive, Gaw adding the extras for a convincing 36-7 win.
West can still finish second, but would need an unlikely slip-up from an impressive Newton Stewart team.
West have no game this week and will hope to get back to winning ways in a fortnight when they visit old rivals Perthshire.