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Murrayfield here we come!

Murrayfield here we come!

Mark Crawford21 Apr - 11:55
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Falkirk edge a nail-biting semi-final against Newton Stewart

Falkirk eventually emerged 21:20 winners after a late comeback from the Galloway side.

Both sides like to play expansive rugby and the game was played in perfect conditions for that, with blue skies and little or no wind.

Newton Stewart had the first opportunity to score from the tee in just 3 mins, after a high tackle was penalised, but the kick went wide. Only a few minutes later Falkirk had a penalty in a similar position but opted to go to the corner. They didn't score on that occasion, but it turned out to be a rehearsal for the opening score on 13 mins, as Andrew Gillespie finished off a maul try from a catch and drive. Glen Faulds converted to make it 7:0.

Faulds then missed a shot at goal from half-way on 19 mins, but the Falkirk forwards had the upper hand and the weight of possession and territory gradually wore down some resolute NS defence. When Newton Stewart conceded another penalty under pressure, this time closer to their try-line Falkirk again opted to go for the corner. The initial catch and drive was halted, but the home side showed patience and composure for several phases close to the line before Stef Yarrow dived over close to the posts for the 2nd try. A straight-forward conversion doubled the lead. 14:0.

Some loose talk in the crowd of booking the buses to Murrayfield was given short shrift by those who had seen the Newton Stewart movie before - we know from experience that they are relentless.

And in 34 minutes they finished a nice move of their own out wide. The conversion made it 14:7 at the half.

Five minutes into the 2nd period, NS kicked a penalty to narrow the gap to just 4 points. However, although the scoreboard was going in the wrong direction for the home side, the Falkirk set piece was still providing an excellent platform. Once again, the visitors found themselves under pressure in their own 22 and three consecutive penalties close to their own line brought an inevitable yellow card. With the influential Mark McCornick off the field, Falkirk applied more pressure and a 2nd yellow for one of the NS props followed as the game headed into the final quarter.

A combination of some heroic defence and some dubious choices in attack from Falkirk, meant that no points were scored during those yellow cards, with a missed Falkirk penalty kick from wide on the 22m line being as close as it got. An outstanding effort from NS.

And then with NS back to full complement, on 74 mins Callum Hunter settled the nerves with another close range score after Lewis Skinner had gone close. The conversion made it 21:10. Game over? It should have been, but Newton Stewart hadn't read the script and went straight up the field and scored an unconverted try in the corner making it a one score game again at 21:15.

Then with the home crowd baying for the final whistle, Falkirk piggy backed the visitors up the pitch with penalties and Newton Stewart scored again in the corner! 21:20 with the conversion to come, but it went wide. Everyone was expecting the referee to blow for no-side as it was already nearly 4.40pm, but no, he decided that there was time for a restart!

Thankfully for the blood pressure of those in blue, the action only lasted for a few more phases and the boys had secured their first home win in three attempts against their bogey visiting team.

Any team missing a final-minute conversion that could have won the game can legitimately consider themselves to be unlucky, but as one neutral visitor observed, Newton Stewart had to show some heroic & skilled defence for long periods without the ball. In the opinion of this (admittedly partisan) observer, on the balance of play, of the chances created, of territory and possession, Falkirk deserved their win and their trip to Murrayfield.

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