Oban Lorne get back to win­ning ways

The Oban Times - - Sport -

OBAN Lorne wel­comed Argyll ri­vals and fel­low league strug­glers He­lens­burgh RFC to Glen­cruit­ten on Satur­day for the sec­ond West Divi­sion One game be­tween the sides this sea­son. The Green Ma­chine sit­ting ninth, one place above their op­po­nents, had won 47-7 at He­lens­burgh ear­lier in the sea­son and were look­ing for a re­peat per­for­mance to lift them­selves clear of the rel­e­ga­tion zone.

With the vis­i­tors strug­gling for front row cover, Oban Lorne agreed to do­nate some of their scrum­mag­ing strength in the form of prop Liam (Lomu) Burns, who started in the vis­it­ing team.

Oban coach Cor­rie Louw made a few changes to the team that suf­fered a poor loss to An­nan the pre­vi­ous week­end. Most no­tably, there were places on the bench for 17-year- olds Jack Stra­chan and Daniel Speirs.

The home side made a good start to the game, be­ing cheered on by a large home crowd. Oban were us­ing the ball well and were man­ag­ing to feed their dan­ger­ous run­ners. Winger Calum MacLach­lan and sec­ond row Jack Bax­ter im­pressed with some dan­ger­ous runs in the open­ing phases of play.

Af­ter five min­utes, a He­lens­burgh clear­ing kick was gath­ered well by Welsh full­back Iwan Rhys Roberts, who spun the ball wide to cap­tain Craig Wright. He made a storm­ing run down the right hand touch­line and was brought down short but man­aged to squeeze the ball off the ground with a su­perb off­load to the on­rush­ing back row Vladi Mi­hov, who scored in the cor­ner. Fin­lay Carmichael nar­rowly missed the re­sult­ing con­ver­sion.

Oban should have built on this lead straight away but were found guilty of tak­ing their foot off the gas.

He­lens­burgh gath­ered the ball and im­me­di­ately stormed up­field, pres­suris­ing the home de­fence. A penalty awarded five me­ters out was tapped quickly to re­sult in a try and a 7-5 lead for ’Burgh.

The loss of a try failed to dent the con­fi­dence of the home team as they looked to hit back. Dave McCabe was start­ing to put in a com­mand­ing per­for­mance and pro­vided a fan­tas­tic pass to hooker Radi Mak­si­mov who was work­ing hard to make him­self avail­able in at­tack. Play was dis­rupted briefly with an in­jury to Rhys Roberts who was briefly re­placed by blood sub­sti­tu­tion Ru­dolphe Ber­trand.

Oban tasted the po­ten­tial of a try as they were awarded a scrum five me­ters out from the He­lens­burgh line. While the scrum­mage was strong, the re­sult­ing try came af­ter a few phases of play with Struan Smith tak­ing a quick tap from a penalty and pow­er­ing over the line. Un­for­tu­nately, Smith was in­jured in the process and was re­placed by Lorne MacLach­lan. Carmichael slot­ted over the con­ver­sion with ease for a 12-7 lead af­ter 15 min­utes.

The third try of the day for Oban fol­lowed shortly af­ter. A break from full­back Rhys Roberts took Oban into the dan­ger zone, an off­load to Radi Mak­si­mov drew in a cou­ple of de­fend­ers with the Oban hooker pass­ing to Craig Wright who broke free to score. This brought the score to 19-7 with an­other Carmichael con­ver­sion.

Im­pres­sive

With the crowd en­cour­ag­ing Oban to build on their lead the vis­i­tors damp­ened their con­fi­dence by hit­ting back. First a well-struck penalty re­duced the deficit to 19-10. This was fol­lowed by a promis­ing pe­riod of at­tack­ing play with im­pres­sive runs from the away cen­tre pair­ing. A fur­ther suc­cess­ful penalty at­tempt just be­fore half-time gave a score of 19-13 at the break.

Coach Cor­rie Louw made a

Rugby

cou­ple of changes at half-time by in­tro­duc­ing 17-year- olds Jack Stra­chan and Daniel Speirs into the pack. A proud mo­ment for both play­ers and well de­served from their per­for­mances in the U18 team this sea­son. Speirs fol­lows in the foot­steps of his fa­ther Wal­ter in turn­ing out for Oban Lorne, who was watch­ing ex­cit­edly on the touch­line.

It was not to be the start to the sec­ond half that the home side wanted as He­lens­burgh be­gan as the bet­ter team and scored what was a con­tender for try of the day from 30 me­tres out to take a shock 20-19 lead and leav­ing the Oban team and squad stunned.

Oban worked hard to push them­selves back up the pitch fol­low­ing this set­back and were un­lucky not to re­gain the lead as a Carmichael penalty nar­rowly missed af­ter the vis­i­tors were pe­nalised for hands in the ruck.

A 22 drop- out kick was gath­ered by Oban who were putting some promis­ing phases to­gether against what was now a tir­ing de­fence. Some good han­dling be­tween McCabe and Wright al­lowed the ball to find sec­ond row Jack Bax­ter with space out wide and he used his strength from 15 me­tres out to score Oban’s fourth try of the game. Carmichael’s con­ver­sion gave a 26-20 lead af­ter 50 min­utes.

Debu­tants Stra­chan and Speirs were do­ing well in their open­ing mo­ments of se­nior rugby, with Stra­chan tack­ling ex­tremely well and Speirs look­ing hun­gry at the break­down and look­ing for the ball in at­tack.

Oban had an­other chance for a try with a bull­doz­ing break from prop Tommy Suther­land pro­duc­ing space for Calum MacLach­lan, who was bun­dled into touch near the try­line.

MacLach­lan fea­tured again in the fol­low­ing phase of play link­ing well with Radi Mak­si­mov, who was putting in a very im­pres­sive per­for­mance.

An­other try should have ar­rived for the home side on 60 min­utes but a mix-up be­tween Louw and Speirs re­sulted in a knock- on. He­lens­burgh should have cleared their lines but were shoved off the ball on their own scrum five me­ters out. Oban stand- off Fin­lay Carmichael was on hand to pounce on the ball over the try­line as it was knocked out of the scrum­mage. Sud­denly the Green Ma­chine were ahead 33-20 and were in con­trol of the game.

Credit must be given to the vic­tors, who re­fused to give up and will have im­pressed coach Adam Hart with the ef­fort as they pressed to get back into the game. Aided by some poor Oban dis­ci­pline at the break­down, the vis­i­tors found the field po­si­tion to at­tack the Oban line. With a try dis­al­lowed due to a knock- on He­lens­burgh claimed a de­served try with 10 min­utes to go scrap­ing the score back to 33-25. The vis­i­tors could have brought them­selves back to touch­ing dis­tance of the hosts had a rou­tine con­ver­sion in front of the posts gone over.

Nervy

Oban dug deep to en­sure a home win with the spec­ta­tors look­ing a lit­tle nervy go­ing into the clos­ing stages. Man of the match Jack Bax­ter went close to a sec­ond try fol­lowed by an­other close ef­fort from Speirs.

Dave McCabe again pulled the strings in mid­field putting in prop Robin MacQueen from close range to put the game be­yond He­lens­burgh at 40-25.

The big­gest cheer of the day was to come in the last cou­ple of min­utes as Speirs capped an im­pres­sive 40 min­utes of se­nior rugby by grab­bing his first Oban Lorne try. Speirs picked the ball and dived over the mid­dle of a ruck on the line to score his first se­nior try and Oban Lorne’s sev­enth of the af­ter­noon.

Ref­eree Ali Steven from Kil­marnock be­low his whis­tle to end the play and con­firm Oban Lorne as 47-25 win­ners in what was one of the best games wit­nessed at Glen­cruit­ten in a long time. De­spite the heavy fi­nal score, He­lens­burgh did them­selves proud by mak­ing Oban work hard in all ar­eas of the game and put to­gether some fan­tas­tic at­tack­ing phases of play. While rel­e­ga­tion looms for the fel­low Argyll side, they will no doubt re­build and come back into the league with more strength.

There were many im­pres­sive per­for­mances from Oban Lorne on Satur­day, par­tic­u­larly that of hooker Radi Mak­si­mov, sec­ond row Jack Bax­ter, cen­tre Dave McCabe and solid show­ings from debu­tants Speirs and Stra­chan.

The two 17-year- olds are the first prod­ucts of Oban High School’s in­au­gu­ral School of Rugby with the two play­ers tak­ing part in the Scot­tish Rugby-funded pro­gramme since they were in S1. With a con­veyor belt of young­sters fol­low­ing, the fu­ture is look­ing bright for Oban Lorne’s male and fe­male 1st XV’s.

The re­sult helps lift the gloom over Oban Lorne’s re­cent show­ings with the team now in touch­ing dis­tance of eighth­placed Kil­marnock with two games in hand. A promis­ing re­sult away to pro­mo­tion chas­ing Carrick this Satur­day could lift the Green Ma­chine up the ta­ble. The teams met in Novem­ber with Oban record­ing a nail-bit­ing 17-15 win, play­ing 60 min­utes with 14 men. Kick- off is 2pm this Satur­day in May­bole.

Photo: Ed­wina Aitken

Oban Lorne’s Tommy Suther­land gath­ers in a knock- down from He­lens­burgh.

Oban Lorne’s 17-year- old debu­tants Jack Stra­chan and Daniel Speirs pic­tured with Al­lan Wright, Mur­ray Hamil­ton and Cor­rie Louw.

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