Narrow defeat for Oban Lorne as visitors claim league title
OBAN Lorne welcomed titlechasing Newton Stewart as Saturday’s opposition in what was a very important game for both teams. The Green Machine were in the hunt for some much-needed league points to lift themselves away from the relegation zone, while the visitors knew that a win would secure the league title and promotion to the National League for the first time in the club’s history.
Due to a frozen pitch at Glencruitten, the game was moved to the beautiful surroundings of the back-up North Connel pitch which was in perfect condition for the game. Oban, despite missing some key players such as prop Robin MacQueen, second rows Jack Baxter and Jack Strachan, and stand- off Dave McCabe, still managed to field a very strong squad confident of taking a win after some promising performances in recent weeks.
Referee Andy Summers began the match in front of a large North Connel crowd with a number of away supporters making the long trip to Oban.
The visitors attacked well early on and were using their big runners in the back row to put the Oban defence under pressure. It was Oban, however, who would take the lead after only five minutes. A poor pass in the away backline was intercepted by Oban captain Craig Wright, who broke free into the 22 where he was eventually brought down by the scrambling defence. The ball was spun wide through the hands of the Oban team where it eventually found player/ coach Corrie Louw who bundled over the line for a 5- 0 lead. Scrum-half Finlay Carmichael’s conversion added another two points.
The visitors looked to respond with a penalty attempt that fell wide off the posts after a very long period of advantage played from Oban being offside.
On the 12-minute mark the match was stopped due to a serious knee injury sustained to Newton Stewart’s 17-year- old stand- off. The player was dealt with superbly by the pitch-side medics and much thanks must be given to the local emergency services who were on the scene in good time and controlled the situation very well. Thoughts of all at Oban Lorne are with the player for a speedy recovery.
After a 30-minute break, play was resumed deep in the Oban Lorne half. Newton Stewart pressed well for a try and were rewarded with their efforts with two scores in a five-minute period racing into a 12-7 lead.
Oban’s discipline at the breakdown was becoming an issue in the game and were gaining no 50/50 decisions from the referee. The men in green were reduced to 14 men on the half-hour mark with Malcolm Kavanagh being removed from the field by referee Summers due a successive number of penalties given away by the team. Playing with 14 men has seemed to bring out the best in Oban Lorne this season and this proved to be the same again with increased effort levels throughout the team being rewarded with a well-taken Carmichael penalty to reduce the score to 12-10 at half-time.
Into the second half, Newton Stewart started well and controlled the majority of territory and possession. The Oban defence, however, was very strong with some fantastic tackling and competing for the ball at the breakdown.
As the Oban defence soaked up the Newton Stewart pressure, the home side were again reduced to 14 players with second row Vladi Mihov being sin-binned for an off the ball incident with an opponent. The visitors made the most of their advantage and slotted over two penalties in a short space of time to increase the lead to 18-10.
With 20 minutes remaining, Oban hit back through captain Craig Wright. A clearing Oban kick was knocked straight into Wright’s hands in a mix-up between the away side’s fullback and winger. Wright raced clear from 40 meters out to score and bring Oban back into the match. Carmichael’s conversion narrowly missed, meaning Oban still trailed by three points.
The second Oban Lorne try of the day seemed to change the pattern of the game, with the visitors looking nervy going into the closing stages. Oban now had most of the ball and attacked well, bringing in powerful runners such as Callum MacLachlan to the match.
A powerful Oban driving maul was also dismantling the away forward pack at times along with a dominant scrum. The Oban lineout, which misfired at times in the first half, was now functioning well with the majority of throws going long to replacement back row Stephen Povey.
Oban pressed for a winning score but were undone with some fantastic defensive work on many occasions and a few unforced errors with the ball in hand.
The Newton Stewart players and supporters were both delighted and relieved with the noise of the final whistle meaning they had secured the West Division 1 title for the first ever time. Despite the late dominance from Oban Lorne, the better team on the day had won the game with the visitors controlling the game well for the majority of the 80 minutes. Newton Stewart are worthy league winners and everyone at Oban Lorne wishes them the best of luck in National Division 3 next season.
For losing within seven points, Oban Lorne secured a vital bonus point to narrow the gap to eighth-placed Kilmarnock RFC to only five points with two matches in hand over their Ayrshire rivals. Oban Lorne will hope to get onto level terms with Kilmarnock in the league as the team welcome mid-table Garnock RFC to Glencruitten this Saturday. Kick off is scheduled for 3pm with the game planned to be played at Glencruitten.
BT West Regional Shield semi- final
Oban Lorne still await on the outcome of their semi-final opponents in the West Regional Shield with the quarter-final tie between East Kilbride and Carrick RFC falling victim of a frozen pitch on Saturday. The game will now be played this Saturday with the winners facing Oban Lorne at Glencruitten on Saturday February 25.
BT West Division 4 Cowal 53 Argyll and Bute 13
Argyll and Bute played their 10th competitive match of the season on Saturday as they travelled to take on Argyll rivals Cowal RFC at Dunoon Stadium. Argyll fielded a strong team but were undone on the day with a number of players out of position, particularly in the pack.
After leading 3- 0, Argyll eventually went down 53-13, playing most of the game with 14 players due to injury.
Despite the loss, Argyll were happy with their overall performance and managed to score a couple of well-worked tries.
This Saturday Argyll and Bute travel to take on Shawlands RFC in Glasgow.
BT Women’s National League 2 Oban Lorne Ladies v Annan Warriors
Oban Lorne Ladies have their biggest game of the season so far this Sunday as they welcome second placed Annan Warriors to Glencruitten. Only one point separates the sides at the top of the league with the winning team this Sunday taking a massive step towards promotion to Division 1. A close game is in prospect with the teams meeting in the BT Women’s Bowl a few week ago where Annan ran out narrow 10- 8 winners. Oban Lorne ladies are currently unbeaten in the league and should have a strong squad to choose from for this week’s game. Kick off on Sunday is scheduled for 2pm at Glencruitten.
Oban Lorne captain Craig Wright raced 40-metres to score a try and bring his side right back into the game.
Oban Lorne player/coach Corrie Louw grounds the ball for the first score of the match.