Nar­row de­feat for Oban Lorne as vis­i­tors claim league ti­tle

The Oban Times - - SPORT -

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.

Pho­tos: Stephen Law­son

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.

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