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OBAN Lorne made the long trip to Ayrshire on Saturday to take on promotion chasing Carrick RFC in Maybole.
The two sides have met on several occasions in recent years with Oban usually having the upper hand on their rivals. In November the Green Machine recorded a narrow 17-15 win against Carrick despite playing 60 minutes of the match with only 14 men.
The Oban team were confident going into Saturday’s game after recording a morale boosting 47-25 win over Argyll rivals Helensburgh last weekend.
Going into the game, Carrick were hungry to for a bonus point win to keep up the pressure on first-placed Newton Stewart, while Oban Lorne were looking for some much needed points to keep in touch of the teams above them going into the closing stages of the season.
Seventeen-year-old back row Daniel Speirs made his first start for the club on Saturday after coming off the bench at half time the previous weekend.
Carrick started the game well and dominated possession and territory in the Oban half in the opening exchanges. The away defence, however stood firm to deny the hosts of an opening score.
As the defence held firm on the tryline, a couple of silly mistakes further up field eventually let the hosts in for the first try of the day to lead 7-0.
The Green Machine managed to hit back straight away from the early onslaught, with a penalty for the hosts being offside and slotted over by stand-off Finlay Carmichael, narrowing the score to four points.
Oban built on this shortly after, with Carrick kicking the ball straight down the throat of Welsh full back Iwan Rhys Roberts who passed the ball out wide to powerful winger Calum MacLachlan, much to the despair of a few Carrick defenders
who failed in their efforts to stop the Oban man scoring in the corner. Oban were now 8-7 ahead.
Midway into the half Oban were playing well forcing the home side to give away penalties at the breakdown but were undone with more silly errors.
It was some needless mistakes again that let Carrick in for their second try of the day to lead 14-8.
The remaining 10 minutes of the first half was end to end with both sides attacking well. Three penalty kicks were exchanged, two to one in Oban’s favour with Carmichael’s six points from the boot taking the score to 17-14 for the hosts at half-time.
For the first 40 minutes Oban had competed extremely well with a team eight places above them in the league table. Coach Corrie Louw encouraged a good start to the second half, unfortunately it came to nothing.
Carrick caught their own kick off at the start of the second half passing the ball wide to score almost immediately extending the score to 24-14.
In what was now becoming a high scoring and entertaining game Oban managed to again hit back with another penalty to bring the score to 24-17.
Things were looking a bit brighter for Oban at this stage with Carrick being brought down to 14 men with a sin binning for persistent infringements as Oban pressed forward.
The numerical advantage should have helped the Green Machine but Carrick dug deep and scored against the run of play extending the lead to 29-17.
Carmichael’s boot was keeping the away team in touch with another penalty reducing the deficit to nine points.
Oban pressed for a try and had a good period of pressure on the hosts tryline. Unfortunately possession was given away and Carrick were quick to race up field and score their fifth try of the day.
Another try for the home side followed shortly after taking Oban out of contention at 43-20.
The visitors refused to give up and hit back with a consolation score from young back row player Stephen Povey after some good work in the lineout. This gave a final score of 43-27 in the hosts favour in a hugely entertaining 80 minutes of rugby.
Saturday’s result still leaves the men in green sitting 9th in the league table but still in touch with Kilmarnock in 8th place. With two games in hand on the teams above them, Oban will be confident of climbing the table in their remaining four league fixtures.
Glencruitten will hold a potentially league deciding fixture on Saturday February 11 with first placed Newton Stewart needing a win to clinch the West Division 1 title.
This is a rearranged game from earlier in the season and should attract a big crowd in what is an important match for both teams, particularly that of the visitors.
This Saturday, Oban Lorne take a break from league duty and face West Division 2 leaders Stewartry RFC in the quarter final of the West Regional Bowl competition.
Saturday’s game will be played at Glencruitten with kick off at 1.30pm to allow for extra time if required.