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Oban Lorne welcomed mid table Garnock to a wet Glencruitten on Saturday looking for a much needed win in the battle against relegation to division two.
The Green Machine have been performing well since the turn of the year and ran league winners Newton Stewart very close in the previous weekend’s match at North Connel.
A minute’s silence took place before the match to mark the passing of Oban Lorne RFC stalwart John MacEachen, who sadly died last week.
John was among the members of distinction at Oban Lorne and a loyal supporter of the club. He served as captain and president and, most recently, helped oversee the 50th anniversary celebrations.
John was influential in the planning and construction of the clubhouse. John epitomised the ethos of rugby and spirit of the game. He will forever be remembered by all at Oban Lorne RFC. Thoughts of all at the club are with the MacEachen family at this time.
Player/coach Corrie Louw welcomed back stand-off Dave McCabe back into the team as well as a return for back row Struan Smith. Prop Alex Banks also started the game in place of Rhys Brodie while 17-year-old Daniel Speirs made a start in the back row. Oban gained the ball from the kick off with Struan Smith’s break upfield putting the defence on the back foot. The home side failed to build on this early promise as the visitors took possession of the ball and kicked clear.
This early break ended up becoming Oban Lorne’s only meaningful attack of note in the first half with much of the remainder of the opening 40 minutes being controlled by the visitors.
With the conditions deteriorating, Garnock applied some good pressure on the Oban tryline but were denied several times with some fantastic defence. Oban flanker Vladi Mihov was soaking up tackle after tackle while Garnock’s players eventually ran out of ideas in attack.
Oban were reduced to 14 men 10 minutes from half-time with winger Vasco Borisov being sin-binned by local referee Willie Malone. Boriov was caught up in an off-the-ball incident with the Garnock players, who’s vocal touchline support did their best to worsen the situation by getting involved in the situation and entering the field of play. Garnock pressed for an opening try but were undone by some poor backline play on a few occasions after some good work by the forwards to keep up the pressure on the Oban line.
At half time the score stood at 0-0 in what had been an ultimately uneventful first half of rugby.
After little attacking opportunities of note so far in the game Oban made their way into the Garnock half early on in the second half securing a scrum in the 22.
A back row move down the blindside secured possession near the line where Oban prop Tommy Sutherland eventually bundled over for his seventh try of the season. Finlay Carmichael neatly slotted over a tricky conversion as Oban led 7-0.
Garnock refused to let Oban’s try dent their confidence as the same pattern of play as the first half re-emerged with the visitors gaining the majority of possession and territory. Again Oban’s defence was outstanding and the work rate of the home forward was at times heroic with some fantastic tackles. The visitors eventually managed to breach the Oban tryline as they levelled the scores with 20 minutes to go at 7-7.
Much of the remainder of the game was played in the middle of the pitch with both sides failing to create any notable attacking plays of note. Oban did look dangerous at times but were thwarted by some poor handling at times and falling foul of the referee’s whistle at the breakdown.
With less than five minutes remaining Oban were awarded a penalty 30 metres out close to the left hand touchline. Scrum-half Finlay Carmichael stepped up and comfortably scored the resulting place kick sending Oban into a 10-7 lead.
Garnock attacked hard form their own half in the closing seconds and, in strange circumstances, kicked the ball into touch once play had reached the 80-minute mark. Amid the confusion at the final whistle, Oban were left delighted with their narrow and clinical win that lifts the team only one point adrift of eighth-placed Kilmarnock.
Safety in West Division One lies firmly in Oban Lorne’s own hands with two matches remaining this season. They will play away to Irvine RFC (date TBC) before what will be a winner-takes-all fixture against Kilmarnock on Saturday March 25 at Glencruitten. The winner of that match will seal survival in the division while the loser will be relegated to division two.
Oban Lorne have a break of two weeks before their next fixture as familiar opponents Carrick RFC travel to Glencruitten to play out the semi-final of the West Regional Shield competition.
The Green Machine have progressed to the semi-final stage after a big 55-0 win over division two side Stewartry, while Carrick set up the tie with an impressive 19-0 win at East Kilbride. Irvine RFC await as the West Regional final opponents, the date for the final is TBC.
The match against Carrick will be played at Glencruitten on Saturday March 4, kick off 3pm.