Want to read more?
We value our content and our journalists, so to get full access to all your local news updated 7-days-a-week – PLUS an e-edition of the Oban Times – subscribe today for as little as 56 pence per week.
Oban Lorne kicked off the 2017/18 league season at Glencruitten on Saturday with the visit of familiar rivals Garnock RFC.
The Green Machine were full of confidence gong into the new season after winning their inaugural Tower 10s competition and producing a good show against National Division 1 opposition Hillhead Jordanhill RFC in pre season.
Head Coach Corrie Louw had a strong team to choose from and welcomed Tommy Sutherland, Jack Baxter and Rufus Stones back into the starting line-up. Notably there was a place on the bench for returning prop Liam Burns along with back line players Dave McCabe and Calum MacLachlan who were being rested due to some niggling injuries. Unfortunately Oban Lorne were dealt a blow in the build up of the game with Bulgarian back-rower Vladi Mihov returning to his homeland due to family concerns. Oban Lorne would like to wish Vladi well and thank him for his contribution over the past season.
Oban kicked off in front of a large crowd of both home and away supporters enjoying the last of the summer sunshine.
Both sides struggled to create any rhythm to the game in the opening 10 minutes with the game shaping up to be a physical battle due to the size and power of the opposing packs.
Garnock took the lead on 12 minutes as they spun the ball wide from a five-metre lineout. The opposition full back finished off a move on the left hand touchline with the Oban defence gifting the back line a huge overlap to score. The resulting conversion was a success giving a 7-0 lead.
The home side did not let this dent their confidence as they managed to sustain a long period of pressure in the Garnock half. Penalty after penalty for various infringements were awarded to the men in green by referee Andy Summers as Oban’s attacking threat looked very threatening.
Garnock were lucky to keep 15 men on the field after a disgraceful off-the-ball challenge on captain Craig Wright, that angered the Oban team and home support but gifted Oban yet another penalty in the pressure zone.
Garnock were eventually reduced to 14 men after more indiscipline close to the line. On this occasion Oban elected to kick at goal which was missed narrowly.
Despite dominating possession, territory and play at the scrum, Oban failed to make any of the chances count and were made to rue this on 30 minutes when Garnock scored again from a five-metre lineout, this time from a driving maul. 12-0 to the visitors.
Garnock extended their lead to 15-0 before the break. Oban’s coaching team decided to make a tactical change to their team with Dave McCabe coming into the back line and Rufus Stones dropping to the bench.
Despite trailing at the break Oban were confident in their ability to get back into the game.
The general opinion around Glencruitten was that the men in green had played well but could not make their dominance at times count near the try line.
A few changes were made at half-time with Liam Burns and Calum MacLachlan being introduced to the side.
Oban started the second half well, aided by a powerful scrum and an improving lineout. Stand off Iwan Rhys Roberts was directing his back line well with breaks from Craig Wright and Dave McCabe putting Oban on the front foot.
Ten minutes into the second half Oban hit back with their first try of the day. Dave McLaughlin raced into a gaping hole in the defence 20 metres out allowing the full back to touchdown near the left hand post. Craig Wright converted narrowing Garnock’s lead to 15-7.
Oban were buoyed by this and continued to show their strong attacking intent with some powerful running from the pack and creative play in the back line.
A second try was gifted to Oban Lorne mid way into the second half. A poor pass in the Garnock midfield was hacked through by the boot of Craig Wright, who surged over the line and managed to touch the ball down just before it landed over the dead ball area. Unfortunately a straight forward conversion was missed but Oban were back into the game at 12-15.
The Green Machine were now full of confidence and were playing in a manner rarely seen at Glencruitten over the past year or so. Garnock’s noisy support was silenced on 65 minutes when Wright scored his second try of the game from a flowing move of good handling to touchdown on the left-hand touchline. This time the conversion sailed over as Oban made a superb comeback from 15-0 down to lead 19-15.
Oban had 15 minutes to close out the game but were undone in the closing stages with some poor decision making and lapses in defence that gifted Garnock two tries.
Credit must be given to the visitors who were very clinical with their chances and impressed with some outstanding support play that aided in their two late tries.
The home side did press for a winning try in the last minutes of the game but were undone by giving away a silly penalty near the try line just as they were building up for a chance of a winning score.
In the end it was a 26-19 win for a well-organised Garnock side in a very entertaining match to open the season.
Oban’s spirits were high after the match despite the loss as the team knew they had performed well enough to match one of the league’s top sides.
With a losing bonus point gained, Oban sit mid table after week one and have another tough fixture away to Kilmarnock this Saturday.
Killie recorded a 31-25 win at Annan on Saturday and will provide stern opposition for Oban Lorne. Kick off is 3pm in Kilmarnock.