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Oban Lorne made the trip to Helensburgh last weekend for their shortest away trip of the season for this Argyll derby against old foes Helensburgh.
Both these teams know each other well having played out the last few seasons in West Division 1. With both teams being relegated last season and changes behind the scenes with new coaching staff, this was going to be an interesting encounter.
Oban were looking to continue their strong start to the season having claimed bonus point victories in the first two rounds of the league – a 36-6 win at home to Cumbernauld and an impressive 22-32 win at Paisley last weekend. Helensburgh were looking to get back on track after two opening defeats.
The Oban squad showed only a couple of changes from last week’s win against Paisley with big Kyle Graham claiming a starting slot in the second row after impressing off the bench last week. Young Andy Ritchie made his first start of the season on the wing and was joined on the other wing by veteran Roddy Morrison.
Oban started the game well causing problems for Helensburgh with their expansive game plan. Oban threatened out wide early on and after some good quick rucks the first try of the game came after five minutes when No 8 Owen Macdonald surged clear inside the 22 to score the first of Oban’s tries. Finlay Carmichael stepped up to slot the conversion from an awkward angle and give Oban a 7-0 lead.
This was quickly followed by another try for Oban scored this time by Lorne MacLachlan. Again good quick ruck ball inside the opposition 22 allowed Lorne to break a couple of tackles and score under the posts. This try was again converted by Carmichael and Oban had raced into a 14-0 lead.
Oban were quick to get on the score board again when Craig Wright was launched from deep in his own half to race almost 80 metres for the next Oban try. This was again converted by Carmichael and Oban were leading 21-0.
The Oban pack were dominating the Helensburgh pack at this time with the pace of the game. This was creating space out wide as Oban were willing to give the ball width at every opportunity. This allowed Oban to secure the bonus point with their fourth try after 30 minutes. Craig Wright again found space on the outside to outpace the cover defence and score his second try of the game. Carmichael was having a great day with the boot and he nailed another conversion to put Oban 28-0 ahead.
Oban captain Iwan Rhys Roberts was next on the scoresheet with a classic interception try around the halfway line and sped away to score under the posts again. Carmichael converted again for a flawless first half kicking display and Oban were leading 35-0.
The Oban willingness to throw the ball around was to be their own downfall as a couple of dubious offloads allowed the Helensburgh back line to hack the ball into the Oban 22 where another mistake allowed their centre to ground the ball over the line. This was duly converted and Oban led 35-7 at half time.
Helensburgh came out with all guns blazing at the start of the second half and managed to get their big forward running on to the ball and made good yards into the Oban 22. Poor tackling from Oban was allowing Helensburgh to get on the front foot and the pressure eventually told and the hosts scored their second try of the match. Oban 35 Helensburgh 14.
Oban burst right back and vice captain Stephen Povey was next to cross the Helensburgh line with a trade mark surge, bursting a couple of tackles to get Oban back on track.
Helensburgh responded again with more poor tackling allowing the forwards to break the advantage line and get in behind. A well-worked backs’ move then allowed the Burgh winger to score in the corner.
Oban made a few changes with Radi Maksimov and Daniel Speirs entering the fray for the last 30 mins. The change in the engine room didn’t change the dominance the Oban pack had enjoyed at scrum time with Oban securing a push over try after taking the scrum against the feed. No 8 Owen Macdonald touched the ball down for his second try of the game. The big doctor has been a fantastic addition to the team and brings a real dynamism to the back row.
Oban were to be the architects of their own demise yet again allowing Helensburgh in for the bonus point score with more poor defending. Missed tackles were the order of the day and this will need to be addressed at training this week.
There were lots of positives to take from Oban’s attacking play although coach Andrew Johnston was really disappointed to give away 28 points in defence. A lot of work needs to be done to fix some of these problems ahead of next week’s trip away to Strathaven.
The following weekend, September 29, Oban will host Dalziel RFC from West Division 1 in the next round of the West shield and this will be a tough test for the Oban team.
The club would like to welcome any former players up to the club for a pie and pint before the match.
This weekend’s fixture away to Strathaven kicks off at 3pm.