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Oban Lorne welcomed 12th placed Loch Lomond to Glencruitten on a damp, miserable autumn day. The underfoot conditions were surprisingly firm given the amount of water which had fallen in Oban at the beginning of the week, so credit must be given to Argyll and Bute Council’s groundsman Ian Hay and his team for the work they have done to get the pitch into this condition.
Oban knew that they were going to be under pressure physically with Lomond being the bigger and heavier team by a long way. The coach’s talk before the game had emphasised the need to move the Lomond team around the park to tire them out.
The home side welcomed back prop Andy MacDougall, second row Eric Roberts, stand-off Finlay Carmichael and winger Roddy Morrision as well as a first start at scrum-half for 18-year-old James Divers.
The first 10 minutes or so were a scrappy affair with Oban managing to convert two penalty kicks by Finlay Carmichael to take a 6-0 lead.
The conditions were proving tricky with the wet, slippery ball leading to a lot of handling errors which in turn led to a lot of scrums – an area where Loch Lomond had the early dominance, pushing Oban off a couple of their own balls.
With Oban starting to adapt to the conditions and the tactics of the visiting team, who were quite happy to keep the ball close to the forwards and hitting runners one out from the ruck, Oban managed to secure a turnover and a couple of passes released Craig Wright from fullback and he managed to cross in the corner for his first try of the afternoon.
Straight from the restart, Oban were on the front foot again and, after some good work by the forwards, Oban managed to work the ball wide for Wright to hit the line hard and outpace the covering defenders to score behind the posts. This try was again converted by Carmichael to give Oban an 18-0 lead.
At the restart, a high tackle off the ball on Lorne MacLachlan left the referee with no option but give the Lomond scrum-half a straight red card for dangerous play.
This should have been the start of a period of dominance for Oban but they took their collective eye off the ball and allowed Lomond back in to the game in the last 10 minutes of the half.
Lomond upped the pressure and Oban conceded a number of penalties around the breakdown. After the referee had given the Oban captain a warning about repeated infringements, Lomond pressed hard and were rewarded with a try in the last minute of the half. This left the halftime score at Oban 18, Loch Lomond 5.
The Oban coaching team reiterated the need to play with width to get outside the Lomond pack and make them work that bit harder to move around the park.
Things did not go to plan straight away as Craig Wright was to receive 10 minutes in the bin for retaliating to some aggressive play from one of the Lomond players.
This unsettled the Oban team and allowed Lomond to dominate the opening 10 minutes or so of the second half. Some resolute defending kept Lomond at bay until their massive prop took a short crash ball five yards out from the line to score Lomond’s second try which when converted took the score to 18-12 to Oban.
A few changes were made at this time, Calum MacLachlan moving back into the front row after starting the game centre.
Young David Cameron finally arrived to take his place at centre and was joined by Lorne Sinclair in the back row coming on for Ben Macfarlane-Barrow, who had another fine game after impressing in last week’s loss at Lenzie.
The changes brought a bit more cohesion to the Oban game and they started to play on the front foot and gave the ball wide at every opportunity.
Some fantastic individual running from Craig Wright led to him scoring a further three tries in the last 20 minutes of the game to secure another bonus point victory for the Green Machine.
The final score of 35-12 does not reflect how hard Oban were made to work for this victory. Some harsh words from head coach Andrew Johnston at full-time reflected the disappointment in the performance and the inability to follow the game plan.
Possibly a nod to how far the team have come this season when they can have a bonus point victory and still be unhappy with the performance.
Another pleasing note was again the number of young players included in the squad stepping up to take responsibility with no fewer than eight players being under 20 years of age. Young James Divers had a great game at scrum-half, covering for Borisov Vasil, who was away on international duty with Bulgaria and will have a fight on his hands to keep his starting position on this showing.
This all bodes well for the future a couple of years down the line with a good strong core of players and a number of great young talent coming through at u18/u16 levels.
Saturday’s win leaves Oban in joint second place in the league on 27 points alongside Uddingston, with Lenzie leading the league by a further two points.
This weekend Oban are on their travels again for another top of the table clash against Uddingston, who were narrowly beaten by last weekend’s opponents Lenzie 12-6.
This will be another massive test for the young Oban squad to overcome but a repeat of last week’s performance away to Lenzie will keep them right in the title race.
Oban Lorne’s next home game is on Saturday October 27 as Clydebank RFC visit Glencruitten.