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Oban Lorne were on their travels on Saturday as they made the long trip to Stranraer to play mid-table Wigtownshire.
The preparation for the game had seen the majority of the squad head down to a hotel outside Glasgow on Friday night to take some of the travel out of the journey on Saturday morning. The best of plans was negated somewhat by a navigational error which saw the team having a detour via Carlisle on the way.
This detour meant that the team only arrived about 30 minutes before kick-off, and this poor preparation was to have an immediate effect on the game.
Oban started the game with some positional changes due to injuries, suspensions and players travelling to the international game at Murrayfield as well. This was further compounded by a couple of late withdrawals on Saturday morning, with Graham MacEachan and Radi Maksimov not being able to make the trip.
This saw a reshuffle in the Oban pack with vice-captain Stephen Povey moving to prop and back row forward Lorne MacLachlan moving to hooker.
After a minute’s silence for remembrance weekend, the game kicked off on a slippery wet day where ball handling was going to be difficult. Straight from the kick-off, a knock-on by one of the Oban players was gathered by the Wigtownshire openside who reacted quickest to the infringement and surged past a couple of attempted tackles to score his team’s first try of the game in the opening minute.
Oban bounced back and took the game to the home team and had some good passages of play but could not break down a stubborn home defence.
The pitch was very narrow which prevented Oban being able to stretch the opposition and create the holes in defence which they have been able to this season.
The men in green were struggling to get good clean ball from the scrum and lineout with the re-jigged front row under pressure from a well-drilled home pack and Matt Walker did well to get the ball away from the scrum a number of times with the scrum retreating at speed.
Young Lorne Sinclair also had a great shift being asked to throw the ball in at the lineout at the last moment. The lineout did well with just some slight timing issues which can be worked out at training but this improved as the game went on.
A number of handling errors from both teams and some dubious refereeing meant there was very little flow to the game, with both sides enjoying some good phases of possession but not being able to create any further scoring opportunities until the last minute of the half.
Oban found themselves camped on their own goal-line with the Wigtownshire forwards playing tight with a number of pick-and-goes round the side of the rucks. This eventually led to the home side’s second try and, with the conversion, this took the half-time score to 12-0 in favour of the home side.
The second half started where the first half had finished, with Wigtownshire getting early territory in the Oban 22 following a midfield penalty. Again some resolute Oban defending kept the home team at bay for a number of phases before the Wigtownshire prop managed to burrow over the line for the third try of the day.
Oban finally managed to string some phases of play together. The scrum started to steady itself as the opposition tired and this allowed Oban to generate some quick ball.
After a great spell of pressure, young centre David Cameron was on hand to score his third try of the season under the posts. Finlay Carmichael duly converted and Oban were back in the game at 17-7.
Wigtownshire were to come straight back at Oban to score the bonus-point try. Again hard work round the fringes from the forwards and Oban not getting off the line allowed the big number 8 to cross the Oban line.
Oban made a couple of changes with 20 minutes of the game to go with two new players getting their first games for the senior team.
Nathaniel Valente came on to the wing, replacing Roddy Morrison, who rolled back the years yet again to deliver another steady performance on the wing. Michael Mackinnon came on to replace young Ben MacFarlane-Barrow in the back row after he took a bang to the head.
Both these players made an impact with some fine tackling and aggressive runs although finding themselves on the wrong side of the referee on a couple of occasions by straying offside.
Oban were to respond again and upped the tempo and the work rate in the last quarter of the match. They were rewarded with another try when Finlay Carmichael took a quick tap penalty and floated a lovely ball out to Valente on the wing and the fireman managed to cross the line.
The referee then proceeded to award a penalty try for an infringement with Wigtownshire not being back 10 metres from the quick tap.
Wigtownshire were to respond yet again with another try to bring the final score to 31-14. A tough one to take for the Oban Lorne team, who had hoped to take something from this game to keep them in contention at the top end of the league.
The travel mishap and the late call-offs in the morning took the edge out of the Oban game and they just couldn’t get into their stride.
If they have any aspirations of success then these are the tough games on the road that have to be won. The young team will learn from this defeat and it will stand them in good stead for what is still to come.
Oban now shift their focus to this weekend when they are on their travels again to face Cumbernauld. This is the first of the return fixtures of the season with Oban securing a comfortable victory at the start of the season in Oban. A win is vital to keep in touch with the league leaders Lenzie and Uddingston, although Oban have a game in hand against both teams and have to welcome both to Glencruitten in the new year.
Oban Lorne’s next home fixture is an Argyll derby with Helensburgh RFC on Saturday December 1. Kick-off 2pm.