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On a cold and sunny Saturday afternoon Oban welcomed Uddingston RFC to Glencruitten for a top of the table clash between the teams in second and third position in West Division 2.
Oban were looking to continue their run of form following last week’s win away at Loch Lomond by overturning one of their away defeats earlier in the season when Uddingston won 15-7 in a tight game.
A healthy crowd was on hand in fantastic conditions looking to enjoy the fare on offer with ex-players invited to come for a free pie and a pint at half-time. The Glencruitten playing surface was in fantastic condition yet again, a testament to Argyll and Bute groundsman Ian Hay for all his hard work over the season.
Coach Andrew Johnston had to shuffle the cards yet again with a number of players coming back into the team. Corrie Louw and Radi Maksimov returned in the front row, with captain Iwan Roberts coming back into the squad with regular half backs Vasil Borisov (injured) and Finlay Carmichael unavailable.
With the sun shining in their eyes, Oban were keen to make an early impression and they got off to a great start with some early pressure being absorbed by the visitors.
When Oban turned over ball in the Uddy half, their powerful centre took off on a mazy run through the middle of Oban’s defence. A number of tackles were missed until he was halted just inside the Oban 22. This was a warning that Oban were not going to get things all their own way.
After 10 minutes of the action, Oban were first to cross the try line after a succession of rucks took the ball deep into the Uddy 22. Young scrum-half James Divers was on hand to dive over the line and put Oban 5-0 ahead with his first senior try for the club.
Five minutes later, Oban were to extend their lead when Owen McDonald finished off after a rampaging run through the visitors defence. The big doctor has been in fantastic form on his return from injury and his dynamism really drives the team forward.
Oban were working really hard in defence and snuffing out any opportunities for the visitors with some excellent tackling and organisation.
Calum Murray was next on the try-scoring list. When Uddy turned over ball in the Oban half, the ball was hacked forward and the Oban PE teacher outpaced the home defence to latch on to the ball and dive over in the corner to extend Oban lead to 17 points to nil after 26 minutes of the game.
Radi Maksimov was to secure the bonus point try for Oban just before half-time when he powered through the visitors’ defence to score an outstanding try. Another player who has been sorely missed these past few weeks, hopefully he can keep up his form in the coming weeks.
Oban were to go into half time with a 24-0 lead and some positive words in the break from the coaching team saw them hoping to keep the pressure on.
It took some time for Oban to get their noses further ahead but with an hour of the game gone, Owen McDonald was to score another fantastic try to extend the Oban lead to 31 points, the extra points being converted by Ferg McCoss, who took over the kicking duties from Carmichael.
Stephen Povey was to further extend the Oban lead when he was on hand to support a break through the centre of the Uddy defence and take the pass to go under the posts. A fantastic shift from the vice-captain who had to play at prop and had a fantastic all round game.
With the game now comfortably in Oban’s hands, the coaching team made a raft of changes with young Sean Gordon and Michael Mackinnon going into the second row and young winger Robert Mclaughlin from Dalmally taking the place of Callum Murray. Tommy Sutherland also had a cameo appearance after coming for the ex-players’ lunch.
Uddingston came back at Oban hoping to salvage some pride and took play deep into the Oban 22 after an attempted interception left a massive hole in the Oban defence for the Uddingston forwards to exploit.
Oban were struggling to reorganise and conceded a number of penalties as they looked to keep the visitors at bay. Uddingston were to be rewarded with a try when their big No8 was adjudged to have grounded the ball on the base of the posts and was awarded the try.
With Oban disappointed to have their defence breached, there was still time for Radi Maksimov to score his second try of the day right at the death, again converted by McCoss who finished with a five out of seven success rate.
There were a number of stand-out performances on the day with every player involved really stepping up to the plate. McDonald and Maksimov were the outstanding forwards, closely followed by Lorne Maclachlan and Lorne Sinclair, who continue to excel. Young David Cameron also had a fantastic performance in the midfield, moving to inside centre after impressing on the wing in recent weeks.
Saturday’s result lifts Oban back into second place in the table above Uddingston. With seven fixtures remaining against lower placed opposition, Oban are favourites to clinch what could end up being a second promotion place depending on the outcome of next season’s league reconstruction.
Next week Oban are back on their travels when they head to Clydebank to play at the new 4G pitch there. This will be a 3pm kick-off and played under floodlights to allow for the Clydebank team to play their second team fixture beforehand. The teams met at Glencruitten earlier in the season where Oban recorded a comfortable 71-7 win.
Oban Lorne’s next home fixture is on Saturday February 23 against league strugglers Millbrae.