’Shire end season on a high

Oban Lorne 0, Wigtownshire 19

’Shire made the long journey north to Oban with only one thought on their minds: “Only a win would be good enough.” With both sides firmly lodged at the foot of the league, anything less would most likely result in the Stranraer side relegated. This was going to be the ’Shire’s last game of the season and all of the other teams that they were in competition with to avoid the drop had games still to play.

Conditions were perfect as it was warm and dry with no wind. The home side kicked off and the visitors gathered the ball and charged up field. It was clear to the small group of supporters who had travelled that the ’Shire boys were in determined mood. They drove with power and determination winning a penalty after two minutes well inside Oban’s half.

Their purpose was obvious from that moment as they elected to kick to touch. Winning the resulting lineout, only sterling defending by the home side kept them at bay. Another penalty was kicked to touch but once more Oban turned over possession to clear. Wigtownshire stuck to their game plan, patiently building and working their way towards the line. The forwards were immense, destroying the Oban scrum at every set piece. The lineout was majestic, Eddie Stevenson displaying his prowess taking good clean ball, supported well in the jumping stakes by Tyrell Wilson and Jason McKie.

Unfortunately, over and over again Oban disrupted play, the ball was dislodged or the last pass did not go to hand. There was 18 minutes on the clock before the home side managed to get out of their own half with ball in hand. ’Shire were having none of it, however, retrieving possession and going straight back upfield to camp in their opponents’ half for another 10 minutes.

Another penalty awarded gave Callum Austin a chance to break the deadlock, but his kick went wide. Oban managed to break out again after that, this time getting over the 22-metre line, but the visiting forwards were having none of it. Winning possession, they combined with the backs to attack again. Another scrum driven back and lineout won, the ’Shire forwards mauled towards the line. They were stopped short, but scrum-half Jason Patterson took change and drove though with 34 minutes gone. The conversion attempt drifted wide.

From the restart it was more of the same: scrummaging, driving and rucking, combined with good running from the three-quarters. Another fine lineout take by Stevenson set up a maul. This time there was no stopping them as birthday boy Andy Love went over for a try. Austin stepped up to add the extra points just before the referee blew for half-time.

Oban started the second half like a different team. It was they who were on the front foot. They fought their way up the park and were awarded a penalty after six minutes but the kick was wide. The Oban stand-off was given 10 minutes in the sin-bin to calm his enthusiasm after being adjudged to have committed foul play. The loss of a player seemed to galvanise the home side, who continued to fight and force the visitors back.

Another kickable penalty was awarded to Oban, but luckily for the visitors this also missed.

From the drop-out it was the visitors’ turn to make ground. With 11 minutes of the half gone they managed to get into Oban territory and began to exert pressure. The game was halted while Eddie Stevenson received until he could be taken to hospital. The match restarted with Oban coming forward and the visitors putting in the hard defensive work. It was the ’Shire who turned the tables. On the ’Shire 22, a ball came out of a ruck on Oban’s side. Tyrell Wilson, relishing his new role at wing forward, stepped round and picked it up. The referee waved play on, but Tyrell was already on his way. Avoiding the players in tight he stormed off upfield. In full flow, he outstripped the cover defence to score wonderful breakaway try. Austin stepped up and added the extra points.

’Shire played one of their best games of the season when it mattered. It was a team effort throughout. They were very disciplined and extremely patient, particularly in the first half when the scores took time to come. Oban gave them a good game, testing them especially in the second half when they appeared to switch on. Now all the local side can do is to wait to see where they will play next year as it could still depend on results elsewhere and the continuing restructuring of leagues.

On a happier note, Eddie Stevenson spent a precautionary night in hospital in Oban, but was released the next day, very sore but with no broken bones.

Team: C Austin, R McCreadie, J McIntosh, D MacCaig, N Warwick, A Farquhar (Capt), J Patterson; M Hastie, G Keith, A Love, E Stevenson, K McNeil, J McKie, T Wilson, N Irving.

Replacements: J Montgomery, K Loch, C McGregor, G Dunlop, M Clarke.

Davie Hunter