Big match preview

Date published: Friday, May 21, 2010

ALL eyes will be on Roughyeds new boy Gregg McNally in Oldham’s eagerly-awaited top-of-the-table clash with in-form Hunslet Hawks at Whitebank Stadium on Sunday (kick-off 3.00pm).

Coach Tony Benson is unlikely to reveal his hand on team selection until he has to do one hour before kick-off, writes ROGER HALSTEAD.

He will pick from 20, and he will have some tough decisions to make in key areas because the 20 includes three hookers in Martin Roden, Danny Whitmore and Scott Mansfield and three half-backs in Matty Ashe, McNally and Neil Roden.

Benson is reluctant to concede defeat in Roden’s fight to conquer a broken toe, such is the regard in which the Kiwi boss holds his midfield maestro, and he will have him tested on Saturday before a final decision is made.

Whatever happens, though, 19-year-old McNally will be in the 17 and will kick-start his one-month loan spell from Super League club Huddersfield Giants.

“Gregg will definitely feature,” said Benson, “but that’s all I’m saying for now because a lot will hinge on how Neil Roden is when we look at him on Saturday.”

Either way, Benson has promised that the exciting McNally will be given the opportunity to showcase his attacking skills against two of the division’s most talked about midfield generals, Paul and David March.

Love ’em or hate ’em, the March twins are gifted, experienced footballers. How well, or how badly, Hunslet will play will depend directly on how well, or how badly, the March twins perform.

And how well, or how badly, Oldham play will be significantly influenced by the side’s ability, or otherwise, to cope with the March threat and at the same time to keep on good terms with the referee.

In the second of two cup defeats by the Hawks this year, Roughyeds conceded an astonishing 17 penalties.

“If we can cut back penalties by about ten,” said Benson, “it would give us ten more sets than we had in our last game at Hunslet, and that could make all the difference.

“We’ve been building up to the game, and we are looking forward to it.”

Roughyeds inflicted Hunslet’s only defeat in Championship 1 when they won 29-16 at the South Leeds Stadium in March — the second of three clashes which have been exceedingly tasty affairs if you like rugby with a mean streak in it.

“It’s a big test for us at Oldham,” said Hawks player-coach Paul March. “We know a lot about each other.

“We didn’t play particularly well in winning at York last week. We only played for 40 minutes, and we need to put that right on Sunday.”

Veteran hooker Richard Chapman is doubtful for Hawks, who may bring Darren Robinson into the squad as cover and give Luke Haigh the start in the middle of the front-row.

Roughyeds will pick from the following 2O, comprising the 17 on duty against London Skolars last time out, plus McNally, Luke Sutton and Neil Roden:

Ashe, Boults, Chandler, Clarke, Ellison, Fogerty, Gillam, Heaton, Hodson, Kerr, Mansfield, McNally, O’Connor, Onyango, Reilly, Robinson, M Roden, N Roden, Sutton, Whitmore.

Winger Lucas Onyango is Oldham’s top try scorer with 13 — and the ten he has scored in Championship 1 make him the division’s try-scoring pace-setter as the season approaches the half-way stage.

“I guess I’ve got to keep it up if I want to finish the season in front,” says the Kenyan, who has scored only once in the three previous games against the Hawks.