Blackpool v Oldham

Date published: Monday, July 26, 2010

MICK Fogerty’s try seconds before the final hooter put the lid on an afternoon of superb entertainment in Fylde.

As Oldham kept the ball alive in search for a try which would secure three more crucial points — and deny Blackpool in their own quest to stay within touching distance at the top end of Co-operative Championship One — the free-scoring centre sparked mass celebrations by keeping his cool and sliding over on the left wing off a Gregg McNally pass.

Preceded by a lung-busting run from Wayne Kerr, who somehow kept his legs pumping through the tackles on a 30-metre burst, the match-changing try epitomised what the Roughyeds are all about this season.

Even when the odds are against Tony Benson’s boys, you would have to be mad to bet against them. Put simply, this is a team which consistently finds a way, no matter how contrived or roundabout, to win.

This wasn’t a vintage performance. Too often the Roughyeds spilled the ball early in the tackle count, conceding vital ground.

And the visitors were also helped by a generous scattering of penalties as a result of poor Blackpool discipline.

But on balance, the result was a fair one. And despite the game lacking quality at times, the spectacle was a terrific advert for professional rugby league at this level.

TERRITORY

The two teams exchanged territory in an even and slightly nervy opening to this important clash.

The opening score came from out of the blue. Neil Roden’s high kick on the last tackle didn’t appear to carry much danger until Marcus St Hilaire, who again proved his worth in reading the game like a book throughout, leapt from nowhere to claim the ball and score.

Gregg McNally converted and would have been lining up another had Martin Roden not been held up over the line.

Back came Blackpool. Martin Ainscough plucked McNally’s bouncing grubber and raced away downfield, creating the momentum that Casey Mayberry was able to take advantage of by registering the first try of his double. Tom Hemingway converted to level at 6-6.

A belter of a 40-20 kick from McNally got Oldham on the front foot again and Lucas Onayngo thought he had scored only for referee Clint Sharrad to pull the visitors back for a forward pass in the build-up.

Enter hat-trick hero Paul O’Connor. The number of excellent performances the full-back has put in this season have been matched only by the number of opponents who have threatened to take his head clean off his shoulders.

The latest culprit was Andy Hobson. Returning after a five-game ban, the big prop’s intervention was no more than a result of being wrong-footed by O’Connor’s change in direction.

The resulting penalty saw Oldham march downfield and that man O’Connor burrowed over brilliantly on the left wing after taking Neil Roden’s pass.

Five minutes later, he was performing a similar trick on the opposite wing. Again opting to go under the tackles, this time O’Connor only just managed to get the ball down.

As half-time came, Benson’s men could and should have been further clear than 14-6 to the good.

Blackpool began the second period in determined fashion and after ex-Oldham prop David Best was held up just short of the line, Roughyeds prop Dave Ellison lost control of the ball as the pressure mounted.

Mayberry then produced a terrific run to dart in off the right wing, and Hemingway’s conversion from the right reduced the arrears to a mere two points.

O’Connor completed his treble after 49 minutes, this time as a result of a sweetly-worked move. McNally handed on to Valu Bentley and the loose forward instantly switched play inside to the onrushing full-back, who celebrated the crucial effort in front of a large throng of travelling fans.

Just as important was sterling defensive work soon afterwards. Panthers winger Tom Woodcock looked for all the world as if he was about to score on the right wing, only for John Gillam to pull out a magnificent tackle to dump his opposite number into touch.

Still Blackpool refused to be cowed and shortly before the hour Hemingway’s superbly judged kick to the left corner was claimed by another former Oldham man in Damian Munro.

Hemingway this time missed his kick, leaving his side 20-16 down with a quarter of the game to go.

St Hilaire embarked on an 80-metre surge upfield as the Roughyeds tried to press further ahead, only for Munro to halt him just shy of the try line.

Tempers frayed as the tension got to Best and Gillam. The pair, former team-mates at Oldham St Anne’s, exchanged blows in a minor flashpoint which was forgotten come the final hooter.

Mayberry threatened as the Panthers upped their game once again, before Danny Halliwell — another of the former Roughyeds contingent — dived over following good build-up play by Ainscough.

Hemingway put the home team ahead for the first time in the match and with nine minutes left, the game looked up.

But Woodcock spilled a ball in the tackle near his own line and after McNally forced a drop-out with a well-judged kick, Fogerty’s magic moment arrived just in the nick of time.

by Matthew Chambers