Discipline the key

Date published: Monday, February 14, 2011

THE number of penalties Roughyeds are conceding on a regular basis is becoming a damaging issue and one which coach Tony Benson knows needs to be addressed immediately.

Not for the first time in the early days of this 2011 campaign Benson’s boys were heavily punished by referee Jamie Leahy in the 50-10 Northern Rail Cup defeat at Halifax. The home side had the benefit of 15 penalty awards — ten of them in the first half alone.

In three pre-season friendlies and two Northern Rail games Oldham have been caned 61 times at an average of fractionally more than 12 a game, writes ROGER HALSTEAD.

Take away the Whitehaven home game, which bizarrely provided Roughyeds with a 17-6 penalty advantage, and Oldham’s average of penalties per match conceded goes up to almost 14 — five more per game than their opponents.

Another trait of the Roughyeds so far this year is to concede early tries. Whitehaven were ‘nilled’ but Rochdale opened the scoring with a Chris Hough try in the eighth minute; Featherstone scored first when John Grayshon went in after three minutes; Hunslet went 12-0 up with early tries by Stuart Kain and Tommy Haughey; and Halifax were 10-0 up inside 12 minutes with tries by Michael Ostick and Ben Black.

Statistics can be misleading, and credit must clearly be given for the way in which Oldham came from behind to finish worthy winners against Rochdale and Hunslet and to blitz Whitehaven 50-0 to make it three good wins from three outings on home soil at Whitebank so far.

Nevertheless, the slow-to-start Roughyeds perhaps need to focus on that trait as well as on their habit of failing to satisfy the man in the middle, mainly for technical offences in the tackle or at the play-the-ball.

Reflecting on the performance at Halifax immediately after the game, Tony B said the penalties conceded had a major bearing on the outcome of the game.

“We can’t expect to win games if we are going to be penalised like that,” he said. “We were pulled up ten times in the first half and that kept us on the back foot.

“The exciting thing at half time was that, although we had performed so badly, we were still only eight points down. The feeling in the dressing room was that if we were able to step up to our usual level of performance in the second half we might be able to snatch it. Everybody in the dressing room agreed with that.

“But we went out and did exactly what we had been doing in the first half. We were just not good enough on the day. We could and should have been a lot better than we were. We were not tough enough mentally to play up to par.

“We let in a lot of soft tries, and that’s just not us. For the first time this year we didn’t shape up when the going got tough. There was a big lesson to be learned.

“If we learn it we will have a good year; if we don’t it’s going to be tough. We were definitely not the best we could be, and that’s the first time this year that I have said that.

“We spoke about that and we all know it wasn’t acceptable and that we must do something about it.”

Roughyeds came out of the game with a couple of injury worries. Valu Bentley was knocked out in a fierce challenge by Sam Barlow which earned Oldham a penalty and which was put on report by referee Leahy.

Ben Heaton damaged a groin in the pre-match warm-up and played little more than half a game before he was pulled off. “We will be monitoring both players through the week,” said TB.

There were words of comfort for Oldham from ‘Fax coach Matt Calland. “Despite the score,” he said, “Oldham had a real crack at us and kept going right to the end. I think they will have a good season.

“As for us, it’s early days. Things will get better. We wanted to play like Harlem Globetrotters in the first half. We made ten handling errors in the first half but our second-half completion was 80 per cent and that is reflected in how the scoring went.”