Halifax 19 – 20 Reserves

Date published: Sunday, June 12, 2011

ROUGHYEDS Reserves cemented their place in the top four of the Under-23s Reserves Championship with a 20-19 win in a thriller at Halifax on Friday night.

It was their sixth win in nine league games and it was achieved against a strong Halifax side despite John Hough’s men having only 15 fit players at their disposal.

Lewis Brookes and Liam Bland were named as two of the subs and were on the bench, but coach Hough explained afterwards that he had the use of only two replacements — Kenny Hughes and Phil Joy — because Brookes and Bland were carrying injuries and it would have been silly to risk them.

“In total we had seven players whom we couldn’t call on because of injuries or first-team calls,” added John, “but the 15 who played did us proud. I am proud of every one of them.”

In a dramatic last few minutes, with the scores locked up at 18-18, full-back Steven Nield capitalised on Jack Bradbury’s superb 40-20 touch-finder by dropping a goal for a 19-18 Oldham lead.

A minute later Roughyeds were penalised for the sixth time in a row for an offence in the ruck. Hussain lined up a penalty at goal from just inside the Oldham half, but it dropped just beneath the bar.

Fax kept up the pressure, however, and they drew level again at 19-19 with a drop goal by Brad Radcliffe.

Oldham’s short restart kick was reclaimed by the visitors, who surged forwards in numbers in search of a winner and got it joyously with Nield’s second drop goal literally seconds before the final hooter.

A delighted Hough said: “Fax had a few first-team players on duty like Ryan Clayton and Dave Larder — not to mention former Oldham player Joe Chandler — but for us to win at The Shay with only 15 players was an outstanding effort.

“I asked the boys before the game to front up and they certainly did that as well as a lot more besides. I don’t want to single anyone out. From 1 to 15 they were all magnificent.

“We won’t let it go to our heads. We need to kick on from here and do well against Sheffield at Whitebank next Saturday afternoon.. I hope fans come down to watch us because the lads deserve it.

“We have been away from Whitebank for a few weeks, like the first team, and for three weeks we didn’t have a game either home or away. That’s why, looking at the league table, you can see we have games in hand on those above us.

“Other teams have still to experience going three weeks without a game, but we’ve got our blank out of the way and from here on in it will benefit us by having to play every weekend.

“We know where we want to be at the end of the year and if we can make Whitebank a fortress over the course of the next couple of months or so we will have an excellent chance of getting there.”

Ice-cool Nield’s two match-winning drop goals; a brace of tries by newly-signed prop Bruce Johnson; excellent creativity and punishing kicking by stand-off Bradbury; and terrific work up front by Johnson, his fellow prop Danny Langtree and the one replacement front-rower, Phil Joy, were highlights of the Oldham performance.

David Cookson was strong and forthright at left centre; John Gillam, back for the first time on the wing after a long injury absence, looked as though he had never been away; half-back Tommy Connick covered every blade of grass; and Scott Mansfield provided a crisp dummy-half service to give the front-rowers the best possible opportunity of running on to the ball at speed and busting the gain line, as they often did.

Roughyeds led 14-12 at half-time with a try apiece for Johnson and Cookson, the latter having been sent over the Fax line on a beautifully-timed pass by Bradbury, who looked well suited to the outside-half role.

Proving his ability to kick goals as well, Bradbury converted each of the tries from way out near the touch line on the left side and then, with the clock moving down rapidly towards half time, he stroked home a long-range penalty to give Roughyeds their two-point half-time advantage.

Johnson’s mighty surge provided the former Swinton prop with his second try early in the second half, but Fax levelled at 18-18 in the 54th minute when they went in for their third try.

There then followed the frantic efforts by both sides to snatch a winner of any desciption, with full-back Nield duly obliging at the double for Roughyeds to emerge as the team’s match-winning hero.

Team: Nield; Cotton, Williams, Cookson, Gillam; Bradbury, Connick; Johnson, Mansfield, Langtree, Ward, Knight, Dean. Subs: Hughes, Joy, BLand, Brookes.