It’s Rochdale here in play-off derby

Date published: Monday, September 9, 2013

OLDHAM will head into Sunday’s mouth-watering play-off clash with derby rivals Rochdale Hornets at Whitebank (3pm) boasting the longest unbeaten run in professional rugby league.

They’ve won eight and drawn one of their last nine outings and it’s three months to the day since they were last beaten, going down 22-20 at North Wales Crusaders on June 9.

“That’s all very satisfying, but it doesn’t count for anything now that we’re into play-off rugby,” said Roughyeds’ coach Scott Naylor, who watched Rochdale pip London Skolars 26-24 in a Spotland thriller yesterday to set up Sunday’s derby showdown at Whitebank.

Paul Crook converted Dave Llewellyn’s try two minutes from time to snatch it for Rochdale against a Skolars side that scored five tries to Hornets’ four and came within a whisker of pulling off an upset.

Naylor’s verdict ? “The better side lost.”

The Oldham boss is well aware, however, that due to the complexity of the play-off systems both Rochdale and London can still threaten Roughyeds’ promotion ambitions.

Hemel Stags beat Oxford 30-26 in yesterday’s eliminator to earn a crack at Skolars in North London on Sunday while Oldham are doing battle with Hornets.

Whitebank’s winners go straight through to the final at Leigh Sports Village on Sunday, September 29, while the losers are at home on September 22 to the winners of the London-Hemel tie.

Naylor’s more pressing objective is to see his Championship One runners-up earn a fast-track route to the final by getting there at the first time of asking.

He said: “We’ve seen already this season how passionate Oldham-Rochdale games can be and this one will be especially so because there is so much riding on it.

“At the end of the day, though, it’s just another game of rugby and that’s how we’ll be approaching it — nothing different to how we’ve prepared for all our other derby games this year.

“Our record against them is pretty decent (three wins out of four) and if we turn up and give 100 per cent there’s no reason why we can’t beat them again.

“We might need a little bit of luck or the odd call to go our way, but that will be the same for them too; that’s play-off rugby.

“Our last competitive game was our televised 30-25 win at Spotland on August 15, and since then we’ve had to keep ticking over and doing the things we felt we needed to do to be ready for this week.

“It’s been a long time coming. The boys are hungry for it.”