Lepori back- and buzzing

Date published: Wednesday, September 18, 2013

BACK from his Italian job, Richard Lepori is determined to make up for lost time by helping Oldham RL to conquer London Skolars in Sunday’s big play-off game at Whitebank.

He followed up a try hat-trick on his Italian debut in July by producing a man-of-the-match performance in a 32-20 win against Serbia in Este, a small town in the Veneto region of northern Italy.

The win clinched Italy second place in the final European Shield table — and hopefully enhanced the Oldham full-back’s dream of making it into the World Cup squad.

Lepori (21) said he was “gutted” when he got off the plane in Manchester, rang Roughyeds skipper Lewis Palfrey and was told that Oldham had failed to win through to the Championship One play-off final after a 23-22 loss against Rochdale Hornets.

In-form Skolars now stand between Oldham and a re-match with derby rivals Rochdale in the final at Leigh Sports Village on Sunday, September 29 for the right to be promoted to the Championship.

Back in training with Oldham last night, Lepori said: “I’m focused on only one thing now, and that’s getting the job done against Skolars.

“Having had time to reflect, I think the Rochdale defeat might be a blessing in disguise because it gives us another game. And whatever anybody says we were bound to be a little bit under-cooked, not having had a competitive match for nearly four and a half weeks.

“Lewis (Palfrey) has given me the run-down on what happened last Sunday and we’re determined to learn from that and not make the same mistakes again.

“The boss played in loads of play-off games, winning a lot more than he lost, so he knows what it’s all about and he can identify what needs to be put right from last week.

“I’ll always be grateful to him for letting me play for Italy even though it meant me missing two important Oldham games.

“I didn’t want to turn down the opportunity to prove myself at that level and to give myself a once-in-a-lifetime chance of getting into the World Cup squad.

“None of this would have happened without Oldham’s co-operation and without the backing the club has always given me.

“I can think of no better way to repay that faith than by helping the boys to do the business on Sunday.

“Team and club are all-important. Anything I or any of the boys pick up individually is a bonus.”

Playing on the right wing against Serbia, Lepori won his man-of-the-match billing by scoring one and setting up two of Italy’s six tries, the first of these with a break covering 80 metres.

He added: “Serbia gave it a real dig. We had to battle in defence, but we stuck to our plan and scored most of our tries down the flanks.

“I think the coach was pleased with me, but I’ll have to wait for a few days to find out whether I’m in the World Cup plans. I’m not banking on it because there’s a lot of competition and it’s another step-up in standard.”