Lepori back for Skolars clash

Date published: Monday, September 16, 2013

RICHARD Lepori, who missed Oldham’s 23-22 play-off defeat by Rochdale Hornets, will be back in the side for Sunday’s final eliminator against London Skolars at Whitebank (3pm).

The young full-back was on international duty with Italy over the weekend and he went with coach Scott Naylor’s full approval even though he missed the Roughyeds’ most important game of the season so far.

Said Oldham’s boss: “I would never hold back a young player from getting the chance to play for his country. Richard went with our best wishes. He deserves the recognition he is getting.”

Tom Whitehead replaced Lepori at full-back, as he did when Roughyeds beat North Wales Crusaders 28-10 at Whiteback on the same July weekend that Lepori made his Italian debut.

Local boy Whitehead had a cracking game against the Welshmen, but he wasn’t as fortunate this time, breaking bones in his hand and being forced to quit at half-time.

Skipper and stand-off Lewis Palfrey moved to full-back and hooker Sam Gee came out of the forwards to partner another hooker, Kenny Hughes, at half-back.

This caused further disruption to Oldham’s plans, although Gee played particularly well in his second spell when he led from the front during the Roughyeds’ comeback charge in the last quarter of an hour.

Statistics showed that Roughyeds made more tackles in the first half than in any other game this year, which Naylor attributed to the amount of possession and field position the home side surrendered because of suspect handling or a lack of concentration.

He said: “Rochdale didn’t break us, bust us, go through us or get round us on the outside. We simply gifted them loads of ball and field position — and Crook did the rest with his kicking game.”

London Skolars qualified to come to Whitebank with a 44-28 home win against Hemel Stags, who trailed 30-0 at half-time.

The winners of the Oldham-London game will play Rochdale in the final at Leigh on Sunday, September 29 for the right to win promotion to the Championship.