Match Report – Leigh v Oldham

Date published: Sunday, January 31, 2010

LEIGH CENTURIONS 24 OLDHAM 12

By Roger Halstead

Photo’s by Dave Murgatroyd

For pride in performance — and a stubborn refusal to allow the Centurions to march all over them — Tony Benson’s Roughyeds get ten out of ten for their sterling efforts in this Northern Rail Cup opener on a snow-covered pitch at Leigh Sports Village.

They didn’t deserve to find themselves 18-0 down early in the second half but their spirited teamwork and sheer hard graft were rewarded in the last half hour when they outscored their Championship opponents by three tries to one to send supporters home contented and greatly encouraged.

Referee Ronnie Laughton penalised Roughyeds six times in a row late in the first half and despatched Mick Fogerty to the sin-bin for a technicality — and the visitors were made to pay when conceding two crucial tries while they had only 12 men on the pitch.

The tables were turned in the second half when Leigh constantly incurred the wrath of the referee. This time half a dozen consecutive penalties went to Oldham and, sure enough, they provided Benson’s boys with enough possession to emulate what Centurions had done earlier and to score two tries in the space of a few minutes.

Every one of Oldham’s 17 players rolled up the sleeves of his “Holland’s Pies” jersey — that’s another story — to put in a hard-working, value-for-money shift at the game’s coalface.

Stand-off Neil Roden and young second-rower Joe Chandler surpassed expectations in their first taste of action since last season, but to find the side’s top two on the day you had to look no further than props Wayne Kerr and his former London Skolars team mate Dave Ellison.

Following closely on their heels were centres Craig Littler and Fogerty, while Matty Ashe gave a creditable performance at scrum-half and could be compared very favourably indeed with his celebrated opposite number Robbie Paul.

Oldham were the more dangerous and enterprising side in the opening quarter once they survived an early scare when Dave Armitstead went close to scoring and was then sin-binned.

The visitors defied the difficult conditions to move the ball well from right to left on a couple of occasions, but they were twice denied when wide passes were forward — Neil Roden to Fogerty first and then Ashe to John Gillam with Leigh stretched both times.

A superb cover tackle by Gillam on Leigh winger Steve Maden kept Centurions at bay before it was Leigh’s turn to rise to the occasion in defence to deny Ellison on the burst with the try line looming.

Maden finally opened the scoring for Leigh in the 24th minute when he flew in at the corner and there followed a period when Oldham worked overtime on defence, getting men into the tackle and scrambling well.

They forced errors to regain possession, but as half-time approached with only one score in it a series of incidents worked against them and enabled Leigh to go in for tries by Dave McConnell and Tommy Goulden in the 35th and 37th minutes — a real blow this and one they didn’t deserve.

First, they took a wrong option from a scrum in these conditions and tried to work the short side with the result that Littler was bundled into touch on tackle one; the centre’s one mistake in an otherwise impeccable performance.

Then, with his under pressure, Fogerty was sin-binned and while he was off the field Leigh extended their lead to 14-0 at half-time.

Early in the second half Chris Clarke, a young forward who is coming along nicely, went close to scoring from Ashe’s cross-kick, but Oldham’s pressure ended when they conceded a silly penalty on the Leigh line.

It turned defence into attack for Leigh and after a strong probe up the middle by Mick Nanyn, Maden went in at the corner for his second try and an 18-0 Leigh lead.

Undaunted, Roughyeds hit back. Lucas Onyango flew in at the corner to touch down Neil Roden’s angled grubber kick and within minutes the visitors were in again when Ashe’s high crosskick to the left was palmed back by Fogerty for Gillam to crown a sound individual display with a try in the corner.

At 18-8 Oldham were back in it, but Leigh stretched their lead again when Dale Cunniffe squeezed in from dummy half.

Before the next score, Ashe turned defence into attack for Oldham with a timely interception and Neil Roden was placed on report for a high tackle on Adam Higson.

Another spell of solid Oldham defence followed before Roughyeds scored the best try of the game in the last minute.

Neil Roden’s midfield kick got a deflection; Paul O’Connor (save under the high ball all afternoon) followed through at speed, fed the supporting Kerr and he in turn found Fogerty, who finished off strongly in the corner.

All three Oldham tries were too far out for Ashe to convert, but these were difficult conditions for even the best of marksmen (Nanyn landed only two from five) and it would be cruel to allow those misses to devalue the Kiwi’s significant contribution to Oldham’s highly encouraging all-round performance.

Scorers: Leigh –goals, Nanyn (2); tries, Maden (2), McConnell, Goulden, Cunniffe; Oldham — tries, Onyango, Gillam, Fogerty.

Leigh: Mort; Maden, Higson, Nanyn, Ridyard; Hartley, Paul; Hill, McConnell, Armitstead, Taylor, Goulden, Leuluai. Subs: Duffy, Cunniffe, Ainscough, Meekin.

Oldham: O’Connor; Onyango, Littler, Fogerty, Gillam; N Roden, Ashe; Boults, M Roden, Ellison, Chandler, Clarke, Bentley. Subs: Kerr, Mellor, Whitmore, Heaton.

Referee: Mr R Laughton (Barnsley); Att: 1,627