Match Report – Oldham Roughyeds v Sheffield Eagles

Date published: Sunday, February 21, 2010


OLDHAM 22 SHEFFIELD EAGLES 24

by Roger Halstead

Photo’s by Dave Murgatroyd

Roughyeds bowed out of the Northern Rail Cup at Sedgley Park last night with pride intact and with the enthusiastic cheers of their fans ringing in their ears.

They had matched the Championship side all the way in a thrilling contest and had succumbed only to a long-distance penalty goal by Sheffield’s debut-making Irishman John Coleman a few minutes from the end.

It kept in place the Eagles’ unbeaten record in this competition, but Oldham could justifiably claim that they were worthy of at least a share of the spoils if not all three points on offer.

Both teams scored four tries, Eagles capitalising mainly on the size and power of their forwards while Roughyeds, in marked contrast, produced some delightful and expansive rugby to do most of their damage out wide on the flanks.

Having virtually qualified for the last eight before this game, Eagles boss Mark Aston delved deep into the resources of his large squad to leave out some of his more senior men and to field a side that nevertheless reflected the strength in depth of his playing resources at the Don Valley Stadium.

Nine of the players who figured in their 13-6 win against Halifax in the previous game were also on duty in this one — Ashley Thackeray, James Mossop, Dane McDonald, Craig Cook, Alex Szostak, Matty Brooks, Michael Haley, Trevor Exton and Ryan Hepworth.

The rest included ex-Super League wing star Richie Barnett, playing his first game for two years after a drugs ban; PNG star Menzi Yere in the centre; former Doncaster stalwart Peter Green; and Irish internationals Coleman and Tim Bergin, who formed a new right-flank partnership.

Defensively, the Irishmen were exposed by Oldham’s ability to move the ball crisply and at speed to their left side where Mick Fogerty in the first half and Ben Heaton in the second caused havoc and mayhem with their pace and elusive running when offered a little bit of room in which to move.

Oldham were off to a flier with two superbly entertaining tries in the first 11 minutes. Fogerty and Mark Brocklehurst formed a lethal-looking centre-wing pairing and they struck early with Fogerty making the decisive break on Neil Roden’s pass to put Brocklehurst up the touchline.

Martin Roden got with him on the inside and the move ended with the supporting Paul O’Connor diving over for a superb try which Matty Ashe converted from wide out for a6-0 lead.

Four minutes later Oldham were in again. This time O’Connor came into the line, Fogerty again did everything right and Brocklehurst finished off in the corner with a gtry that Ashe only narrowly failed to improve from the touchline.

Midway through the half Eagles were to make a substitution that was to have a major affect on the game when Sam Barlow replaced prop Ryan Hepworth. Roughyeds couldn’t hold Barlow, a big, explosive front-rower who scored the first of his two tries in the 24th minute to start Sheffield’s long climb back into contention.

Alex Rowe, another big forward, smashed up the middle and from the next play-the-ball close to the line Barlow battered his way over for a try which Coleman goaled. Eagles, playing down the slope, came stronger as the half wore on and they built a 12-10 interval lead when Cook made a vital break before sending in Coleman for a try which the Irishman also goaled from wide out on the angle.

Oldham were to start the second half as they had started the first — with two tries in the space of four minutes.

A superb piece of razzle-dazzle from Heaton split the Eagles defence asunder and although Thackeray got across to pull off a try-saving tackle the visitors were in such defensive disarray that Neil Roden crashed over from the next play-the-ball. Ashe goaled for a 16-12 lead.

Minutes later came a fourth Oldham try, and it was another beauty that rivalled both those in the first half for pure footballing skill and class.

Roughyeds blew a couple of further chances to score in the first half, but they made no mistake to go in for their fourth try in the 49th minuteĀ thanks to a lovely ball in the tackle from Chris Clarke, one of only several young players who continues to come on in leaps and bounds.

He slipped a peach of a pass in the tackle to send Marcus St Hilaire wide of the cover on the right and ‘Junior’ did the simple thing right by drawing the last defender and giving Lucas Onyango a run-in to the line. Ashe’s angled goal sent Oldham into a 22-12 lead which was fully merited on the balance of play and the quality of football they had produced.

Having been reduced in number, however, because of injuries to Fogerty and Danny Whitmore, Oldham were put under a lot of pressure in the last 20 minutes when one-on-one tackles lost a lot of their earlier venom and when the midfield playmakers like Neil Roden, Matty Ashe and Martin Roden struggled to make maximum use of large in-goal areas when putting boot to ball at the Sheffield end of the field.

The ball ran dead from Oldham kicks on numerous occasions and this gave Eagles a lot of possession which their big forwards put to good use to pull level with tries by Green and then the unstoppable Barlow, Coleman’s goal making it all square at 22-22.

That would have been a fair result but with time running out Martin Roden was penalised for a high challenge and Coleman made no mistake when striking home the winning goal.

Individually and collectively, Oldham could be proud of their effort which augurs well for the Co-operative Championship One campaign which starts this Sunday on the same ground against Swinton Lions.

O’Connor took the man of the match award and Heaton won the champagne-moment prize, but there were other eye-catching performances by a whole string of players, including Fogerty, Brocklehurst, Martin Roden, Wayne Kerr and Clarke, who once again worked overtime in defence.

Scorers: Oldham — goals, Ashe (3); tries, O’Connor, Brocklehurst, N Roden, Onyango; Sheffield — goals, Coleman (4); tries, Barlow (2), Coleman, Green.

Oldham: O’Connor; Onyango, St Hilaire, Fogerty, Brocklehurst; N Roden, Ashe; Boults, M Roden, Kerr, Heaton, Chandler, Clarke. Subs: Ellison, Saqib, Robinson, Whitmore.

Sheffield: Thackeray; Barnett, Yere, Coleman, Bergin; McDonald, Brooks; Hepworth, Cook, Haley, Szostak, Green, Exton; Subs: Kesik, Barlow, Mossop, Rowe.

Referee: Mr R Hicks (Oldham); Att: 330