Match Report – Oldham Roughyeds v Hornets RL

Date published: Monday, February 8, 2010

OLDHAM 22 HORNETS 14

by Roger Halstead

Photo’s by Dave Murgatroyd

NOT the best game of rugby league we’ll see this season, but it provided Roughyeds with a derby triumph and that in itself is worth the odd fanfare or two.

A combination of early-season rustiness in both teams; a bitterly cold night; handling errors aplenty; and an astonishing 33 penalties added up to a frustrating 80 minutes for players and spectators alike.

“There was plenty of passion from both teams,” summed up Roughyeds boss Tony Benson, “but it was a stop-start affair and in terms of attacking rugby we couldn’t get going or find any rhythm.

“We were close to it at times, but invariably there would be a stoppage for a penalty and continuity came to an end.”

Oldham were awarded 15 penalties and Hornets amassed 18 — statistics which tell a tale of players on both teams struggling to meet the demands of a referee who, in turn, had to contend with new regulations.

A post-match explanation from the match officials indicated that players did not adhere to the new onfield policy regarding “hands in the tackle”.

Hornets played nearly all the second half with a man short after the dismissal in the 42nd minute of second-row man Dayne Donoghue for a late challenge on Matty Ashe after Oldham’s scrum-half had leathered the ball downfield.

Even so, the visitors were a lively lot who coped well with their numerical disadvantage. With hooker Phil Wood in fine form from dummy half they made a real fist of it in the second half and on several occasions brought out the best in Oldham’s defence.

The resilient Roughyeds were as stubborn as a mule and as busy as a beaver in defending their line. Hornets made sure they had plenty of work to do, but the home side’s appetite for working hard, scrambling energetically¬†and¬†tackling tenaciously¬†— especially close to their line — were qualities that ultimately paved the way for victory.

John Gillam and Mick Fogerty set the pattern with massive one-on-one tackles in the first few minutes.

Roughyeds suffered a setback, however, as early as the 17th minute when Gillam was forced to quit with a shoulder injury, this resulting in Fogerty’s move to the wing; Ben Heaton’s switch from loose-forward to centre; and Saqib Murtza’s call-up from bench to back-row.

Heaton twice ripped the ball in crucial one-on-one challenges in the second half at a time when Hornets were threatening to get back into the game — important interventions that earned him the Oldham club’s Champagne Moment Award from chairman Chris Hamilton.

The Man of the Match award went to the ever-consistent Paul O’Connor, whose knack of evading tackle after tackle while running the ball out of defence was an outstanding feature of a distinctly less than outstanding game.

There were others in the Oldham team who could also feel well satisfied with their individual contributions to this Northern Rail Cup encounter at Sedgley Park and none more so than prop Dave Ellison, who is quickly becoming such a fans’ favourite that he is already rivalling his fellow front-rower Wayne Kerr in popularity polls.

Ellison, he of the nifty sidestep and clever ball-release technique, scored the opening try in the tenth minute and went on to play a massive role in Oldham’s cause, challenging for both individual awards yet falling short of O’Connor for one and Heaton for the other.

A young second-row pairing of Joe Chandler and Chris Clarke came through with flying colours, too.

Chandler, reared at Leeds Rhinos, is clearly going to have lots to offer to Roughyeds this season.

Clarke is making huge advances in his transition from reserve team rookie to first-team hopeful. He and Heaton are proof positive that Roughyeds can produce their own and with others following behind — like Scott Mansfield who has also been awarded a senior squad number — the labours of John Hough and his reserve team are starting to bear fruit.

Matty Ashe and Neil Roden, at half-back, worked extremely hard with Roden having to work overtime on defence and Ashe handling the ball more than anyone else on the field with the possible exception of his opposite number Steven Roper.

The bantams had a great duel with honours just about evenly shared, although there was a bonus for Oldham’s Kiwi who landed four goals from four shots — in stark contrast to his none from three at Leigh — albeit one of them went in off the far post.

Oldham, playing up the slope, had to produce a huge defensive effort in the first half to go in at half-time with an 8-4 lead. Centre Danny Smith scored the Hornets try wide out while two Ashe goals complemented Ellison’s try for Roughyeds.

Benson’s boys quickly built a 20-8 lead early in the second half with tries by Chandler and Lucas Onyango, the result of kicks from Ashe and Neil Roden, and two goals from ASshe.

Credit Hornets though with the will and the skill to make a game of it despite the loss of Donoghue so soon after the break.

Daniel Samuel scored a great individual try which Roper improved and then Balou Fagborun chased a kick to the corner to hold off Onyango and grab the touchdown.

This put Hornets within six points of a draw, but they erred massively from the restart and the pressure was off. Oldham finished at the right side of the field and, when awarded a penalty, O’Connor took over from Ashe, who had left the field for attention, and kicked an easy goal.

Scorers: Oldham — goals, Ashe (4), O’Connor; tries, Ellison, Chandler, Onyango; Hornets — goal, Roper; tries, Smith, Samuel, Fagborun.

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

Hornets: English; Johnson, Smith, McPaul, Fagborun; Roper, Powell; Hayes, Wood, Raftery, Donoghue, Samuel, Ashall. Subs: Cookson, Ostick, Tunstead, Hough.

Referee: Jamie Leahy (Dewsbury); Att: 540.