Oldham v Doncaster

Date published: Monday, June 14, 2010

ROUGHYEDS have a three-point lead at the top of Co-operative Championship One following a 28-18 win against Doncaster at Whitebank while title rivals Hunslet Hawks were slipping to defeat at Rochdale.

We were written off by many pundits after that puzzling and inexplicable 60-4 defeat by Hunslet three weeks ago, but it is how you respond to a serious setback that is the measure of your mental toughness — and Roughyeds have responded with three wins in a row against Workington, Blackpool and now Doncaster.

The reward was all the sweeter when news filtered through to Whitebank that our derby rivals from the other side of the M62 had done us a big favour.

The Dons provided tough competition for Tony Benson’s battlers, but we led 16-6 at half-time after 40 minutes of uncompromising rugby in which we scored three and had two disallowed, while the visitors scored one and also had another ruled out on the say-so of a touchjudge.

Early in the second half we stormed into a 28-6 lead with two more converted tries, but the Dons, playing down the slope in the second half, came back strongly at us and earned a bonus point by finishing only ten points in arrears.

Top performers in the Roughyeds side were Paul O’Connor, Mick Fogerty, Neil Roden, Gregg McNally, Chris Clarke and Wayne Kerr.

O’Connor won the club’s official man-of-the-match award, but he must have been challenged closely by Foggy and Wayne K, both of whom gave stunning performances in difficult conditions caused by incessant rain, a greasy surface and a wet ball.

Foggy scored one try, had another disallowed, tackled tenaciously all afternoon, and twice rose high in the air to retrieve possession and set up tries for first Joe Chandler and then, with Neil Roden’s expert assistance, for John Gillam.

Wayne Kerr, meanwhile, had arguably his best performance of the season so far on both defence and attack. His driving up the slope into the heart of the Dons defence in the second half was awesome.

Both teams went close to scoring in the early exchanges, first when Oldham’s Marcus St Hilaire took Gregg McNally’s kick only to be judged offside and then at the other end when Rob Lunt’s teasing kick to the Roughyeds’ line bounced kindly for home full-back Paul O’Connor.

Oldham were soon to go 12-0 up, however, with two tries in two minutes by winger Lucas Onyango on the right and centre Mick Fogerty on the left, both converted beautifully off each touchline by Gregg McNally.

Rain just before kick-off produced difficult conditions on a greasy surface and with a wet and slippy ball.

Both teams respected possession reasonably well, in the circumstances, and it was credit to Oldham’s handling abilities that on-loan McNally, playing in the last match of his initial one-month loan from Huddersfield, got Onyango in at the corner with a beautifully-delayed final pass.

Two minutes later similarly impressive handling to the other flank by Neil Roden and Ian Hodson got Fogerty sliding in at the corner flag, and McNally obliged once more with his touchline conversion.

There was another scare for the Dons when Fogerty touched down a Roden grubber only to be ruled offside.

Doncaster were in no mood for lying down, however, and they enjoyed their best spell of the first half in the run-up to the interval.

It was their turn to have a good effort disallowed for offside on the say-so of a touchjudge when stand-off Simon Brown cleverly reversed a kick for full-back Tony Griffiths to go over.

Then the impressive Lunt put in an inch-perfect kick to the corner for Shaun Leaf, but full-back O’Connor came to Oldham’s rescue by knocking the ball dead.

The pressure finally told, however, when Jack Ely crashed in for Doncaster’s opening try, goaled by Brown.

Doncaster, playing up the Whitebank Stadium slope in the first half, could have been well satisfied with a six-point interval deficit, but they were to concede again on the stroke of half-time. Another Neil Roden kick had them in trouble and Valu Bentley collected to go in.

Having been successful with the kick on that occasion, Oldham terrorised the visitors defence early in the second half with a barrage of bombs from Roden and McNally, and in these conditions they were to prove difficult to defend.

One such kick enabled Fogerty to collect brilliantly before sending in Joe Chandler for the Roughyeds’ fourth try. And within minutes Fogerty reacted in similar fashion again, this time to palm back McNally’s kick and to give Roden the opportunity to put winger John Gillam in at the corner.

McNally’s goals took Oldham out to 28-6, but Tony Miller’s men had no intention of going down without a fight and they battled back superbly to salvage a bonus point with a 55th-minute try by Chris Spurr and another by the inspirational Rob Lunt nine minutes from the end.

Brown’s clever kick over the defensive line enabled Griffiths to send in Spurr, and then Brown produced a fabulous 40-20 to set up position from which Lunt went over after a slick offload by Leaf.

Brown’s conversions took the Dons into bonus-point territory and it was no more than they deserved for their gutsy performance against the divisional leaders.

In a fiery finish, Oldham’s Neil Roden was sin-binned for dissent and two incidents were placed on report — the first against Doncaster when Kyle Kesick went high on McNally and the second against Oldham when Fogerty was spoken to following a touchline flare-up in which players of both sides were involved.

Oldham: O’Connor; Onyango, St Hilaire, Fogerty, Gillam; N Roden, McNally; Clarke, M Roden, Kerr, Heaton, Chandler, Hodson. Subs: Boults, Ellison, Bentley, Whitmore.

Doncaster: Griffiths; Colton, Leaf, Spurr, Henry; Brown, Fawcett; Bovill, Hughes, Crawley, Carbutt, Steen, Lunt. Subs: Kesik,Stanley, Watson, Ely.

Referee: Chris Leatherbarrow (St Helens); Att: 740.