Oldham v London

Date published: Monday, May 17, 2010

IT was the day the ash(e) returned to the headlines . . . but while the volcanic variety caused aeroplanes to be grounded once again in the North-West, the Roughyeds version was flying high with seven goals and a generally much-improved performance in a 46-12 win against London Skolars.

Only the width of the near post on his eighth and final kick prevented half-back Matty Ashe completing a full house on a day when Oldham looked much more at home at Whitebank than they did in their first game there against York City Knights seven days earlier.

It wasn’t the perfect performance by Tony Benson’s boys by any means, but it was significantly better than the one they dished up in the previous game, writes ROGER HALSTEAD.

They still gave away too many penalties and, in the second half, failed to complete far too few sets.

Defensively, they showed a marked improvement to restrict a decent Skolars outfit to three tries — two of them scored by Harlequins forward David Williams, who has crossed the capital to play for Skolars on dual registration.

Offensively, all eyes were on the new Oldham half-back pairing of Ashe and Danny Whitmore for the second time in seven days —- and while no one would claim that this was the finished article it was a partnership that looked decidedly more structured than it did on debut against York.

There is still plenty of scope for more improvement in order to give lethal outside backs a much more fluid supply of quality possession.

Top try scorer Lucas Onyango, on the right wing, scored twice to take his total for the season so far to 13 — two more than left-centre Mick Fogerty and three more than full-back Paul O’Connor, who crossed once here to register six in his last five outings.

The strike power down the side’s left flank is the team’s most exciting attacking feature, but it needs to be given more good ball if the undoubted threat of Fogerty, Joe Chandler, O’Connor and winger John Gillam is to be realised to its maximum as it was earlier in the season.

In Neil Roden’s injury absence there seems to be considerably less depth to the attack when the ball goes wide. Fogerty, for one, received numerous flat passes which, at worst, might have invited interceptions and, at best, gave the dangerous centre no chance of escaping the clutches of man-and-ball tackles.

Neverthess, Gillam took a wide, cut-out pass from Whitmore to fly up the touchline and send in O’Connor for a 25th-minute try, and then the winger was given a walk-in at the corner near the end when Fogerty’s quick hands from a scrum put him in the clear up the touchline.

The other six Oldham tries came like this:

12 minutes: Wayne Kerr put in a strong drive to give his side good field position and quick left-to-right passing enabled Ashe and Paul Reilly to get Onyango scampering away up the line to cross in the corner.

15 minutes: Offences on Fogerty and O’Connor set up Roughyeds to apply more pressure and it ended when Martin Roden burrowed over from dummy half close to the line.

37 minutes: Roughyeds were leading 18-4 when Whitmore cleverly foxed the entire Skolars defence with a dummy that took him through to the full-back and then another piece of kidology with ball in hand to finish off under the posts without a finger laid upon him.

51 minutes: Another Ben Heaton special, reminding fans of his similar effort from long range at Doncaster. Having been switched to full-back for O’Connor, who went off with a hip injury, Ben got himself into dummy half just inside his own half. He then blitzed the Skolars defence with a shimmy and a step, followed by a race to the posts and the now customary, yet dodgy, flying dive over the line.

54 minutes: Ashe did a ‘show and go’ to be stopped just short, but in the next play there was no stopping Craig Robinson, who crashed in from close range on Martin Roden’s flat pass out of dummy half.

75 minutes: An inch-perfect cross-kick by Ashe found Onyango, who soared high into the air to take the catch and touch down.

Williams scored for Skolars in the 34th and 44th minutes, the first after O’Connor had pulled off a try-saving tackle on Ade Adebisi up the middle and the second following excellent handling and running by Dave Armot and Gareth Honor.

The third Skolars try came 12 minutes from the end when Adebisi’s strength and determination got him over, but Roughyeds had the last laugh with those late tries by Onyango and Gillam.

Loose-forward Chris Clarke had an all-action game up the middle and did enough on attack and defence to win the club’s official man-of-the-match award, not for the first time this season.

So Roughyeds kept their top spot in the division and set the scene for next Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash with in-form Hunslet Hawks at Whitebank. It should be an absolute cracker — not one for the faint-hearted and certainly not one to miss.

Scorers: Oldham — goals, Ashe (7); tries, Onyango (2), M Roden, O’Connor, Whitmore, Heaton, Robinson, Gillam; Skolars — tries, Williams (2), Adebisi.

Oldham: O’Connor; Onyango, Reilly, Fogerty, Gillam; Whitmore, Ashe; Boults, M Roden, Kerr, Heaton, Chandler, Clarke. Subs: Ellison, Robinson, Heaton, Mansfield.

Skolars: Adebisi; Arnot, Bryan, Paxton, Iwenofu; Isles, Thorman; Sykes, Prescott,Williams, Ball, Thomas, Boston. Subs: Aggrey, Purslow, Honor, Bloom.

Ref: Mr G Dolan (Batley); Att: 737.