Oldham 22 Rochdale Hornets 23

Date published: Monday, September 16, 2013

A last-minute drop goal by Paul Crook gave Rochdale a narrow victory in this play-off tussle at Whitebank after Roughyeds had fought back strongly in the final quarter to peg back ten points and level things up at 22-22.

We scored four tries to Rochdale’s three but in a tight game played in torrential rain and strong winds two penalties awarded to Hornets in good kicking positions were to prove decisive.

Crook was in masterful kicking form, landing a total of five goals from five attempts and then winning it for Hornets with his last-gasp one-pointer.

As well as that, he constantly kicked long to put our back three under pressure behind or near our try line and he also kicked two terrific 40-20 touch-finders, one of which led directly to a Rochdale try.

Crook was, without doubt, the difference between the sides and it was his ability to kick so accurately in the wind and rain that kept Oldham on the back foot for long periods of the game.

The flip side to that is to recognise how hard Oldham worked (particularly after a month without a game) to restore parity in the second half with two tries by Mo Agoro in the 66th and 76th minutes after doing a mammoth amount of tackling in the first half.

Statistics showed that we did more tackles in the first 40 minutes than in any other game this season, the reason for that being that not only did Crook kick us to death, but we tended to make mistakes when coming away from our own line.

Yet despite all that pressure, in which we gifted Hornets their second try just before half time, we still put ourselves in with a chance of winning — a pointer once more to the side’s fitness and self-belief.

Not only were we without full-back Richard Lepori on international duty, but we lost his replacement, Ton Whitehead, at half time with a broken hand, this causing Lewis Palfrey to move from full-back and Sammy Gee coming out of the forwards to slot in at half back as Kenny Hughes’s partner in the key pivotal positions.

All told, it was a bitterly disappointing day for Roughyeds, losing by one point in front of a crowd of 619 which could easily have been doubled but for the dreadful conditions.

We get a second chance this coming Sunday against London Skolars at Whitebank (3pm) for the right to meet Rochdale again in the final at Leigh on Sunday, September 29.

Scorers: Oldham — goals, Palfrey (3); tries, Ford, Hughes, Agoro (2); Hornets — drop goal, Crook; goals, Crook (5); tries, Greenwood, Case, English.

Oldham: Whitehead; Agoro, Cookson, Ford, Bloomfield; Palfrey, Hughes; Joy, Gee, Boults, Crowley, Langtree, HObson. Subs: Files, Thompson, Ward, Haggarty.

Hornets: English; Langley, Davies, Hull, Wareing; Crook, Roper; Forster, Hough, Thompson, Trumper, Llewellyn, Greenwood. Subs: Case, McClurg, Baines, Cookson.

Ref: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven); Att: 619.