Oldham 28 Crusaders 10

Date published: Monday, July 29, 2013

A MAGNIFICENT all-round team performance enabled Roughyeds to finish worthy winners at Whitebank in a great game against North Wales Crusaders that was well worthy of its top-of-the-table billing.

Crusaders also contributed much to a high-intensity match which was a great advert for the sport at Championship One level.

Oldham’s triumph, however, was as emphatic and clear-cut as the 28-10 scoreline would indicate.

It takes us five points clear at the top and puts real pressure on Crusaders who, for the first time this season, have been made to realise that title victories don’t come easily.

They have two games in hand, but providing Roughyeds win each of their remaining three games, Crusaders can’t afford to be beaten once in their last five.

Both teams have to go to London Skolars, which could be key.

To beat Crusaders so emphatically as to deny them a bonus point was more than Roughyeds fans could have hoped for, but Lewis Palfrey led the side magnificently and kicked the visitors to death.

It was largely as a result of Palfrey’s accuracy of kick and centre Jon Ford’s ability to finish strongly that Oldham led 18-4 at half-time and then soaked up loads of pressure in the second half before breaking Crusaders hearts with two superb tries in the last ten minutes.

A torrential downpour at half-time made handling hazardous for both sides after the interval.

Roughyeds went through a spell when they couldn’t get anywhere near to completing a set, but the more possession Crusaders had the tougher and more determined became the home side’s tackling and covering.

Then, just as it began to look as though Crusaders would at least pick up one point, Roughyeds brought their renowned physical fitness into play to step up a gear on attack and to finish strongly with two tries in the right-hand corner by Ford and his winger Mo Agoro.

Playing down the slope in the first half, Roughyeds scored tries by Kenny Hughes and Ford (twice), while Palfrey added two conversions and a long-range penalty goal, against a solitary Crusaders try by Dan Birkett.

The visitors pegged back Oldham’s lead to 18-10 with a Jono Smith try which Johnson converted from almost in front.

After that Oldham’s tireless forward excelled in defence just as much as they shone in attack earlier in the game.

Time was running out fast when Roughyeds stepped up a gear to provide an attack in which Sam Gee and Tom Whitehead handled swiftly before Ford completed his hat-trick with a great try.

The cheers had barely died down when Agoro crossed at the flag after excellent handling by Palfrey, Whitehead, Danny Langtree and Ford.

Palfrey landed a beautiful goal off the right-hand touchline and Roughyeds were home with plenty to spare.

Scorers: Oldham — goals, Palfrey (4); tries, Hughes, Ford (3), Agoro; Crusaders: goals, Johnson (1); tries, Birkett, Smith.

Oldham: Whitehead; Agoro, Ford, Crowley, Bloomfield; Palfrey, Hughes; Gilchrist, Gee, Joy, Langtree, Hobson, Ward. Subs: Files, Thompson, Haggarty,  Mason.

Crusaders: Johnson; Birkett, Reardon, Roets, Massam; Mousedale, Dallimore; Stephens, McConnell, Walker, Middlehurst, Bannister, Adamson. Subs: Macdonald, Braddish, Hudson, Smith.

Referee: D Merrick; Att: 1,209 (best in the division this season).