Oldham 52 – 26 London Skolars

Date published: Tuesday, April 19, 2011

WE got back to winning ways with a 52-26 triumph over London Skolars and that was just what coach Tony Benson wanted as we prepare for two tough challenges over Easter, including the traditional Good Friday derby with Rochdale Hornets at Whitebank.

Tony rang the changes in team selection, making nine in all comprising of five positional and four in personnel.

Including in those coming into the team was new boy Luke Stenchion, the former Batley and Dewsbury prop, whom we have signed on a deal to the end of the season.

Luke gave an eye-catching performance on debut and quickly made himself a favourite of the Whitebank faithful with a couple of busts down the middle and numerous tackles that forced the Skolars forwards into costly mistakes.

You can’t buy experience like that provided by Marcus St Hilaire, Neil Roden and Stenchion, but Tony B again demonstrated that he wasn’t afraid to give youth its fling by recalling 18-year-old Matthew Fogarty at centre and sticking with rookie winger Shaun Robinson, who has grabbed his opportunities with both hands in recent games.

Both did sterling work in this ten-try triumph which included, in the 32nd minute, a magic moment for skipper Roden, who took John Clough’s flat pass to dance behind the sticks for his 100th cup-and-league try for Roughyeds in a long and distinguished career in the Oldham jersey.

The home side led only 10-8 after 20 minutes, but in the run-up to half-time they monopolised possession to take the game out of Skolars’ grasp with 32 points in a 17-minute blitz.

The Londoners showed they were no mugs by giving leaders Swinton Lions a massive fright seven days earlier and that must have been uppermost in Oldham thoughts when centre Dave Arnot and winger Ade Adebisi scored early tries by capitalising on errors by young Fogarty and Lucas Onyango.

Oldham also opened their account thanks to an uncharacteristic error by Neil Thorman, whose fumble of a Mick Diveney kick enabled the Roughyeds scrum-half to retrieve possession and stroll to the line.

Apart from conceding the Adebisi try in the corner Oldham never looked back. Throwing caution to the wind and producing some lovely wing-to-wing rugby they rattled in another seven tries before half-time  from Robinson (2), Jason Boults, Paul Noone, Onyango, Neil Roden and full-back Mark Brocklehurst.

Robinson crossed on Roden’s dab to the corner; Boults showed a splendid turn of pace to go up the middle on Martin Roden’s defence-splitting pass; man-of-the-match Noone touched down another Neil Roden chip; Onyango scored the first of his two thanks to great work by Diveney and Fogarty up the right flank.

Neil Roden went in next after a link-up by Stenchion, Dave Ellison and Clough — and as the onslaught continued Robinson got his second in the corner and then Brocklehurst touched down after Neil Roden had put Valu Bentley up the middle.

Roughyeds fans expected the points pile-up to continue in the second half, especially when Diveney danced and dodged his way over for the ninth Oldham try within two minutes of the restart.

It didn’t happen. Oldham lost a lot of their poise and enterprise after that and, to their credit, Skolars restored considerable pride with three excellent tries — two of them by Clement-Pascall and another by scrum-half Dylan Skee..

Oldham’s only other moment of magic came midway through the second half when Lucas fastened on to a loose ball to show the Skolars defence a clean pair of heels in a length-of-the-field scoring dash.

Scorers: Oldham — goals, Diveney (6); tries, Diveney (2), Robinson (2), Boults, Noone, Onyango (2), N Roden, Brocklehurst; Skolars — goals, Latus (3); tries, Arnot, Adebisi, Clement-Pascall (2), Skee.

Oldham: Brocklehurst; Onyango, Fogarty, St Hilaire, Robinson; N Roden, Diveney; Boults, Clough, Clarke, Isherwood, Noone, M Roden. Subs: Stenchion, Bentley, Whitmore, Ellison.

Skolars: Thorman; Latus, Arnot, Cook, Adebisi; Skee, Coleman; Murtza, Honor, Hart, Purslow, Clement-Pascall, Aggrey. Subs: Burke, Gee, Simon, Williams.

Referee: Chris Leatherbarrow; Att: 566.