Oldham Roughyeds v Swinton Lions

Date published: Monday, July 12, 2010

NEIL Roden masterminded the Roughyeds’ 42-30 win against Swinton at Whitebank — our fifth win in a row and one which keeps up snapping at the heels of leaders Hunslet Hawks in Co-operative Championship One.

In a typical derby — tight, intense and with both sides totally committed — Roughyeds were never behind in a high-scoring game. They finally got home by eight tries to five but only after the Lions had often threatened to snatch the lead and never more so than in the last five minutes.

Roughyeds led 38-30 at that stage and it then needed a last-ditch, try-saving tackle by Mick Fogerty in the corner to stop Lions winger Richard Flooks closing the gap still further with the kick to come.

There wasn’t much between the teams but Roughyeds had the game’s most effective playmaker in stand-off Roden, who had a superb game and produced a performance of try-making creativity which provided the biggest difference.

In a game that was brimming over with fierce forward exchanges; with front-rowers who were unstoppable at times; and with wingers who were almost as robust, Roden stood head and shoulders above the rest when it needed the cool, clinical head of an astute playmaker with the hands to match his vision.

Gregg McNally, his half-back partner, fashioned early Oldham tries for Chris Clarke and Marcus St Hilaire and then kidded the Lions defence to score himself on the very last play of the game after the hooter had already sounded.

But in between Roden, veteran of 243 Oldham appearances, gifted a walk-in for winger John Gillam at the corner with a peach of a cut-out pass in the 36th minute.

Early in the second half he ghosted through the gap himself to go over under the posts after selling an outrageous dummy.

He put Gillam in for his second try with another wide pass in the 54th minute and he was later involved in quick passing with full-back Paul O’Connor to give prop Wayne Kerr the chance to power over.

Kerr for Oldham and Phil Joseph and Dana Wilson for Swinton provided much of the go-forward for their respective sets of forwards.

But there was a fascinating contest, too, out on the wing where Swinton’s Rob Foxen and Oldham’s Lucas Onyango often played like extra forwards, so heavily involved were they in carrying the ball out of defence — and often turning defence into attack.

Foxen gave an outstanding performance of strong, direct running for the Lions, but so did Lucas for Roughyeds.

O’Connor, who led out the side on the occasion of his 101st Roughyeds appearance, also gave another exciting performance from the full-back spot and fans are still wondering how he came to have a late try disallowed for double movement when he appeared to clearly plant the ball down over the line with one hand and with plenty of downward pressure.

Oldham outscored the plucky Lions by eight tries to five, but in the shake-up for final league positions they are unlikely to be given a tougher examination of their title credentials than the one served up by Paul Kidd’s side.

Roughyeds got there in the end but they knew they had been in a game. Swinton never had their noses in front, but whenever they conceded they scrapped their way back into the contest and stubbornly refused to throw in the towel.

It would have been a travesty of justice had they not salvaged a bonus point, but they got what they deserved when McNally failed to convert his own try off the touchline in the last play of the game.

It was a new-look Lions side which took the field with Craig Harvey, on loan from Warrington, making his debut at stand-off and Dale Cuniffe, formerly with Rochdale and Leigh, also playing his first game at loose-forward.

Oldham brought back Neil Roden and Valu Bentley for the injured Matty Ashe and Craig Robinson.

In a nip-and-tuck first half Roughyeds shot into a 12-0 lead inside quarter of an hour with tries by Chris Clarke and Marcus St Hilaire, both courtesy of good approach play by McNally, who also converted.

Any thoughts that Oldham were to run away with it were soon dispelled. Foxen, on the Lions left wing, was unstoppable at times and he was soon on the scoresheet with a try in the corner.

Joseph crashed over from close range next and at 12-12 the Lions were roaring.

They conceded further either side of half time when Gillam and Neil Roden crossed the Lions line, but it seemed that whenever Roughyeds scored the Lions came back quickly with a try of their own.

Joseph’s second try pulled Lions back to 38-30 with six minutes to go and it was at that stage that Fogerty came to his side’s rescue with the most valuable tackle of the game.

Earlier both Fogerty and Onyango had pulled off crucial tackles also on the dangerous Foxen and on Richie Hawkyard.

Consider also that Wilson was held up over the line and that Harvey lost the ball in the act of going over the line and you see how close the Lions came to pulling off an upset.

Tony B and the boys always knew that two-try Phil Joseph, Gavin Dodd, Ian Watson, Dana Wilson and Lee Wingfield would want to turn it on against one of their former teams, and their performances were as expected.

Joseph, in his own inimitable style, crashed over for two tries; Doddy landed five angled goals from five shots; Watson probably handled the ball more than any other Lions player; Wingfield never stopped working; and Wilson, the big Cook Islander, brought out the best in Oldham’s gutsy defence every time he decided to take the ball up.

Young Darren Hawkyard, whose elder brother Richie played at full-back, also had a big game in Swinton’s second-row, watched by his uncle Colin, an Oldham fans’ favourite and ten-year testimonial man back in Watersheddings days.

It took a huge effort from everyone in the Roughyeds jersey to keep the home side’s noses out in front. They twice enjoyed a 14-point lead in the second half, but Swinton refused to buckle and kept on coming back to keep the contest tasty and totally competitive until the final hooter.

Scorers: Oldham — goals, McNally (5); tries, Clarke, St Hilaire, Gillam (2), N Roden, Kerr, Heaton, McNally; Swinton — goals, Dodd (5); tries, Foxen, Joseph (2), D Hawkyard, Burkinshaw.

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

Swinton: R Hawkyard; Foxen, Dodd, Burkinshaw, Flooks; Harvey, Watson; Meekin, Joseph, Mulalley, D Hawkyard, Wingfield, Cuniffe. Subs: Hulse, Wilson, Johnson, Ainscough.

Referee: P Brooke (Manchester); Att: 841.