Planning to keep up the good work

Date published: Friday, July 5, 2013
HAVING harvested 19 points from a possible 21 since Oxford beat them 18-16 at Whitebank in April, form-team Oldham are determined to keep up the good work at Iffley Road on Sunday.

They make a first visit to the city of dreaming spires, still smarting from what Tony Benson and his gang of Roughyeds old boys did to them on a Spring day which anyone of an Oldham RL persuasion would love to erase from the calendar.

Beaten by the class of 2012, the younger class of 2013 brushed themselves down, consigned a bad result to the memory bank and went on to win six of their next seven games while climbing to second place in the table and leaving Benson’s boys in their wake.

Oldham are a significantly better team now than they were early on when they lost two of their first three league games, slipping up to Rochdale and Oxford, both at Whitebank.

Back then, Lewis Palfrey looked burdened by the captaincy and was struggling to make an impact in his two key roles as team leader and chief playmaker.

Two months on, 23-year-old Palfrey is playing the best rugby of his career in a young side that has become a formidable force at this level.

There are numerous reasons for the team’s turn-around — not least the expertise of coaches Scott Naylor and Lee Spencer — but the way Palfrey has grown into his tasks as captain, stand-off and goalkicker, is definitely one of them.

He said: “Early on I was struggling to find form. I was thinking too much about the captaincy and about what other players were doing and not enough about what I was doing.

“Something had to change so I started to put more emphasis on my own game and once I’d got that right I just seemed to grow into the captaincy.

“We are going really well now, but I can’t forget the day Oxford beat us at Whitebank. It was a low point if ever there was one. We were all on a 100 per cent downer.

“We definitely owe them one. We also owe ourselves one, because the way we played that day it just wasn’t us.

“We need to give a big account of ourselves on Sunday to put the record straight.

“One of our plus points is that we understand where we are as a team. We know what works, and what doesn’t. Scott (Naylor) and ‘Spanner’ (Lee Spencer) have worked hard with us on all aspects of the game.

“For instance, we were conceding tries on the edges, but we’ve sorted that out now. We’ve become a hard team to beat.

“The attitude of all the players is first class — and our fitness is just ridiculous. We are regularly taking teams apart in the last 20 minutes.

“Our back three are a big part of what we do. They get us rolling forwards with their good returns and no one does it better than ‘Lippy’ (Richard Lepori).

“Our biggest strike player at the moment is ‘Fordy’ (Jon Ford), but everybody puts in a big effort week in and week out and that’s what we thrive on — teamwork.

“It was an unusual game last time we played Oxford because their coach and so many of their players were coming back to their former club for the first time with a point to prove. A few of them were no longer wanted by Oldham and did not figure in Scott’s plans.

“It was like a cup final to them and, to be honest, we were out-enthused.

“That hasn’t happened since and it won’t happen again.

“We are in for a tough game, but we have enough confidence in ourselves and in our coaches to know that, at the very least, we will put in a performance that will show no resemblance at all to how we played against them last time.”