Props key men in tough game

Date published: Friday, July 12, 2013
TWO of Super League’s up-and-coming young props will be up for comparison at Whitebank on Sunday.
Nathan Mason, 19, a product of Waterhead and now with Huddersfield Giants, will make his third loan appearance for Oldham, but his first at Whitebank.
James Greenwood, 22, raised at Saddleworth Rangers before signing for Wigan Warriors, is in his second season on dual-registration with South Wales Scorpions.
Mason, elevated this season to the Giants’ first-team squad on a full-time contract, is the taller of the two — 6ft 5in against 6ft 2in.
Greenwood has the advantage in weight — 17st 4lbs plays 16st 5lbs.
How these, and the other props, perform will have a huge bearing on the outcome of this game and on whether Oldham can get the better of the Welsh side for the third time this season and thus go top of Championship One.
During a superb run of eight wins from ten outings, Scott Naylor’s men have worked from a solid platform established up front by what the Oldham boss describes as his middle unit — his props and hookers.
While Jason Boults and Liam Gilchrist are out injured the bulk of the workload falls on the willing shoulders of Phil Joy and Michael Ward, products of the Roughyeds’ youth policy in whom Naylor and his No 2, Lee Spencer, have the utmost confidence.
Seen for the first time at Whitebank, their front-row allies on Sunday will be Mason and another new recruit in 22-year-old Matthew Haggarty.
On the broad shoulders of this quartet will rest most of the Roughyeds’ ability to make the hard yards against a pack which, despite Oldham victories, has twice provided Naylor’s forwards with plenty to think about.
Roughyeds won 24-12 in Neath last March in the Northern Rail Cup, but it needed a converted solo try by Jamie Dallimore near the end to finish off the Welshmen.
At the same venue last month in the league, a remarkable game ended 36-32 in Oldham’s favour thanks only to a last-gasp try by Mark Hobson after Scorpions had thrown away a gilt-edged chance to win it.
“Let’s face it,” said Naylor. “They have nearly beaten us twice, so they will be coming full of confidence to make it third-time lucky.
“We’ve had two tough games with them already, and this one will be no different. We’ll have to be 100 per cent on our game.”
Naylor has confirmed that he will make a couple of positional changes and will pick from 18, comprising the 17 who won at Oxford last Sunday plus Neil Roden.
Roden travelled to Oxford as the spare man.
Added the Oldham boss: “We’ve got to manage the squad wisely over the next few weeks, given that we are now on the final run-in.
“After the South Wales game we’ve got a Sunday off and then we have two crucial games with North Wales here and London Skolars away.
“I’m making the positional changes now with those other games in mind. All will become clear, but that’s all I want to say at the moment.”
Naylor and Spencer have appealed to local rugby league fans to back Roughyeds in numbers as they strive to climb out of Championship One after seven years in the third tier.
With five games to go, players, coaching staff and management refuse to concede defeat in the race for top spot, arguing that Crusaders will come to Whitebank under a lot of pressure if Roughyeds can win on Sunday to go two points clear.