Rocking Roughyeds now five points clear

Date published: Monday, July 29, 2013

OLDHAM and North Wales Crusaders are locked in a neck-and-neck race for the Championship One title  — and automatic promotion.

The Roughyeds’ magnificent 28-10 win against the Welsh side at Whitebank extended their lead at the top to five points.

A crowd of 1,209, twice this season’s Whitebank average and the best this year in the entire division, included an estimated 150 Crusaders supporters.

Oldham fans were delighted at the end when the players stopped near the tunnel, in front of their supporters, and gave a rendering of their victory song, with actions, which they normally perform in the privacy of the dressing room.

Crusaders have five games to play and if they win them all they will win the title no matter what Oldham do in their remaining three games.

If Roughyeds pick up a maximum nine points, however, Crusaders can’t afford to lose, although four wins and a draw would probably clinch it for them because of their superior for-and-against record.

Remaining games are as follows:

OLDHAM: London Skolars (a); Gloucester All Golds (h); Rochdale Hornets (a).

CRUSADERS: Gateshead (a); Hemel Stags (h); Oxford (h); London Skolars (a); South Wales Scorpions (home).

Said Roughyeds’ boss Scott Naylor: “We’ve got to put the Crusaders game out of our minds now. It’s not relevant any more.

“All we can do is concentrate on what’s ahead of us and hope that somebody does us a favour.

“We’ll take one game at a time, and what will be will be.”

Naylor praised his side collectively for a job well done in beating Crusaders, but he singled out full-back Tom Whitehead for his “excellent” performance on debut.

A recent signing, Whitehead got his chance because regular full-back Richard Lepori played for Italy against Germany on Saturday and, from the wing, scored three tries in a runaway Italy win.

Said Naylor: “I’m delighted for both of them, Richard for doing so well on his international debut and Tom for stepping into the breach for his first game at anything like this level for many weeks, and performing excellently. He did a great job for us.”

Whitehead (21) said: “It was good to be back playing again. I had a chest infection early in the week, but it’s a lot better now although not completely cleared.”

Mark Hobson sustained a gash in a clash of heads with Kenny Hughes, but carried on after treatment and later had it repaired with four stitches.

Jon Ford scored his third hat-trick of the season and took his total number of tries for Oldham to 16.

“The third one gave me most satisfaction,” he said, “because it was significant in terms of denying Crusaders a bonus point. It was a big moment.”

David Cookson, whose place at centre went to Josh Crowley, was unavailable because of a commitment away which had been previously agreed with the club.