Spying on the opposition

Date published: Friday, September 6, 2013

OLDHAM Rugby League Club’s coaching double-act of Scott Naylor and Lee Spencer will be at Spotland on Sunday to run the rule over the Roughyeds’ play-off opponents.

Leaving nothing to chance, the men who hope to steer Oldham to promotion in their first season at Whitebank will take in the clash of third-placed Rochdale Hornets and fourth-placed London Skolars.

The winners will go head to head with Oldham at Whitebank on Sunday week, September 15 (3pm kick off) for the right to go through to the final at Leigh Sports Village on September 29.

As Championship One runners-up, Roughyeds finished a massive NINE points ahead of both Rochdale and London, but Naylor is acutely aware that what has gone before will count for precisely zilch in the intimidating atmosphere of play-off rugby.

It’s with that in mind that the Oldham boss wants to check on the current form of both clubs.

He expects home advantage to tip the scales Rochdale’s way against a Skolars side that, on its day, is well capable of causing an upset.

In the league, Oldham beat Skolars 30-22 at Whitebank and 44-24 in North London, but honours were shared in the derby clashes with Rochdale.

Hornets won 28-18 at Whitebank on the opening day of the league campaign on March 29, but Naylor’s men avenged that defeat with a 30-25 win at Spotland in the Roughyeds’ final game of the regular season.

In a break from routine, Naylor took his squad to Leigh last night for a practice run-out behind closed doors against the Centurions’ first-team squad, which was getting ready for a tough Championship play-off clash at Featherstone on Sunday.

“Scott was delighted with what the exercise achieved. It was exactly what he wanted,” said Roughyeds chairman Chris Hamilton.

Rochdale centres Danny Davies and Dave Hull are injury doubts, Davies having damaged a hamstring in last week’s win against Gloucester.

Said coach Ian Talbot: “We’re hitting form at the right time. We fancy our chances against anybody at Spotland.”

Skolars beat Rochdale in London, but lost at Spotland in both league and Northern Rail Cup.

“Hornets always peak at the back end of the season, but if we execute our game plan we’re confident of getting a win,” said Skolars boss Joe Mbu.

In Sunday’s other play-off game, Hemel Stags are at home to Tony Benson’s Oxford. The losers go out.