Tony’s comments

Date published: Monday, May 17, 2010

NEIL Roden, who has missed the last two games with a broken toe, will be checked out late in the week before coach Tony Benson finalises his side for Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash with Hunslet Hawks at Whitebank Stadium.

“We are still hopeful,” said Tony, “but the current halves, Matty Ashe and Danny Whitmore, are starting to come together and half-back pairings are not made overnight. They have to play together. There was a big improvement this week on last and I think they have done well to get to where we are now.

“Halves are the decision makers. They have a big role to play in that. They were a lot better this week and hopefully there will be further improvement next week if they are still together in the middle.”

Of the players on duty in Sunday’s 46-12 win against London Skolars, full-back Paul O’Connor and prop Dave Ellison were taken off as precautionary measures after picking up knocks.

O’Connor damaged a hip in one of the first tackles of the game, when he took a towering bomb under the Roughyeds posts, but he soldiered on until shortly after half-time when Ben Heaton was switched to full-back and POC took a well-deserved breather.

Perhaps there were a lot of people in the ground who were not aware that most of Heaton’s first season in the Reserves was spent at full-back and it was in that position that he first started to arouse more than a passing interest in coach John Hough and the Roughyeds management.

His second long-range try in three games earned him the club’s champagne-moment award and brought this pat on the back from Benson.

“He popped up with another special, didn’t he. During the game he figured at loose-forward, second-row and full-back. That shows what a player he is — so versatile.”

The 18th man on this occasion was Dean Hatton, and Tony revealed later that Hatton had been training with the first team all last week as cover for hooker and half-back in the event of Martin Roden being ruled out by the ankle injury he sustained against York.

Said Tony: “Dean hasn’t had a lot of football in recent weeks because he was injured in his debut for the Reserves and he has played only once since in the win at York.

“It’s now time for him to learn how we play in the first team and part of that process came when he trained with us last week.

“With Neil Roden out and Martin Roden needing to get over his ankle problem I brought Dean in as cover and this meant that Mark Brocklehurst had to stand down. Mark was unlucky to lose out, but hooker is probably the one position he can’t play and I had to cover it.

“Kashley Watkins is also finding his feet again, but he has had very little rugby since January because of injury. There are some areas of his game he needs to work on. He needs a bit more time in the reserves and then he will come into contention.”

Of the Oldham performance against Skolars, he said: “I was happy with what we did in the first half and at the start of the second half, but once things opened up a bit we got a bit giddy and lost some of our composure.

“When gaps start to appear all over the place, as they did in the second half, you need to keep your head but we got excited at times and tried to play all the gaps at once.

“It was a tough, physical game and London put us under a lot of pressure. It could have been very difficult if we had not done the spadework in the first half. You can’t try to win games in the first five minutes; you have to put the foundations in place and it was because we did that, that we came through in the end.

“We got the rewards for the hard work we did in the first half.”