Top of the league

Date published: Monday, March 15, 2010

by ROGER HALSTEAD

ROUGHYEDS sit on top of the Co-operative Championship 1 league table today thanks to a better scoring difference than new club South Wales Scorpions.

Both have the maximum six points from two games played, but Oldham have a scoring difference of 31 against the Welsh team’s 12.

The only other unbeaten side so far is Blackpool Panthers, but they have played only one game.

The impressive feature of Roughyeds’ performances hitherto is that both wins were away from home and both were against sides that have recruited heavily on experienced players and were generally fancied to be among the strongest teams in the division when the bookies announced their pre-season odds.

Tony Benson’s boys opened up with a 38-20 win at Swinton followed by a 29-16 victory at title favourites Hunslet.

“It’s fine to be on top of the pile,” said Tony, “but it’s nothing to get too excited about just yet.

“It was always going to be a tough division and this week-end’s results (Workington beating York and South Wales making it two wins from two) have merely confirmed what we already knew.

“Every other team in the division will improve as the weeks go by so it is up to us to make sure that our rate of improvement is such that it keeps us ahead of the pack.”

On the injury front, winger John Gillam is waiting for a scan on the shoulder he damaged in the Northern Rail Cup win against Rochdale and on which he later suffered a setback in the Reserves’ pre-season friendly at Keighley.

Paul Reilly (knee), Ben Heaton (knocked out), Jason Boults (shoulder) and Matty Ashe (eye) were casualties at Hunslet, but with no game now until the derby clash at Rochdale on Good Friday there is ample time for rehab and recovery.

With four goals and two tries at Hunslet and two tries and ten goals against Blackwood Bulldogs in the Carnegie Challenge Cup, scrum-half Ashe took his points tally in the last two games to 44.

This despite getting a painful and accidental poke in the eye from team mate Valu Bentley which took him out of the game for a lengthy period while a doctor established that he had not suffered serious damage.

“There was a worry that he might have suffered a detached retina,” said Tony, “but the doctor inserted dye into the eye and checked him out thoroughly. He established that it was only a scratch and that Matty could go back on, but he was in a lot of pain and he couldn’t see out of that eye so the decision was largely his.

“He was determined to go back on and of course he scored the vital try that stretched our lead again after they had pegged us back to 18-16.”

Skybet odds for the title (before last weekend) were: Hunslet 6-5fav; York 7-2; OLDHAM 6-1; Blackpool 6-1; South Wales 10-1; Swinton 12-1; Workington 25-1; Hornets 33-1; Doncaster 66-1; Gateshead 100-1; London Skolars 150-1.

Lucas Onyango and Lee Waterman of York are 8-1 favourites to top the Championship 1 list of of try scorers.

Five players are priced at 10-1 — Bolu Fagborun of Hornets; Stuart Kain, Michael Mark and Wayne McHugh of Hunslet; and Danny Ratcliffe of York.

You can 12-1 on Dave Hull of Swinton and Lee Williams of South Wales and 14-1 on our own Marcus St Hilaire.

Other Oldham players listed are Paul O’Connor (25-1), John Gillam (40-1), Craig Littler (40-1) and Mick Fogerty (50-1).

Roughyeds were in the TV spotlight over wide areas of the country yesterday (Sunday) when their Carnegie Challenge Cup win over Blackwood Bulldogs was featured on the BBC’s Super League Show.

Several of Oldham’s 15 tries were shown and there were interviews afterwards with Tony Benson, Wayne Kerr and the chairman of the Bulldogs.

A BBC camera crew will now follow Roughyeds throughout their interest in the competition, continuing with the fourth-round tie at Hunslet next month.