Widnes reserves 40 Oldham reserves 26

Date published: Monday, August 23, 2010

THE Roughyeds second team’s admirable season in a Reserves Division dominated by teams from the Co-operative Championship came to an end at Widnes RU Club on Saturday afternoon with a 40-24 defeat by Widnes Vikings in the first round of the play-off.

After finishing fifth behind four such clubs from the higher stratum of the semi-professional game — Whitehaven, Featherstone, Leigh and Widnes — John Hough’s boys achieved their season’s main objective which was to qualify for the play-offs for the first time in three seasons of operation.

“We got to where we wanted to be, and that was tremendous,” said John. “But I’m a perfectionist who is always striving to go one step more, so I was a little bit disappointed that we lost at Widnes.

“There are lots of things we can learn from this season, and also from the play-off game itself. We stuck to our game plan for 20 minutes and everything was going well, but then we moved away from the plan and pressed the self-destruct botton.

“We have some good individuals who are going to be pushing for advancement within the club but we also have some players who are not quite up to the mark yet.

“We will soon be having an internal review of the season and making decisions. We have had a good season but we must always be striving to better ourselves and that will be the aim next year.”

The team at Widnes lined up like this: Coates; Lynch, Williams, Knight, Chetwynd; Hatton, Connick; Raftery, Mansfield, Mellor, Ward, Smith, Brocklehurst. Subs: Barrowclough, Joy, Cadd, Sutton.

Vikings recorded a league double over Roughyeds, but it was the visitors who started the brighter in this sudden-death contest. They went 12-0 up in as many minutes with tries by Steven Lynch and Scott Mansfield, both converted by Dean Hatton, standing in as goalkicker for the injured Mick Diveney.

Roughyeds adopted a brand of fast, expansive rugby from the start and they proved particularly troublesome to Widnes on the left flank where centre Alistair Williams and wide-running second-row man Michael Ward caused consternation in the Vikings rearguard on several occasions.

It was one such left-wing raid which had Vikings all over the show defensively and enabled Roughyeds to swing the ball across field to the right where winger Lynch crossed in the corner. Hatton landed a beauty off the touchline.

Two penalties then helped Oldham to set up camp once more in the Vikings quarter. Ben Mellor went close and hooker Mansfield dived in from dummy half. Hatton’s goal gave Oldham a 12-0 lead.

Vikings came back with a try when prop Dave Houghton put his fellow front-rower Craig Lawton through a big gap. Scott Yates goaled.12-6.

Oldham continued to look the more lively side in the early exchanges, however, and they kept up the pressure when they chased Hatton’s kick in numbers and trapped Vikings in-goal. Widnes had a moan about something, the referee awarded a penalty and Hatton’s goal put the visitors 14-6 ahead.

So far, so good. And it could have been even better. More excellent work by Ward in the left-centre channel sent Williams down the touchline , but he was just edged into touch by the desperate cover. Next up it was winger Danny Chetwynd’s turn to go clear only to be pulled back for a forward pass — a harsh decision.

Up to now, Oldham looked in great shape. They had received the first four penalties of the game as Widnes panicked and they had put the ball to plenty of good use. If there was to be a criticism it was that they might have made better use of opportunities created by their enterprise.

They needed to maintain this high standard of performance, but they were unable to do so and it was no coincidence that when penalties started to go the other way so too did the flow of the game. Having been mainly on the back foot for the first 20, Vikings capitalised on penalties to enjoy most of the possession and most of the field position in the second 20.

They scored two further tries before half-time, the second of which was an individual beauty by scrum-half Danny Hulme (another Hulme in the Widnes camp?) who recovered from a bad knock to sell a super dummy and then show the defence a clean pair of heels to cross from distance in the corner.

Oldham had one last chance to regain the lead before half-time. Tommy Connick’s chip over the top bounced favourably for Hatton. The move was carried on by Barrowclough and Williams, but when the ball was then moved right full-back Ross Coates came into the line, elected to kick and put the ball dead.

Widnes turned round 16-14 in front, but in Oldham’s first major trip into Vikings territory in the second half Barrowclough burrowed his way over from dummy half close to the line. Hatton goaled and Roughyeds led 20-16.

Sadly, the ball went loose as Coates tried to clear his lines on tackle two from the restart. The referee turned away Oldham claims of a steal, ruled knock-on and set in motion a series of events which included Oldham being penalised for dissent before the inevitable happened and Matt Strong went in for his second Vikings try.

The game was still finely balanced at 22-20 to Vikings, but Oldham were tiring now and starting to err too often for comfort. Vikings went on to score three more tries to book their passage into the next round before Hatton was sent off in the 71st minute for throwing a punch when retaliating to a tackle he didn’t like.

As ever, his enterprise had lifted Oldham and split the Vikings wide open, but he reacted angrily to a tackle as he tried to create an Oldham try at the left-hand corner flag.

As he left the field he knew his season, and that of the Roughyeds’, was over. But there was still time for one last hoorah and it came when Luke Sutton crashed over wide out — too wide out for Mark Smith to convert.