Workington Town 16 Oldham 28

Date published: Tuesday, June 1, 2010

ROUGHYEDS held on to second place in Co-operative Championship 1 with a 28-16 win at Workington on the day Blackpool Panthers slipped to their first league defeat of the season at York.

Coming seven days after that mauling by Hunslet Hawks, it was a highly creditable performance by Tony Benson’s boys, who thus joined leaders Hunslet and third-placed Panthers as the only teams to have won at Derwent Park this year.

And as Roughyeds now take on Blackpool at Whitebank on Sunday (3.00pm kick off) it promises to be the sort of crowd-puller that will attract another sizeable attendance to our new home.

Up in Cumbria, Roughyeds got off to a slow start and went 10-0 down in the first quarter before turning the game around totally to score 28 unanswered points before Town earned themselves a bonus point with a late try and goal.

In the early stages Oldham looked hesitant and out of sorts, failing to complete sets and giving away needless penalties — six of the game’s first eight.

Town, in contrast, were dominant in the forwards — with or without the ball — and able to put Roughyeds under severe pressure out wide thanks to a slick service provided by halves Liam Finch and Scott Kaighan.

Town’s left flank strike force, comprising big centre Andrew Beattie, winger Mike Backhouse and second-rower Mike Whitehead, looked particularly dangerous as Town proved good value for their 10-0 lead.

Backhouse scored the opening try in the second minute after great work by Beattie before the Cumbrians extended their lead when Darren Holt’s chip into the in-goal was pounced on by Jarrod Stack. Holt added the goal.

A minute earlier Martin Roden had limped off with a damaged ankle, to be replaced by Danny Whitmore, who was to prove extremely influential as Roughyeds clawed their way back into the game — and then made it their own.

The combined effect of Whitmore’s introduction and those of replacement props Dave Ellison and Luke Sutton turned the game on its head.

Whitmore’s speed and mobility out of dummy half, allied to his good service with the pass, gave Ellison and Sutton the launch pad they needed to terrorise Town’s forwards up the middle and to start to give Roughyeds the forward drive and momentum that was so badly required on a narrow pitch.

The fightback began when Jason Boults stretched for the line on an inside ball after good work by Paul O’Connor and Whitmore. Matty Ashe added the goal, his first of four.

The high restart kick had Roughyeds in trouble. Town grabbed possession but this time the visitors’ defence was strong enough to put Beattie into touch at the corner — a sound piece of determined defending which inspired the side to go up to the other end and score again.

This time Whitmore and Ashe combined to put Ellison over, and Ashe’s goal gave Roughyeds the lead for the first time.

Another long break up the middle by Ellison, followed by Ashe’s kick for the in-goal to give Roughyeds back-to-back seats, kept Town pinned down in their own territory and under intense pressure.

They were always going to be broken again, and it happened on the stroke of half-time when Sutton, Ellison and Ashe all went close before Gregg McNally dabbed an inch-perfect kick into the in-goal for Mick Fogerty to score the first of his two tries.

Ashe goaled beautifully from wide out to give Oldham an 18-10 half-time lead and it could have been more in the first couple of minutes of the new half. Sutton crashed over the gain line near half way, as he did on numerous occasions, and slipped a super pass round the man for the supporting McNally to go clear only to be whistled up for what must have been a marginal forward pass.

Two more Oldham tries followed midway through the second half, and both were courtesy of Whitmore’s clever use of the ball from acting half-back.

He used the short side to send Fogerty surging for the corner and three minutes later he was instrumental in Oldham’s fifth and final try, appropriately going to never-say-die full-back Paul O’Connor.

Ashe’s goal made it 28-10, but Town got the bonus point they deserved when Marshall went in from dummy half on the line and Kaighan kicked the goal.

There was a brief flare-up by both sets of players on the stroke of full time. O’Connor retrieved a Town kick while on the charge and he was caught high by one of several Town chasers. It was the third or fourth time that the Oldham full-back had copped one, and within seconds both sides were pushing and jostling at close quarters.

When normality was resumed Town were awarded a penalty — presumably for retaliation on Oldham’s part— but the shot went wide.

This was a hugely improved performance by an Oldham side in which O’Connor, Chris Clarke, Ellison, Sutton and Whitmore were the stand-out performers.

On-loan McNally also caught the eye at times with some clever touches. He looked much more at home here than he did in his debut against Hunslet.

Scorers: Workington — goal, Holt; tries, Backhouse, Stack, Marshall; Oldham — goals, Ashe (4); tries, Boults, Ellison, Fogerty (2), O’Connor.

Town: Carter; Frazer, Low, Beattie, Backhouse; Finch, Kaighan; McDonald, Holt, Coward, Whitehead, Stack, Coupar. Subs: Marshall, Robinson, Rhodes, Campbell.

Oldham: O’Connor; Onyango, St Hilaire, Fogerty, Gillam; McNally, Ashe; Boults, M Roden, Kerr, Hodson, Chandler, Clarke. Subs: Ellison, Sutton, Heaton, Whitmore.

Referee: M Kidd; Attendance: 572.