Young bulls hold the key

Date published: Thursday, April 25, 2013

SCOTT Naylor will be relying on his young bulls to make the going tough for Oxford’s senior citizens in the key battle for pack supremacy at Whitebank on Sunday.

In terms of age and experience there will be little to separate the respective threequarters and half-backs of Naylor’s Oldham  and Tony Benson’s Oxford.
But it will be a hugely different story in the forwards.
The backbone of Benson’s pack will be formed by the 30-and-over club — Martin Roden (33), David Ellison (31), Danny Halliwell (32) and Valu Bentley (30), with John Clough, always a threat from dummy half, not far behind at 28.
Oldham’s Jason Boults (29) has seen similar service, but most of the other Roughyeds forwards are in their first season of senior rugby.
Naylor and his right-hand man Lee Spencer pin great faith in up-and-coming young forwards like Adam Files (19), Callum Marriott (19), Josh Crowley (21), Danny Langtree (22), Liam Thompson (21), Michael Ward (22) and Phil Joy (21).
Benson, sacked by Oldham towards the end of last season after nearly four years in the job, says his return to Whitebank will not be affected by emotion.
“It will mean the world to Oldham,” he said, “but to us it’s just another game. It will be a good test, but we go there with no great expectations.”
Naylor, too, is taking a low-key approach, while accepting that the return of so many of last year’s Oldham players now in Oxford shirts will provide ‘a little bit of spice’.
He added: “I know some of our players have kept in touch with the lads who have gone to Oxford, so players on both sides will have vested interests in terms of wanting to do especially well.
“From my point of view I’ll approach it like any other game. Come Sunday the boys will be ready to go.”
The under-20s are in action at Whitebank tomorrow (Fri) night (8pm kick off) against the strongest side in the competition, Featherstone Rovers.
Oldham will give a debut to 17-year-old stand-off Jack Morgan, who was previously in the academy at Warrington Wolves, and pair him at half-back with the impressive Sam Singleton (19), who has given eye-catching performances in his two previous appearances for the Roughyeds.
Reece Whitfield, Jordan Morris and Sam Hughes are out through injury, while Mike Halsall and Cameron Davies are unavailable.
Team (from): Fitzsimmons; Ward, Foreman, Pickerstaff, Woods; Morgan, Singleton; Hall, Sargeant, Rasool, Hargreaves, Bradley, Ashcroft, Sherratt, Ball, Hurley, Parsonage, Hudson.
* Rugby Oldham, the Supporters’ Trust, will holds its AGM at the Junction Inn, Ripponden Road, on Sunday, starting at 1pm so that members will have plenty of time to get to Whitebank afterwards for the Oldham v Oxford game.