FIELDING a side without SEVEN players who would normally be expected to figure in the club’s strongest 17, off-colour Oldham were well beaten by Rochdale Hornets in the 2017 Law Cup clash at Bower Fold.
Hornets won 24-12, scoring four tries to two, and totally dominated the second-half when they scored three unanswered tries in a 15-minute spell that ensured the Law Cup would be going back across the M62 for the first time since 2011.
To make matters worse for Roughyeds, Scott Turner and Jamel Chisholm went off injured near the end and then George Tyson and Rochdale’s Paddy Jones were sent off for fighting as a fiercely-fought derby came to an end.
Oldham went into the game without Adam Clay, Danny Grimshaw, Nathan Chappell, Danny Langtree, Liam Thompson, Ben Davies and Kieran Gill, who will soon be linking up with the club for his season-long loan from Castleford.
Hornets were also without some big guns — notably Miles Greenwood, Jono Smith and Rob Massam — so in that respect perhaps not too much can be read into this result as a taster for the more important league games to follow.
Nevertheless, Hornets were full value for their victory. They ran harder than Oldham, tackled harder, made fewer errors in possession and looked more dangerous in attack.
As an attacking force, Oldham were at their best in the first 20 minutes. They forced three drop-outs from under the Hornets posts, but despite non-stop pressure for long periods they scored only once when Phil Joy took Gareth Owen’s flat pass from dummy half to crash over. Scott Leatherbarrow kicked the goal.
Rochdale’s defence was superb, as highlighted when they twice got numbers in the tackle to carry Tyson into touch on the first tackle.
Adding to Oldham’s woes, the visitors then scored a great try direct from a scrum when full-back Chris Riley joined the line at pace to make an outside break and score in the corner, Lewis Palfrey then adding a great goal off the touchline.
It stayed like that until 15 minutes into the second half when Roughyeds made another unforced error straight from a tap penalty and Hornets capitalised immediately with a Jordan Case try out wide on a slick Ben Moores pass. Palfrey again kicked the goal.
Next up, Dave Hewitt’s wide pass to Sammy Gee was forward and Hornets roared back downfield where Moores slid a little grubber into the in-goal and Middlehurst was on hand to touch down for their third try.
The tie was finally put to bed when Lewis Galbraith squeezed over in the corner and Palfrey rubbed salt into Oldham wounds with another superb goal off the touchline to take the visitors into a 24-6 lead.
There was a consolation for Roughyeds when Tyson chipped the ball forward, the ball ricocheted off a defender and bounced kindly for Owen, who crossed for a try which Leatherbarrow improved.
Leatherbarrow received the Oldham RL Heritage Trust trophy as Oldham man of the match; Danny Yates picked up the Karl Marriott award as Rochdale’s star man; and, as Rochdale captain, Palfrey stepped forward to receive the Law Cup 12 months after lifting it in Oldham colours.
Roughyeds coach Scott Naylor said: “Hornets were more aggressive than us and a lot smarter. They deserved to win so congratulations to their players and coaching staff.
“We have played three pre-season games and in all three we have played the wrong way. That can only mean one thing. We (coaching staff) are not getting the message across, so we’ll have to adopt new ways of getting it across.
“It’s a simple fix. But we need the players to learn quickly how to do the right thing at the right time.
“We’ve got a good squad made up of good players who I believe in, but they have to believe a little bit more in what we are trying to do and play the way I want them to play.”