OLDHAM totally dominated the first half; Swinton bossed the second. The big difference was that the Lions scored five tries at Heywood Road to their visitors’ one — a solo effort by George Tyson after a Luke Hooley penalty to touch.
As such, the Lions were worthy winners of a relegation battle that now condemns Scott Naylor’s men to a return to League 1 after two seasons in the Championship.
It was a sad day for Roughyeds, who were camped out at the Swinton end of the field in the first half without ever looking likely to turn a massive territorial advantage into points.
Full marks to an excellent defensive stint by the home side, who broke out only twice in the first 40 minutes — and scored on each occasion.
They led 12-6 at half-time, dropped a goal by Josh Woods midway through the second half and then broke Oldham hearts with further tries by Ben Austin, Oliver Davies and Rhodri Lloyd in the last quarter of an hour.
With Adam Neal, Joe Burke and Luke Adamson setting the lead, Oldham’s forwards made huge yardage early on and it continued with the introduction off the bench of Sammy Gee, Michael Ward, Sadiq Adebiyi and Jack Spencer.
The Lions were forced on the back foot and into defensive mode. They worked overtime to keep Roughyeds at bay and the sum total of dogged defence and the visitors’ shortage of defence-stretching creativity in the home 20 restricted Naylor’s men to the one try by Tyson in the first half.
By contrast, Swinton took 18 minutes to break into the Oldham half where they bust the visitors’ open with surprising ease. Luke Waterworth dropped off sub Caine Barnes with an inside ball and Barnes raced through a huge midfield gap to score a try which Chris Hankinson goaled.
Oldham were on terms within five minutes when the strong-running Tyson got over in the corner and Luke Hooley added the goal off the touchline.
Heavy rain made handling treacherous for both sides. Players repeatedly lost the ball or knocked-on in the tackle.
It was a typical arm wrestle, but under-pressure Swinton got a reprieve when Oldham’s Liam Thompson was penalised for an offence in the ruck. From that, Mike Butt was stopped on the left-hand corner and the home side quickly moved the ball to the other wing where Ilias Bergal was able to touch down a well-judged kick by Ben White.
Hankinson added the goal for a 12-6 interval lead, but with the clock ticking down to half-time Oldham got a penalty under the posts and after some deliberation chose to take the tap and maintain the pressure.
With the half-time hooter only three tackles away, Swinton held fast and one couldn’t help feeling that Oldham should have gone for the two points.
The weather deteriorated badly in the second half and that probably favoured Swinton, given that they were sitting pretty on a six-point lead against the run of play while Oldham were by now chasing the game.
The nearest they came to scoring was when Neal was held up over the Lions line, but more mistakes by the visitors allowed Swinton to apply pressure at the other end where Woods landed his drop goal.
Oldham heads dropped at that stage and their desire and self-belief — so evident in the first half – – seemed to get washed away in the heavy rain.
Swinton were now by far the better side and, unlike Oldham earlier, they could turn their football into points as demonstrated when a White chip near the posts created a try for Austin. Hankinson goaled and with a lead of 19-6, Stuart Littler’s men were half-way there.
Oldham looked a well-beaten side by this stage and the Lions finished the job strongly, with Waterworth sending in Davies for a try on the right edge and then Lloyd crossing for a fifth Swinton try near the end after capitalising on a Roughyeds error.
Oldham: try, Tyson; goal, Hooley.
Swinton: tries, Barnes, Bergal, Austin, Davies, Lloyd; goals, Hankinson (4); drop goal, Woods.
SWINTON: Murphy; Bergal, Hankinson, Lloyd, Butt; White, Woods; B racek, Waterworth, Austin, Davies, Paisley, Lever. Subs: Barnes, Carberry, Nicholson, Jones.
OLDHAM: Hooley; Clay, Tyson, Pearce-Paul, Lepori; Grimshaw, Hewitt; Neal, Hughes, Burke, Thompson, Bent, Adamson; Subs: Gee, Adebiyi, Ward, Spencer.
Ref: Chris Kendall;