OLDHAM produced a spirited performance to regain the Law Cup with a thoroughly-deserved 28-24 win against derby rivals Rochdale Hornets at the Crown Oil Arena.
Teamwork and the sheer will to win were key ingredients of a solid, all-round effort which earned unqualified praise from head coach Scott Naylor.
“This was the Oldham of old,” he said. “Their appetite for the challenge was second to none. They were proud to play for the club and they bought into our message that losing wasn’t an option. That, for me, was the biggest thing of all.”
Individually, there was an outstanding contribution by two-try centre Matt Reid, who had the sort of debut players can only dream about. His second try was an absolute gem which earned him the Oldham RL Heritage man-of-the-match award.
The left-flank, comprising of Reid, Danny Bridge and winger Chris Barlow, all playing outside Dave Hewitt, looked particularly threatening.
The variety of Hewitt’s kicking on the left and the strength and distance of Paul Crook’s boot on the other side of the field were largely instrumental in assuring that most of the second half was played in the Hornets half.
Crook chipped in for good measure with six goals from seven attempts and they included three second-half penalties, which were of paramount importance on a night when each side scored four tries.
Oldham, fielding 11 new boys in their squad of 20, were off to a great start when Kenny Hughes was held up over the line from dummy half and the ball was then shipped left where the tall and rangy Reid managed to squeeze over in the corner for an unconverted try.
Rochdale recovered their composure to take a 12-4 lead with tries by Ben Moores and Gary Middlehurst, both converted by Lewis Palfrey.
A Middlehurst bust up the middle laid on the Moores try before a Danny Yates cross-kick produced a try for Middlehurst, again converted by Palfrey.
It was important for Oldham to break back before half-time and they did it with a Hewitt chip to the corner which winger Barlow pulled into his body before crashing over. The try was awarded and Crook added the goal off the touchline to cut the home side’s interval lead to two points.
Oldham dominated the first 25 minutes of the second half to score ten unanswered points with two Crook penalty goals and then Reid’s gem of a try, again goaled by Crook.
Bridge released him at half-way with a beautifully-timed pass and the centre did the rest with an outrageous dummy on the full-back to cross without a finger laid on him.
With a 20-12 lead, Roughyeds looked home and dry, but credit Hornets with a lot of hard work to minimise the threat of the big boot from Hewitt and Crook.
First, they chased and harassed Crook to catch him in possession and when Oldham put the ball back to Hewitt to pursue their other kicking option Luke Adamson was up to charge down his former team mate’s boot-on-ball and score an easy try on the rebound. Palfrey added the goal quickly and it wide open at 18-20.
Both defences became more vulnerable in the later stages. Oldham, the better side, stretched their lead again when a confident and at times elusive Steve Nield pounced on Crook’s teasing chip to the Hornets line. Crook goaled and then added his third penalty of the match to take Roughyeds out to 28-18.
There were only three minutes let when Blake Turner forced his way over for a fourth Hornets try which Palfrey again improved, but Oldham held on for a win that wasn’t only fully deserved but which gave supporters plenty of optimism for the season ahead.
As always, the forwards were the heart and soul of a rousing team performance. They all worked hard, with eye-catching individual contributions from new boys Liam Bent, Luke Nelmes and Adam Jones.
Scorers: Hornets — tries, Moores, Middlehurst, L Adamson, Turner; goals, Palfrey 4/4; Oldham — tries, Reid (2), Barlow, Nield; goals, Crook 6/7.
HORNETS: Lepori; Kay, Mulkeen, Hurst, Gaskell; Palfrey, Yates; Taira, Moores, Mitchell, Middlehurst, Allen, L Adamson; Replacements, Maneely, Hadden, T Adamson, Hema, Turner, Brickhill, Hatton, Gregory.
OLDHAM: Johnson; Eccleston, Holmes, Reid, Barlow; Crook, Hewitt; Neal, Hughes, Spencer, Bridge, Langtree, Bent; Replacements, Briscoe, Davies, Jones, Nelmes, Nield, Wilkinson, Rasool.
Referee: John McMullen; Att: 504; HT: 12-10.