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Spirited Roughyeds give their all in Cup defeat

NO Challenge Cup shock this time . . . but 17 players in Oldham jerseys gave their all in a 32-0 fifth-round defeat by Super League outfit Hull KR at Bower Fold.

Roughyeds knew that Rovers would be determined not to slip up this time, like they did against Scott Naylor’s men in the same competition at Craven Park in 2016, and so it proved.

The visitors were clinical in the first half, when left-centre Junior Vaivai had an absolute blinder as Rovers built up a 20-0 interval lead.

They scored two more tries in the second half and benefited from a penalty count of nearly two-to-one in their favour.

The tell-tale figures were 6-2 in the first half and 9-6 in the second, equivalent to 15-8 overall.

They don’t tell the whole story, though. Rovers had five penalties in a row in the first half and four of the first six in the second half, producing a run of nine out of 11 in a period that roughly covered half the game either side of half-time.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, it was during that period that Rovers scored five of their six tries when they had nearly all the ball — three in the 15 minutes before half-time and two more in the first 16 minutes of the second stanza.

Oldham spent most of the game defending against full-time professionals who played at a level that was vastly superior to anything ever seen in Betfred League 1.

They handled with speed and precision, had the knack of smuggling out offloads, displayed great footwork (even the big men) and had the ability to turn chances into points.

Credit Roughyeds, though, with a backs-to-the-wall fight that was brimming over with gallantry, guts and a stubborn refusal to let heads drop or to be bullied and bossed around by the bigger Rovers forwards.

Considering they were faced by quality opposition from Super League and were penalised nine times it was quite remarkable, in fact, that Scott Naylor’s men should let in only two second-half tries after the pounding they had taken in the run-up to half-time.

The middle-men — Phil Joy, Jack Spencer, Liam Bent, Craig Briscoe, Adam Jones and Luke Nelmes — made the Rovers forwards scrap for every yard and made sure they knew they were in a battle.

It was on the edges, and especially when catching Roughyeds out by running the ball on the last tackle, that Rovers did the damage.

New Zealand-born Vaivai, who made his debut at Warrington last week only because Tim Sheens had centre problems, is clearly going to give his boss problems of a different nature when his regular centres are back in harness.

Vaivai was the main man in creating each of the visitors’ four first-half tries by Chris Atkin, Adam Quinlan (2) and Will Oakes.

Size and strength, twinkle toes, acceleration, and a fierce fend combined to put the former NRL player in a league of his own.

Oldham’s right edge was torn apart, usually at the end of a set, by Vaivai’s brilliance; his willingness to also do the simple thing at the right time (like setting his winger free with room to exploit the touchline) and his lethal link with supporting full-back Quinlan.

The Aussie, once of St George Illawarra, capitalised with two first-half tries, and then completed his hat-trick early in the second half, whereupon he was taken off.

Vaivai didn’t come out for the second half and without these two exciting backs Rovers were never quite the same threat again, although Quinlan’s replacement, Will Dagger, scored a spectacular solo try that ended the visitors scoring as early as the 56th minute.

That statistic, perhaps more than any other, truly shows the effort Roughyeds put in over the full 80 despite knowing the game was out of reach and repeatedly getting sent back by penalties.

Danny Langtree, who ran hard and tackled tenaciously for the whole game, was named Oldham’s man of the match while the champagne-moment award went to Adam Jones for his big hit on giant Mose Masoe midway through the second half.

Early indications after the game were that Roughyeds came through a physical battle relatively unscathed.

Attention now reverts to the bread-and-butter business of League 1 and Sunday’s trip north to Workington Town — always a demanding mission and one which many would argue to be more important than a Challenge Cup battle against Super League opposition in terms of the Roughyeds’ continuing development.

Oldham: Hooley; Eccleston, Holmes, Reid, Kershaw; Crook, Hewitt; Joy, Owen, Spencer, Bridge, Langtree, Bent. Subs: Briscoe, Jones, Hughes, Nelmes.

Hull KR: Quinlan; Shaw, Salter, Vaivai, Oakes; Atkin, Marsh; Johnson, Cator, Scruton, Walne, Tickle, Donaldson. Subs: Masoe, Blair, Greenwood, Dagger.

Referee: Gareth Hewer; Att: 1,064

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AS you all know from your own experiences these are tough times for everybody, but we believe you will agree that OLDHAM RLFC is taking massive inspiration from the fabulous NHS and other key workers in tackling Covid head-on, while looking forward positively to the 2021 season and better times ahead thanks to the outstanding work now being done to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Nevertheless, we have to face facts and be realistic enough to accept that the club urgently needs every pound that is currently coming in from whatever source. One of those sources is our Club Cash lottery and we would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who support us on this. A lot of you who used to pay our collectors on the doorstep have responded to our suggestions on how to pay by different methods and we are extremely grateful for that. Thanks again. You will never know how much difference your contributions make.

Alas, our income from the lottery has dropped by more than 50 per cent over the course of the pandemic and that would be a huge blow financially at any time let alone a time of unprecedented hardship because of the pandemic. It really is a situation we seriously need to address.

With that in mind the prize fund for the duration of the latest national lockdown will be temporarily reduced from February 10.

You will still be able to win a £1,000 first prize, plus £100, £50, £25 and ten £10 prizes every week, while continuing to provide vital support for the club and it will only cost you £1 a week. You can’t get a decent coffee for that, but the difference it makes to the club when multiplied a few times over and then multiplied again by 52 – the number of weeks in the financial year – is of major significance.

If you can help us at all — for £1 a week — it would be hugely appreciated by everyone with Oldham RL Club at heart. The prize structure still represents good value for money for an outlay of £1.

To those who are already members and help us accordingly, we very much hope to retain your support at this extremely difficult time.

Should you wish to play but don’t, due to the pausing of cash collection rounds, we have other options available, which you can discuss with our lottery administrator, John McAndrew on 07980129541 or from the club on 07904 898177.

Alternatively, you can send an email to: mcandrewj@aol.com or to: enquiries@roughyeds.co.uk

The prize fund will be increased back to previous levels as soon as latest lockdowns are released. Please watch our website and social media platforms for further announcements.

Finally, if you want more information about the lottery or you wish to discuss your membership please contact one of the numbers given above.

A huge thank-you to you all.

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