ZACK McComb’s second-half hat-trick earned him Oldham’s official man-of-the-match award in a 74-6 victory romp at the Vestacare Stadium.
Struggling Hemel Stags haven’t won in 14, but Roughyeds fans cheered and chanted them off the field after a gutsy performance in which they played some nice attacking rugby and never let their heads drop in defence.
The plucky southerners went 6-0 up with a good try in the fourth minute. Full-back Jack Mitchell got his timing perfect when he linked up with a right-flank raid and his pass to Darren Forde got the winger in at the corner. Mitchell added the angled goal to give Stags a perfect start.
“I think it was my error which let them through,” revealed McComb after the match. “We were a bit shaky at first, but their early try was a wake-up call for us.
“It was hard to stay focused in soaring temperatures and in that sort of a game, but we stuck to the plan and got a big score so everybody was happy.”
After that early blip, Roughyeds rattled up 74 unanswered points with 11 goals by Paul Crook and 13 tries from McComb (3), Danny Bridge (2), Luke Nelmes (2), Kyran Johnson (2), Gareth Owen, Ben West, Matty Wilkinson and dual-reg forward Gavin Bennion.
Crook’s 11 goals were the most by an Oldham marksman since Steve Roper kicked a dozen in a 76-12 win at Oxford in the final game of the 2015 regular season when Scott Naylor’s men went on to clinch promotion.
You go even further back, to March, 2010, for a bigger winning margin than 68 and that was 74 when we beat Welsh amateurs Blackwood 80-6 in a third-round Challenge Cup tie.
This one was our fourth league win in a row, following those against Keighley (home), Workington (away) and Newcastle (home) and it lifted us three places up the table into fourth spot with three games out of the next four to be played against opposition from outside rugby league’s heartlands.
We thus have a great opportunity to cement our place in the top few with a great deal clearly riding on the next home game against third-placed Doncaster on Sunday, June 3.
That’s surely a not-to-be-missed match for all Roughyeds fans, whether they be diehards, casual or occasional so mark it in your diary now . . . Sunday, June 3, Vestacare Stadium, 3pm.
If you can spread the word and bring a friend, relative or workmate along that’s even better and nobody would appreciate it more than the players, who deserve to be showcasing their skills against bigger audiences than this season’s league-game average of 528.
For this latest game, Scott made no fewer than NINE changes in order to use his full squad and to give some players a well-earned break. Back into the firing line came Kyran Johnson, Steven Nield, Jack Holmes, McComb, Ben West, Danny Rasool and two forwards on dual-reg from Salford Red Devils, Levy Nzoungou and Gavin Bennion.
Club captain Gareth Owen, normally a hooker, replaced David Hewitt at half-back and did a good job.
Though McComb was a fully deserving recipient of the man-of-the-match accolade it must have been a neck-and-neck choice with Danny Langtree, who is enjoying a fabulous season in the second-row.
Indeed, is there a better second-row in the entire division than our very own pair of Danny boys, Langtree and Bridge ?
‘Langers’ didn’t score this time and Bridge picked up a brace to take his total, like his partner’s, to six.
Both though figured prominently in the build-up to, or the creation of, many of the others, as did their fellow forwards Matty Wilkinson, Kenny Hughes, Adam Jones and Luke Nelmes as well as half-backs Crook and Owen.
Heavyweight Nelmes, rapidly becoming a fans’ favourite, scored a couple himself, the second of which followed an outrageous dummy and a 20-yard dash to the line which earned him the club’s Magic Moment prize.
On receiving it after the match he said:
“At Halifax I got six games in two years. Here, I’ve played in every game so far, I’m loving it and I’m finding some form.
“Everything’s coming good for me at the right time. It’s my first year, but I’d like to stay a few more if Oldham still want me.”
Roughyeds started the ball rolling in the ninth minute when Bridge sent McCombe up the left touchline with a peach of a pass. Owen was in support on the inside to take the centre’s final pass and go over.
Two more thrusts down the left saw West and Bridge score good tries, the former after good work by Owen and McComb; the latter courtesy of Crook’s defence-busting pass.
Before half-time, when we led 34-6, Nelmes was to score twice, either side of the first of Johnson’s two which was again set up by Bridge’s clever handling.
Six tries scored by half-time, another seven to come.
McComb got his hat-trick; Bridge grabbed his second; and there were others for Wilkinson, Johnson and Bennion.
Wilkinson’s was a gem in which Crook’s cut-out ball to the right wing got Steven Nield away. He swerved inside and found Jack Holmes, whose good hands in turn discovered Wilkinson on his route to the line.
Wilkinson was to figure prominently again when he read a Hemel play perfectly on his own try line, intercepted and went nearly the full length of the pitch. He was hauled down just short, but from dummy half there was to be no stopping McComb, who was hell bent on turning his two into three.
Oldham scorers: goals, Crook 11/13; tries, Owen, West, Bridge (2), Nelmes (2), Johnson (2), McComb (3), Wilkinson, Bennion.
Team: Johnson; Nield, Holmes, McComb, West; Crook, Owen; Joy, Wilkinson, Nzoungou, Bridge, Langtree, Bennion. Subs: Hughes, Jones, Nelmes, Rasool.
Hemel: Mitchell; Forde, A Williams, Heil, Elliott; Sheriff, Stamp; Dixon, Hough, R Williams, Thornton, Esslemont, Broadbent. Subs: Cullimore, Decaro, Jowett, Taylor.
Referee: Billy Pearson. Att: 411.