OLDHAM props Ben Davies and Luke Nelmes saw red in a 24-16 Betfred League 1 defeat by Bradford Bulls.
Davies was sent off for dissent in the 50th minute by Aussie referee Matthew Rossleigh and Nelmes was despatched for an early bath near the end for throwing a punch.
At the same time Oldham full-back Luke Hooley was sin-binned for tripping, leaving ten-man Roughyeds to exit the field on the final hooter to a standing ovation after keeping the Bulls scoreless for nearly 50 minutes despite their numerical handicap.
Roughyeds’ battle to make the play-offs now goes to the last weekend of the season and they will take heart from ‘nilling’ top-two opposition in the second half on consecutive Sundays.
If they win at London Skolars next Saturday and Whitehaven lose at title-chasing York City Knights 24 hours later, Scott Naylor’s men will clinch fifth place and a play-off test . . . at Bradford.
There is every possibility that what we saw in the final home game of the regular season at the Vestacare Stadium (attendance 1,038) was a dress rehearsal for a shoot-out at Odsal in a fortnight’s time.
Should Roughyeds be petrified at the prospect ? No way.
The emphasis this week will be on first things first; namely, making sure they complete the essentials by winning in north London against a side that can be unpredictably stubborn on home ground.
York struggled down there, winning narrowly in the end, and Scott Naylor’s men will need to defend with the heroism they displayed in this one, especially when down to 12 men; concentrate and stay focused for the full game; and stop making mistakes and inviting opponents back into their red zone.
In this instance Oldham defended well early on before taking a 10-0 lead with tries by David Hewitt and Matt Reid, Hooley converting one of them.
Inexplicably, they then switched off and conceded four tries in less than 20 minutes to trail 24-10 at half-time.
It all began to go wrong after the first Bulls try when Gareth Owen put his foot on the restart kick which then went dead.
Briscoe was called upon to smash Liam Kirk into submission on the Roughyeds try line, but a gap finally opened up for Matt Storton, whose try was improved by Joe Keys.
In the next few minutes Lee Kershaw knocked-on; Craig Briscoe lost the ball in a tackle; Hooley put down a Dane Chisholm bomb; and at the other end a high kick by Owen, playing at half-back, fell nicely for Bulls winger Jy Hitchcox, who evaded a tackle and went more than half the length of the pitch to score.
A few minutes later George Flanagan went in with a sucker-punch dummy from behind the play-the-ball, whereupon Hooley’s restart kick went out on the full.
Big Ross Peltier scored next, Keys made it four from four with the goal, and Hooley’s restart again went out with bouncing.
On the stroke of half-time Matty Wilkinson looked like scoring only to be brought back for obstruction.
Oldham had suddenly gone from a side that was strong, decisive and tough as old boots to one that looked dodgy in defence and vulnerable.
Knowing his side’s normal steel-like qualities — rough, tough, durable and looking like they enjoy defending — the aforesaid 20 minutes must have been doubly frustrating for Scott Naylor.
Roughyeds had made a blistering start after the kick-off was delayed five minutes because of problems on the M62 coming from Yorkshire.
Bulls dominated early on but they were rocked when David Hewitt nipped in to intercept a Keyes pass intended for stand-off Dane Chisholm and raced away to score under the posts.
Hooley kicked the goal but he failed narrowly to convert a second try only a few minutes later.
Hewitt floated a high ball to the left-hand corner, Kershaw jumped into the air and knocked the ball back, and Reid picked up to fly in at the corner.
At 10-0 to the good Oldham were flying, but the balance of power was to change dramatically and the Bulls led 24-10 at half-time.
Oldham could surely do better than that . . . and, wow, how they proved it.
Almost from the off, Matty Wilkinson was held up over the line before Oldham moved the ball quickly left and Hooley got over in the corner only to be blown back because it was alleged he had made a double movement.
A couple of minutes later came the first red card. The match official had just penalisd Roughyeds for an offence in the tackle when Davies was sent off for muttering things in the direction of the referee.
But this was better by Oldham now. Danny Langtree was twice held just short as Roughyeds dominated possession and kept the Bulls pinned down at the bottom end of the ground.
Bulls were but a pale shadow of what they had been earlier as Scott Naylor’s men upped the tempo and dominated the second half.
Though a man down, they pushed forward in droves and took the game to the Bulls who at times seem bewildered about what was going on.
They got their reward when Briscoe scored and Hooley goaled to bring it back to 16-24, whereupon there was a flashpoint in which players of both sides squared up.
Hooley got yellow for tripping at the play-the-ball, followed by Nelmes for alleged punching.
Oldham were still attacking at the end, ten men or not, and when the hooter finally went there was no doubt that they had taken all the garlands in the second half and given Bulls something to think about ahead of a potential showdown at Odsal in the play-off.
Oldham scorers: goals, Hooley 2/3; tries, Hewitt, Reid Briscoe.
Bulls: goals, Keyes 4/4; tries, Storton, Hitchcox, Flanagan, Peltier.
Oldham: Hooley; Johnson, Holmes, Reid, Kershaw; Owen, Hewitt; Neal, Hughes, Joy, Briscoe, Langtree, Bent. Subs: Spencer, Wilkinson, Nelmes, Davies.
Bulls: Pickersgill; Hitchcox, Gibson, Egodo, Ryan; Keyes, Chisholm; Kirk, Lilley, Crossley, Storton, Minchella, Wood. Subs: Flanagan, Bustin, Greem, Peltier.
Ref: Matthew Rossleigh; Att: 1,038.