REMEMBER what happened when we beat Whitehaven 36-12 in the league at the Vestacare Stadium in February?
Zack McComb was our match-winning hero with a first-half hat-trick of tries as we raced into a 22-0 lead.
Ethan Kelly, a mountain of a man, then came off the ‘Haven bench to give us a huge fright as the Cumbrians mounted a rousing fightback.
You can wager a smart yacht in Whitehaven harbour to an old rowing boat on Alexandra Park lake that rival coaches Scott Naylor and Gary Charlton will have marked the cards of Kelly and McComb respectively ahead of Sunday’s 1895 Cup clash at the same venue.
Charlton looked on in anguish as right-centre McComb blitzed the Cumbrians with tries in the 10th, 15th and 27th minutes, the last of which was a contender for try of the week on the Our League app.
Naylor suffered similar anxieties when, with ‘Haven back in contention at 22-12, the giant Kelly twice smashed his way over Oldham’s line only to be denied each time by referee Cameron Worsley, first for a double-movement, then for a forward pass.
Kelly has been out injured, but the Cumbrians, unbeaten since that cold February day at the Vestacare Stadium, hope to have him back this weekend.
This is how Roger Halstead, of the Roughyeds’ media team, summed up that first encounter:
“ZACK McComb’s genuine hat-trick of tries in the first half was the highlight of a 36-12 win against Whitehaven which lifted us to third place in Betfred League 1 behind Workington Town and Coventry Bears.
“It finished a comfortable victory in the end but after sailing into a 22-0 lead we hit a dodgy spell, similar to the one against Workington in the previous game, and conceded two converted tries, one either side of half-time.
“At 22-12 Haven were back in the game and it was at that stage that Anthony Bowman was sin-binned for a shoulder charge and the visitors’ big forward sub, Ethan Kelly, twice got over the line, denied first by a double movement and then by a final pass that was judged to be forward.
“We managed to hold on while Bowman was off the field, then regrouped and regained the ascendancy to take the game away from the Cumbrians with a Dave Hewitt try midway through the second half and a late one by Ritchie Hawkyard after good work by Bowman in the build-up.
“In between those two tries Hewitt landed a penalty to finish with six goals from seven attempts, his one miss being a failure to find the target when converting the first of McComb’s treble from out near the right-hand touchline.
“Overall, it was a mixed type of performance in which we produced some beautiful wing-to-wing football in the first half for McComb to finish off strongly, but then suffered that spell when our intensity dropped and we tended to make mistakes with ball in hand or to concede needless penalties.
“Zack scored in the 10th, 15th and 27th minutes to maintain his top-notch early-season form at right centre and to confirm that Oldham, as a team, are looking much more dangerous in attacking positions than they were last year.
“New boys Adam Brook. Anthony Bowman and Emmerson Whittel have good, quick hands which have been a feature of our pre-season games and our first two league games.
“In the forwards Scott Law had a huge first spell; Phil Joy gave him strong support; and Gareth Owen showed definite signs that he is playing with a lot more confidence and getting back to his best after taking time to fully recover from his horrific foot injury of 2017.”
Ritchie Hawkyard won the man-of-the-match award and Zack McComb carried off ‘champagne moment’ for obvious reasons.
Oldham: tries, McComb (10, 15, 27), Hawkyard (33, 75), Hewitt (62); Goals: Hewitt 6/7.
Whitehaven: tries, C Phillips (36), Bulman (43); Goals: Moore 2/2.
OLDHAM: Hawkyard; Jones-Bishop, McComb, Grimshaw, Kershaw; Brook, Hewitt; Joy, Owen, Law, Whittel, Bowman, Bent. Subs: Gwaze, Greenwood, Davies, Spencer.
WHITEHAVEN: Burns; Thompson, Taylor, Mossop, Bulman; Forrester, C Phillips; Shackley, Newton, Coward, B Phillips, Moore, Aiye. Subs: Holliday, JJ Parker, Kelly, Wilkinson.
Ref: Cameron Worsley; Att: 546.
If tomorrow’s (Sun) cup clash is half as intense and competitive as last time it will be another great advert for the sport’s third tier which is getting stronger and better year on year.
The most significant changes in the Oldham side are likely to be the appearances in the second-row of Danny Langtree and Danny Bridge; Langtree for the third time since his return from Hull and Bridge for the second time since his comeback from suspension , but for his first appearance at the Vestacare Stadium.
Bridge did particularly well at West Wales Raiders after nine months out, but it was easy to conclude that both he and ‘Langers’ had one eye on this game while helping Roughyeds to a 72-8 victory down in Llanelli.