OLDHAM skipper Gareth Owen targeted five wins from the Roughyeds’ last five games in the regular Betfred League 1 season and they’ve achieved two from two with three to go.
A 15-14 win at London Skolars followed by a thrilling 28-20 triumph over second-placed Newcastle Thunder at the Vestacare Stadium kept Roughyeds on course for, at the very least, a second-place finish.
After half an hour Scott Naylor’s men trailed 20-6, but they rallied to clock up 22 unanswered points with tries by man-of-the-match Danny Bridge (2), centre Cameron Leeming and hooker Owen to add to an earlier touchdown by Kyran Johnson.
Paul Crook finished with four conversions from five shots as Oldham leapfrogged Hunslet and Thunder to go second, two points behind leaders Whitehaven, each with three to play.
Oldham have the harder run-in, but the feeling in the camp is that the defeat of big-spending Thunder laid down a benchmark for the remaining three games against Doncaster at home, Coventry Bears away and Hunslet away.
“One word summed up that performance — class. To come back from 14 points down was magnificent.
“I thought we were the better side even in the first half. We trailed 20-12 at the interval but two of their four tries followed individual errors by us and another was an interception when we were pressing hard.
“We felt at half-time we were very much in the game. We needed to score first on the resumption and we went out all fired upwhile they seemed a little bit subdued.
“We got that early try by Cam Leeming and we didn’t let them back into the game. It was our best 40 minutes of the season so far and it was nicely timed to set us up for the run-in.”
Two-try hero Bridge said:
“Games like that inspire you to do well. Thunder had a few former Championship and NRL (Australia) players in their team and I like going up against that sort of opposition,
“Even when we went 20-6 down I knew we’d have a chance if we could stay in the game.
“With three games left, Whitehaven might slip up. You never know. Anything can happen yet.”
Coach Scott Naylor and chairman Chris Hamilton both described the performance and the result as ‘fantastic’.
“I’m really proud of the lads who wanted to do it for themselves and for the fans.
“We were solid on all sides of the field. We were willing to work hard from 1 to 17 and willing to do the non-glamorous things over and over again in order to win the game.
“We looked calm, in control, tough, full of desire and really solid.
“We changed the way we played a little bit and it seemed to work for us. It was a particularly mature performance, I thought, and one which sets us hope nicely for the run-in.
“It proved also that we are a very difficult side to beat when we play well.”
Chairman Chris Hamilton recalled that it was the complete opposite of the game at Kingston Park in April when Oldham led 22-6, never scored again, and lost 28-22.
He went on:
“We knew we were in for a tough game at the Vestacare but from 1 to 17 the lads were terrific. To score 22 unanswered points against a team of Thunder’s standard is good going.
“We put down a marker that should give us a massive amount of confidence for the big games that are coming up.”