"Defence will be key" — Horne

​BETFRED League 1’s second-best attack goes head to head with the division’s second-best defence when Oldham entertain Doncaster at the Vestacare Stadium on Sunday (2pm) for the right to go straight through to the promotion Grand Final.

Only third-placed Newcastle Thunder (741) scored more points than Oldham’s 655 in the 20-match regular season.

Champions Whitehaven, who go up automatically, conceded fewer points than anyone else (283), but Doncaster came next with 309.

Oddly, Doncaster beat Roughyeds 31-0 at the Keepmoat in June, while Scott Naylor’s men replied with a 40-14 win at the Vestacare last month.

“Embarrassing”

was Naylor’s description of his side’s hammering in South Yorkshire.

“I’ve never questioned the boys’ attitude before, but it wasn’t there today,”

said Donny boss Richard Horne, summing up the heavy defeat in Oldham.

Since those two dark days for the away teams , both have come good.

Roughyeds have won nine of their last ten on a charge that carried them to runners-up spot in the final league table.

Donny have also been in striking form, scoring 30 points at Workington on the final day of the league campaign, followed by 20 at Newcastle Thunder in their first play-off clash.

Just as crucially, they restricted their opponents to one try apiece — Caine Barnes for Workington in the 76th minute and Alex Clegg for Thunder in the 78th.

Said Horne:

“We are basing our game on how good our defence is and we are scoring points off the back of that.

“We had to manage the ruck tempo at Newcastle otherwise they would have been hard to stop because they had so much speed.”

They failed to boss the rucks the last time they played at Oldham and it was largely due to the domination of the game by the home side’s “middles” that Gareth Owen and Matty Wilkinson were able to leap out of dummy half and cause so much destruction.

Whether they can do it again remains to be seen.

It also remains to be seen which coach is the more fortunate in terms of player availability.

Roughyeds are keeping fingers crossed that centre Cameron Leeming (hamstring) and winger Declan Kay (concussion) will be ready in time.

Vibes coming out of the Donny camp suggest they may have one or two problems.

Key man Batty Beharrell twice had running repairs to a knee problem while masterminding the win at Newcastle and Horne has since said: “This is a huge week for us. We will see where we are at with bodies, but we will prepare exactly the same.

“We will look to adopt a game plan which gives us the best chance of going to Oldham and getting the right result.”


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