A rousing second-half performance, in which Roughyeds upped the tempo after a lacklustre opening 40 minutes, enabled Scott Naylor’s men to finish second in Betfred League 1 and head for the play-offs with the momentum, self-belief and confidence that comes from a run of nine wins in ten outings.
The blistering form that has carried them, over the last three months, to within 80 minutes of a Promotion Grand Final was a long time coming at the South Leeds Stadium but when it did Oldham turned the game upside down to score 16 second-half points without reply.
They trailed 20-18 at half-time, but totally dominated the second half to render Hunslet scoreless and to win 34-20 with three Paul Crook penalty goals, tries by Crook and Langtree and Crook’s simple conversion of his own try.
Fierce words by Naylor at half-time did the trick.
Oldham were like a different team in the second half when they surged forward in droves, tightened up their tackling, employed a good kick-chase and moved the ball through hands at speed after rapid rucks.
Anyway, first things first. Let’s start at the beginning.
It took Hunslet only three minutes to open the scoring. After receiving the first two penalties of the game they laid siege on the Roughyeds line and prop Zach Braham took the ball on the charge a few metres out and shrugged off a despairing defender to score. Joe Sanderson converted, 6-0.
After that each team scored in turn up to half-time; Danny Bridge for Oldham try, Crook conversion, 6-6.
There then followed an incident that potentially changed the flow of the game.
Clearing Oldham’s 20-metre zone with a strong run, Declan Kay ran into what must have seemed like a brick wall but was in reality two home defenders who drove him back fiercely.
His legs appeared to go above the horizontal before his head hit the ground, causing him to go off with concussion, never to return. Referee John McMullen placed the incident on report.
Cameron Leeming failed a fitness test with a hamstring injury before kick-off and was replaced in the centre by Jack Holmes.
After the Kay injury, Holmes moved out to right wing; Langtree was stationed at left centre and Jack Spencer left the bench to join the forwards.
Shortly afterwards Hunslet regained the lead when Oldham were again found wanting in defence wide out and Tom Ashton’s powerful surge allowed him to commit Ritchie Hawkyard before sending in supporting Jimmy Watson with an inside ball.
Oldham’s reply was quick and decisive, Langtree sliding in at the corner for Crook to land a gem of a conversion off the touchline. 12-12, game on.
An exciting break for the line by Hawkyard spelled danger for the home side, but it finally came to grief, whereupon Hunslet immediately went to the other end and scored.
A high kick was collected by Nathan Chappell and all he had to do then was drop over the line. Sanderson goaled for an 18-12 home lead.
Oldham again hit back strongly. Ben Davies looked like scoring after a big charge to the Hunslet lin. He was stopped just short, but Roughyeds moved the ball quickly left where David Hewitt timed his pass to perfection to send in Langtree for his second try.
Crook’s goal levelled at 18-18 but on the stroke of half time and on the last Hunslet tackle of their final set before the hooter, Roughyeds conceded a penalty for interference at the ruck and Sanderson’s shot at goal from 35 metres out and in front gave the home side a 20-18 interval lead.
Cue Naylor with a few home-truths.
Cue the team’s big response with a far more polished and professional second-half performance,
Roughyeds rolled up their sleeves, started to apply constant pressure through the forwards and forced Hunslet into making mistakes and giving away penalties — five in a row early in the second half — that allowed Naylor’s marauders to take control.
Two Crook penalty goals edged them in front for the first time, 22-20, and by this time Oldham were flying and Hunslet were visibly creaking under the onslaught.
There was a bizarre incident in the 55th minute when the impressive Emmerson Whittel went in for a try after a Hewitt break for the line only for the touchjudge to stand his ground.
The try was then ruled out, but play restarted with an Oldham scrum.
Another Whittel break forced a Hunslet drop out which led to a melee involving players of both sides, again causing referee McMulen tp put it on report.
In the end the Hunslet dam was finally punctured with the decisive try. Zack McComb’s long break on the right paved the way and Crook saw the line and had the strength to get over before adding his own goal.
Another Crook penalty gave the visitors a 10-point lead and in the closing minutes Langtree completed his hat-trick and Oldham were home and dry.
Scorers: Hunslet – goals, Sanderson 4/4; tries, Braham, Watson, Chappell; OLdham – goals, Crook 7/8; tries, Bridge, Langtree (3), Crook.
Hunslet: Watson; Potts, Chapman-Smith, Ashton, Lancaster; Sanderson, Heckford; Braham, Halafihi, Hawksworth, Chappell, Straugher, Emmett. Subs: Andrade, Haley, Hela, Wright.
Oldham: Hawkyard, Kay, McComb, Holmes, Johnson; Crook, Hewitt; Joy, Owen, Law, Bridge, Langtree, Bent. Subs: Wilkinson, Whittel, Spencer, Davies.
Referee, John McMullen; Att, 688; HT, 20-18; Pens, 6-13.