Widnes Vikings were good value for their 36-6 win and from Oldham’s viewpoint there could be no argument with the result.
You don’t score seven tries and concede only one, as Widnes did, unless you are in overall control on attack and defence.
Their attack especially owed everything to the skills and expertise, particularly in terms of the field kick, of their mercurial half-backs Matty Smith and Danny Craven.
One or the other, or both, was involved in each of the Vikings tries and the pair of them also kicked Roughyeds to death.
In stark contrast four or five Oldham grubber kicks ended up dead and although each was hunted down by men in red and white who were within inches of making the kicks count, the end result was a seven-tackle restart set for Widnes and a lot of unnecessary tackling for the home side.
It’s a game of inches but against a good side like Widnes you can’t afford to put the ball dead four or five times, as Oldham did here.
Having stressed all that it’s only fair to say that on this opening Sunday of the Betfred Championship season nothing went Oldham’s way, from the moment Ed Smith pulled out with a back complaint the day before the game.
It meant that five of the squad’s 23 were unavailable through injury and among the five were three who had played at left centre in the warm-up matches, namely Cameron Leeming, John Hutchings and Smith.
Kyran Johnson filled in and of the outside backs on duty here he wasn’t on his own in being put under a lot of pressure defensively from the ball skills of Smith and Craven and the strong plundering and finishing of Jack Johnson, Jack Owens, Jake Spedding and Deon Cross.
Widnes won it out wide with four of their starting backs figuring on the score sheet –left-wing Johnson twice; right wing Cross once; full-back Owens once; right centre Jake Spedding once.
They didn’t make a lot of headway up the middle and that says a lot about a set of forwards that conceded weight and experience yet went toe-to-toe with Ted Chapelhow, Pat Moran and Co and generally held their own on the back of impressive performances by starting props Phil Joy and Jack Spencer and their young replacements Matthew Fletcher and Jimmy Beckett.
Roughyeds seem to have landed a real find with Fletcher, who made a costly error when forced into touch on tackle one at the start of a Roughyeds exit set on the resumption after half-time but otherwise had a great game after leaving the bench ten minutes before half-time.
Beckett, slightly older but still only 20, also made a big impact, so much so that he was handed the Roughyeds’ man-of-the-match award after scoring the home side’s only try 11 minutes into the second half.
Both youngsters did the club proud and it must have been a difficult choice to split them, the nod perhaps going to Beckett because of his try and Fletcher’s one big mistake.
The on-loan lad from Featherstone scored from first receiver close to the Widnes line — just reward for him and also for the Oldham forwards generally who, unlike the backs, refused to be fazed by their higher-profile opponents.
It didn’t help when captain and hooker Gareth Owen was sin-binned early in the game for dropping on Ted Chapelhow. Oldham were in possession and attacking close to the Vikings line.
Chapelhow, a marker, seemed to put his long arm through the ruck and dislodge it from the grasp of Owen, who perhaps expected a penalty going Oldham’s way.
The Widnes forward dropped on the loose ball. Owen, frustrated, went down on him to complete the tackle, whereupon the Widnes forwards waded in.
Owen was given yellow — a harsh decision at best — and it was a decisive moment given that, in his ten minutes’ absence, Widnes ran in two converted tries by Owen and Spedding to lead 16-0 at half-time.
Oldham needed to score first on the resumption to make a game of it, but in clearing his try line direct from the restart kick Fletcher was man-handled into touch by two Widnes forwards, one stopping him from going to ground, the other pushing him out, and the momentum was back with the Vikings.
In the next set Grady went in for a converted try; Danny Bridge went off, and straight down the tunnel, with a badly damaged thumb; and that was that.
Cross scored next to take Widnes out to 28-0 after excellent handling by the Widnes backs, featuring Smith, Owens and Spedding.
Beckett’s try followed — just reward for 50 or so minutes of honest graft from the youngster — before Lewis Charnock went off with a knee injury and Widnes wrapped it all up with two more tries by Johnson and Sam Wilde.
Two or three of the Widnes tries followed one-on-one missed tackles out wide, while one wonders also if the home side, especially the outside backs, gave the Vikings too much respect.
The forwards certainly were not guilty of that and no one was more fired than the two youngest players on the field — Fletcher and Beckett.
Oldham: try. Beckett; goal, Abram.
Widnes: tries, Johnson (2), Owens, Spedding, Grady, Cross, Wilde; goals, Owens 4/7.
OLDHAM: Abram; Kay, Worthington, Johnson, Aaronson; Charnock, Hewitt; Joy, Owen, Spencer, Bridge, Langtree, Bent. Subs: Wilkinson, Igbinedion, Fletcher, Beckett.
WIDNES: Owens; Cross, Spedding, Roby, Johnson; Smith, Craven; T Chapelhow, Tomkins, Moram, Wilde, Baker, Dwyer. Subs: Lyon, Edge, Grady, Farnworth.
Ref: Jack Smith; Att: 1,726.