WITH a very determined and highly committed performance, and with captain Gareth Owen leading from the front, Oldham progressed to the second round of the Betfred Challenge Cup by beating Barrow Raiders 20-6 at Bower Fold.
Matt Diskin’s men now go away in round two next weekend to the winners of the Swinton Lions v Newcastle Thunder tie, which will be played tomorrow.
Matt had described the Raiders pre-match as “an unknown quantity” and had dubbed the tie against the League 1 promotion favourites as one “thwart with danger”, but in reality Roughyeds never looked in any kind of trouble against a Barrow side that did remarkably well considering it was their first game in more than a year.
To sum up — Barrow did well in the circumstances, especially considering they lost chief playmaker Jamie Dallimore to injury as early as the 17th minute, but Roughyeds did a whole lot better and fully deserved their passage into round two.
The win also meant that Diskin’s men are still in the 1895 Cup and are effectively only two games from Wembley in that competition.
Even before Dallimore’s withdrawal, Oldham could have had two or three tries, only a touch judge’s flag on either side of the field preventing home wingers Ryan Ince and Tommy Brierley going clear with men in support and only Barrow full-back Tee Ritson to beat.
Brierley and prop Liam Kirk also went close early on when Owen, from dummy half, second-row pair Danny Bridge and Danny Langtree, centre Ben Heaton and halves Lewis Charnock and James Barran were particularly prominent.
With Bridge on the right and Langtree on the left — unusual this — the two Dannys caused Barrow massive problems.
It was tribute to Barrow’s stiff defence and never-say-die attitude that it took Roughyeds nearly half an hour to open the scoring. They did it when Langtree quickly got into his stride to make a telling break.
He caused havoc in the visitors’ rearguard and then, at top speed, put in a little kick which Barrow misfielded and thus allowed Charnock to get the touch-down against his former club. Dan Abram, another Barrow old boy, landed the first of his four goals from four attempts.
A few minutes later, with Oldham well on top, half-back James Barran
produced a kick designed to set Langtree free and, sure enough, ‘Langers’ rose high into the air on the Barrow line to juggle with the ball and then make it his before scoring. Abram goaled again for a 12-0 lead.
In the run-up to half-time, Roughyeds went down to 12 men for a time when Shaun Pick was sin-binned for a late tackle.
It was while he was off that Barrow got themselves back into the game with a long-range try by left-winger Ryan Shaw, the former Hull KR speed man. From deep inside his own half, he took on the home defence on the outside and blitzed two defenders to score a super solo. He then added the extras to his own try to keep Barrow in the hunt at half-time.
That was the full extent of Barrow’s points scoring, but they kept working hard, did enough to bring out the best in Oldham’s midfield defence and made the home side strive hard to stay in control and in command.
It helped immensely that Roughyeds scored eight points in the first few minutes of the second half to take a 20-6 lead.
The strong-tackling Pick was still off the field when 12-man Oldham scored the try of the match.
The ball was whipped across field in front of Barrow’s posts with Barran, Charnock and the supporting Abram all handling and passing at pace before Heaton produced a sublime pass in the tackle to give his winger, Brierley, a walk-in at the corner.
Enjoying his best game this year, Abram goaled on the angle and then added an easy penalty from in front.
With a 14-point lead and looking stronger by the minute as a brave and battling Barrow side began to feel the pace, Oldham were further strengthened by the return from the bench of Pick, whose massive tackle on Jordan Walne caused the Barrow forward to be helped from the field after a hold-up.
It was largely a cut-and-thrust forward battle after that, but Oldham missed another certain try when they worked a clear-cut overlap on the left.
Langtree could have scored, but with Abram and Ince on his outside he unselfishly unloaded and the ball went to ground.
It was a sound, workmanlike performance by Oldham in which every player looked as though he was scrapping for his place.
All did well and it was good to see young centre Max Roberts holding his own in a big test for him at this level.
The game was won and lost in the forwards, however, where Bridge and Langtree were always dangerous on the edges.
Pick, Nelmes, and Kirk were strong and forceful up front, but no one surpassed young prop Tyler Dupree, who came off the bench to enjoy a blinder.
Playing behind a pack like that, hooker Owen was like a man inspired. This was the Owen of old — cute, canny, full of energy and drive and a player whose rugby brain is as sharp as any half-back.
He did 57 minutes before he showed signs of slowing up and within ten minutes of replacing him Declan Gregory went off injured, meaning Owen performed at the highest level for nearly the whole game.
This was a captain’s way of leading from the front in an all-round team performance that augurs well for what’s to come.
Scorers: Oldham – goals, Abram 4/4; tries, Charnock, Langtree, Brierley; Barrow – goal, Shaw; try, Shaw.
OLDHAM: Abram; Brierley, Heaton, Roberts, Ince; Charnock, Barran; Nelmes, Owen, Kirk, Bridge, Langtree, Bent. Subs: Gregory, Dupree, Pick, Reilly.
BARROW: Ritson; S Toal, Sephton-Hulme, Tyson, Shaw; Dallimore, Johnston; A Walne, Swarbrick, Forster, J Walne, Stack, Harrison. Subs: Carter, D Toal, Duffy, Bustin.
Referee: Marcus Griffiths.