TO beat full-time Broncos in London with a full-strength side would have been a tall order.
To win there without SEVEN senior players, with six who are still finding their feet at this level, including first-timers in centre Joe Hartley and 19-year-old on-loan prop Jack Bibby, and you’ve got to plant a flag on top of a rugby league Everest.
Maybe coach Matt Diskin was referring to something like that when he talked publicly pre-match of the necessity to “pick and choose our games” and the aim to “give London a run for their money and build on that.”
Well, his gallant Roughyeds certainly did that. And the lads who are still wearing their Championship ‘L’ plates, like full-back Callum Green, centres Joe Hartley and Max Roberts, winger Ben Holcroft and subs Bibby and James Barran can hold their heads up high.
They were undone by, among others, two-try man of the match Jarrod Sammut, but the veteran Aussie has done that to far more experienced players and he will continue to do so all season.
London won 38-24, but Oldham’s effort, attitude and steely determination to do their best, and ,more, couldn’t be faulted.
Nobody can ask for more than that. There were serious mistakes, true. There were crucial lapses when Broncos were gifted field position, even tries, true. There were times, yet again, when Matt’s men were their own worst enemies, often when they had just got themselves back in the game.
But all 17 who were wearing the Oldham shirt, did so with pride and with no small amount of prowess.
Youngsters rose to the challenge; seasoned professionals like Lewis Charnock, David Hewitt, Jack Spencer, Gareth Owen, Luke Nelmes, Liam Bent, Danny Langtree and Dec Gregory set the lead; and the ‘in-betweeners’, Tommy Brierley, Matthew Fletcher and Tyler Dupree came up with some of the best moments of the match.
It was essentially a team effort, but players who maybe earned a special mention were full-back Green, prop Spencer, second-row man Langtree and, off the bench, the effervescent Gregory.
To sum up, it was an effort that bore no resemblance whatsoever to the poor, wishy-washy offering at Batley. It put Roughyeds back on track in their mission to go better week by week and it raises hopes of an even better show – and the right result – in next Saturday’s clash with Halifax at Bower Fold.
Broncos struck first when Sammut and full-back James Meadows sent in winger Tuoyo Egodo for a try which Josh Hodson improved. Not surprisingly, London looked to be the stronger side, but they didn’t score again until midway through the half – and what a gift it was.
Sammut, who else ?, forced an Oldham drop out. It was an absolute shocker. Nobody expected it, least of all Oldham’s players who had momentarily switched off, leaving wide, open spaces, through which Sammut, one of the best opportunists in the business, sailed through for a soft try, goaled by Hodson, for a 12-0 lead.
Undeterred, Oldham hit back immediately. Owen found some space for winger Brierley to put Broncos on the back foot. The ball went left from Brierley’s play-the-ball and pressure finished with Luke Nelmes crashing in off Owen’s first pass from dummy half. Green goaled.
As Roughyeds went for the equaliser, Green looked dangerous when joining the line before Hodson pulled off a try-saving tackle on Brierley in the corner.
As half-time neared, though, Broncos increased their lead. Winger Abbas Miski, formerly of Manly Sea Eagles, flew up the touchline and created a third Broncos try for an 18-6 interval lead.
A superb, tackle-busting break by Dupree looked certain to produce a try when he rounded home full-back Meadows, but to London’s relief and Oldham’s utter frustration he suddenly pulled up with hamstring trouble and the chance was gone.
What could easily have been 18-12 went to 24-6 when Egodo scored his second. Four minutes later, with Oldham attacking strongly, Hewitt’s short pass to close support was intercepted by Sammut, who went the length of the field for his second try and a very flattering 30-6 lead.
The last 20 minutes produced five tries – three to Oldham, two to London.
Teenage prop Bibby crashed in for Oldham – how good was he on his debut and his first game at anything like this level – before Egodo completed his hat-trick at the other end for a 34-12 lead.
Oldham then scored two cracking tries in six minutes, first when Langtree went in on a short pass after some great rugby and then when livewire Gregory unleashed Langtree, whose long break ended with Hewitt backing up on the inside to finish near the posts.
Green converted both tries and with four minutes left, Oldham were within ten points of the home side at 34-24.
Not for the firat time, though, they messed up the restart kick before throwing a desperate pass ‘blind’ which provided the home side with another free gift.
Oldham scorers: goals – Green 4/4; tries, Nelmes, Bibby, Langtree, Hewitt.
Team: Green; Brierley, Hartley, Roberts, Holcroft; Charnock, Hewitt; Spencer, Owen, Nelmes, Bent, Langtree, Fletcher. Subs: Bibby, Barran, Gregory, Dupree.
Ref: M Mannifield