WELL, we did it. We avenged our Cup defeat of five days ago by beating Swinton Lions 28-20 at Bower Fold with a terrific second-half display which turned a tight game on its head.
Lions led 20-10 at half-time, but with a brilliant second 40 minutes, Roughyeds rattled in 18 unanswered points to get their 2021 Betfred Championship season off to a flying start.
Individually, there were good performances right across the park and none better than those from two-try centre Ben Heaton, stand-off Gareth Owen and his replacement hooker Declan Gregory.
Owen at stand-off? He didn’t start off there, but in the first few minutes Lewis Charnock took a heavy tackle after he had parted with the ball. He was clattered a few times in the cup defeat at Heywood Road, but on this occasion he was clearly in a lot of pain as he was led off, never to return.
Matt Diskin filled the gap by moving his captain out to stand-off and bringing Gregory off the bench to take over as hooker and dummy-half-in-chief.
Both moves worked a treat. Gregory had a rousing game and Owen looked as though he had played in the halves all his life.
On attack and defence he had a blinder, setting the lead and playing the whole game while Gregory looked just as sharp and incisive at the end as he did when he came off the bench after only seven minutes.
Dan Abram and Dave Hewitt in the backs also did well, as did all the forwards, Liam Kirk, Martyn Reilly, Danny Bridge, Shaun Pick, Liam Bent, Tyler Dupree, Danny Langtree and Jack Spencer.
Some fans watching on Our League would have been surprised to see ‘Langers’ on the bench, but he replaced Reilly after half an hour to produce a typically rousing show and one which showed no resemblance in the slightest to his below-par offering at Heywood Road.
Hewitt was a straight replacement for the injured James Barran and there were two other changes in the starting line-up with Ben Holcroft coming in on the wing for the injured Tommy Brierley and Shaun Pick starting in the second-row alongside Bridge.
Swinton brought in Kiwi full-back Geronimo Doyle and prop Sam Brooks, while captain Rhodri Lloyd moved from second-row to centre and new signing Tom Spencer was on the bench.
It wasn’t the most auspicious start for the loan signing from Leigh Centurions, who was sent off on debut 15 minutes from the end for throwing a punch with the game in the balance at 20-20.
In the first half Oldham’s Heaton was ‘binned’ for holding down after making a try-saving tackle on Gregson as the Lions threatened in their best spell of the game.
It took Oldham only five minutes to take the lead when the ball was moved smartly left and Abram joined the line outside Charnock and Hewitt to send in centre Roberts. Abram goaled from wide out.
Oldham had started well, but the loss of Charnock and then Heaton to the bin seemed to set them back, initially at least, and Lions winger Mike Butt had a walk-in at the corner, but Ridyard failed to add the goal.
Roughyeds went into a 10-4 lead when the composed-looking Hewitt threw a wide, cut-out pass to put Ince in at the corner, but the visitors then hit their best spell with three tries in ten minutes to rock Roughyeds back on their heels.
Luke Waterworth wriggled over from dummy half after Geronimo Doyle had gone close, then big Rhodri Lloyd crashed over wide out.
The visitors led 14-10 when they had a huge stroke of luck which led directly to a penalty try. Ridyard kicked inside with the outside of his right foot. Oldham had it well covered, but the ball struck a post and bounced straight into the hands of Jack Hansen .
As he was tackled on the line the ball went loose and after consulting with his touch judge he gave a penalty try for a high tackle. Ridyard’s conversion from in front was good so Lions went in at half-time with a ten-point lead.
Matt’s men clearly had to score first in the second half and they did it with a great try by Heaton in the right-hand corner after good work by Langtree to stay on the paddock as he was being pushed towards the touchline.
From the play-the-ball, Lions expected Owen to feed the open side, but he went blind to create a half chance for Heaton who, with no room in which to work, somehow managed to touch the ball down despite heavy traffic in front of him.
Soom afterwards Tyler Dupree did a one-on-one steal to show exciting speed for a big forward and to score Oldham’s fourth try, which Abram goaled beautifully to level at 20-20.
Oldham were well on top now. Gregory went close, but was held up, then Owen split the Lions defence before Gregory went close again.
Tom Spencer’s red card merely added to the Lions problems and in the last ten minutes Roughyeds got a stranglehold on them and the game. A Hewitt grubber forced a drop-out before Owen and Langtree moved the ball beautifully to the right and unleashed Heaton, who went in for his second.
Abram’s goal from well out on the right established a 26-20 lead and a few minutes later the Lions were penalised in midfield and then spoke out of turn, thus giving Abram the chance to kick a vital goal from long range to open up an eight-point lead.
With six minutes left, the Lions wouldn’t go away, but vital try=saving tackles by Owen and Abram ensured that Lions were ‘nilled’ in the second half as Roughyeds stormed home by dominating the second half.
Oldham - goals, Abram 4/6; tries, Roberts, Ince, Heaton (2), Dupree;
Swinton – goals, Ridyard 2/4; tries, Butt, Waterworth, Lloyd, Hansen.
OLDHAM: Abram, Holcroft, Heaton, Roberts, Ince; Charnock, Hewitt; Kirk, Owen, Reilly, Bridge, Pick, Bent; Subs (all used): Gregory, Dupree, Langtree, J Spencer.
SWINTON: Doyle; Lepori, Cox, Lloyd, Butt; Ridyard, Hansen' Brooks, Waterworth, Brogan, Meadows, Gregson, Hope, Subs (all used): Brickhill, T Spencer, Jones, Brown.