GARETH Owen talked pre-match about his squad's desire to turn Bower Fold into 'Fortress Fold' — and he and his resolute Roughyeds then went out to face Halifax Panthers and to show that actions speak even louder than words.
Matt Diskin’s men beat Panthers 16-12 with determination, energy and an insatiable appetite for sheer hard work to follow up their last home win against Swinton Lions.
That’s two from two now at Bower Fold in the league — three from three if you count Barrow Raiders in the Betfred Challenge Cup — and in the two Championship clashes Roughyeds have come from behind at half-time to win and to keep their opponents scoreless.
They rattled up 18 unanswered second-half points to beat Swinton and again dominated the second 40 minutes against Halifax, each time playing down the hill to the town end, to turn a 4-12 interval deficit into a 16-12 triumph.
Said coach Diskin:
“It was a very gritty performance – not as clinical as we can be, but that will come with time.
“We showed a lot of determination to get the result we wanted against a Panthers side with lots of Championship experience.
“The lads have worked hard in training this week to get the win they thoroughly deserved.
“It was good to see their togetherness and their will to win. When we become more clinical we’ll go better and better.”
Chairman Chris Hamilton said:
“I’m proud of all the lads and their effort and determination to grind out a win that was thoroughly deserved.
“My big fear was that they weren’t going to get what they deserved, but they told me it was all in the timing and that’s why they left it so late to get the winning try !
“Seriously, we are fortunate to have a group of players who are totally focused on working hard and getting better and better.
“We toughed it out and I’m really pleased for Matt and ‘Shez’, for the players and for the fans.”
Oldham won the toss and elected to play up the gradient first half.
It was an arm-wrestle, as they say in modern parlance, but Panthers went in front when Harris and Barber moved the ball wide to the right and McGrath went in at the corner for a try which Connor Robinson improved off the touchline.
At that stage, Halifax had the momentum and the territorial advantage, but Oldham defended stoutly, always got three men into the tackle and clearly demonstrated that they were going to put up a fight.
Better still, a penalty for offside against Halifax enabled the home side to extricate themselves from a tight corner and they went on to get themselves right back into the game with a great try by winger Tommy Brierley after an explosive break by his centre, Jack Croft.
Callum Green’s conversion attempt off the touchline was just wide and we were just beginning to think Roughyeds would do well to go in at half-time only two points down up the hill when Panthers scored again.
Gadwin Springer made the break and Woodburn-Hall got with him on the inside, first juggling with Springer’s offload and then controlling the ball to race away to the posts.
Robinson’s goal gave the visitors a 12-4 half-time lead but then, just like the Swinton game, Roughyeds came out for the second half to show what they’re made of.
Croft was stopped on the line; Roberts went close on the other side of the field; and then Reilly – ‘Rambo’ to his mates – smashed through a hitherto solid Panthers defence to score the try that put Oldham back on top.
Green’s goal cut their deficit to two points. Game on. Declan Gregory, who has electric pace over the first few metres from dummy half, swept into the clear at half-way and found the pacy Green on his left.
The young full-back, cool under pressure, safe under the high ball, with good hands and quick on his feet, had a smashing game, but on this occasion he might have backed himself and gone for the corner instead of turning inside and hitting the retreating defence.
A few minutes later Croft also looked likely to score when he went for the corner, but credit Woodburn-Hall with a good try-saving tackle.
As Roughyeds piled on the pressure, Langtree went close when chasing a Hewitt kick; Spencer was held up over the Halifax line; Charnock forced a Fax drop out; and then Gregory was held up from dummy half.
The visitors defended just as strongly as Oldham did in the first half and as the minutes ticked away it looked as though they were going to hang on.
But with only four minutes left Oldham grabbed the try — and the win — they deserved. Gregory, Charnock and Green moved the ball right and Croft crowned a great performance on his loan debut by putting the finishing touches to the attack and squeezing in.
Green landed the goal from way out to the right of the posts and, in the dying embers of a great game, cleaned up at the back to take Oldham to safety after Panthers had regained possession from a short restart after the Croft try.
In a rousing team performance, in which half a dozen young players contributed much and looked anything but out of place in the demanding environment of Championship rugby, there were eye-catching individual displays all over the field.
Full-back Green, centre Croft, tackling-machine Liam Bent, livewire Gregory and fit-again Reilly all had big games, Bent coming to his side’s rescue in the dying minutes with a mighty tackle.
The ball went loose, Green snapped it up and cleared his lines – and Oldham were almost home.
A special word, too, for hooker and skipper Owen, who replaced the injured Hewitt at half-back 15 minutes from the end and again showed his prowess in that most specialist and tactically-demanding of positions.
Scorers: Oldham - goals, Green 2/3; tries, Brierley, Reilly, Croft; Halifax, goals, Robinson 2/2; tries, McGrath, Woodburn-Hall.
OLDHAM: Green; Brierley, Croft, Roberts, Holcroft; Charnock, Hewitt; Kirk, Owen, Nelmes, Bent, Langtree, Spencer. Subs: Gregory, Fletcher, Bibby, Reilly.
HALIFAX: Woodburn-Hall; McGrath, Barber, Worthington, Rawsthorne; Harris, Robinson; Calcott, Moore, Tangata, Garside, Hewitt, Larroyer. Subs: Bourouh, Springer, Kavanagh, Tibbs.
Referee: Gareth Hewer
Six Again: 0-2