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Another spirited performance against all odds

Roughyeds again gave all they had to give — and more — in their second game in a row against top-two Betfred Championship opposition.

This time Featherstone Rovers won 48-10 at Bower Fold after sweeping into a 20-0 lead inside the first quarter of an hour.

They dominated three of the game’s four quarters, but the second half of the first half belonged to Oldham, whose all-action football on both attack and defence in that period rattled the one side that looks to have the armoury to stop Toulouse Olympique’s march into Super League in the next few weeks.

Compared with last week, Oldham had Joe Hartley in the centre and Declan Gregory on the bench and all 17 again put in a brave and determined shift while up against much bigger, heavier, faster and more experienced opponents.

At least eight of the Rovers' 17 could boast significant Super League experience and they demonstrated their class with early tries by Dean Parata, Brett Ferres, Kris Welham and Craig Kopczak inside 14 minutes.

That early Rovers blitz, coupled with the loss of captain Gareth Owen through injury, could have knocked the stuffing out of the home side.

No way. They continued to harass and hustle and seemed to grow in  confidence after forcing the first Rovers error midway through the half.

Getting possession in the Rovers half for virtually the first time in the game, and looking especially strong on the right where Danny Langtree and Joe Hartley looked dangerous and capable of splitting Rovers open on numerous occasions, Roughyeds were definitely on top in the run-up to half-time.

A half break by Hartley, running strongly off Langtree, brought out the best in the Rovers defence, but it was to prove the forerunner to the first Oldham try when on-loan Harvey Spence at stand-off produced a great little kick to the right side and Hartley took possession to turn and score.

Dan Abram couldn’t convert from wide out, but the home side kept up the momentum when Gregory and Tyler Dupree both went close before Spence forced Rovers to drop out.

Rovers were under the cosh now with Langers back to his best and Hartley looking full of confidence and self-belief, producing yet another break in which he went through a hole and then swung away to the left.

From there, Roughyeds moved the ball swiftly right via Spence, Abram and Hartley, but winger Ryan Ince was judged to have nicked the touchline before diving in spectacularly at the corner.

It was worth a try in anyone’s book, but it wasn’t to be and Oldham then suffered more setbacks with a couple of dummy-half errors and then an incident which saw Rovers half-back Dane Chisholm despatched to the sin-bin for retaliation and Roughyeds penalised for the original defence — a late challenge on the Rovers man after he had put in a kick.

It was directly from the penalty that Rovers scored their fifth try, but their only score between the 14th and 41st minutes when Roughyeds were in command.

Holmes sent Kopczak charging over the line for a try which Ferres goaled in Chisholm’s absence.

Roughyeds responded perfectly. Hartley sent Max Roberts down the middle and then Dave Hewitt chipped ahead, regathered on the first bounce and put Danny Bridge over in the corner as the siren sounded the end of the first half.

Abram converted off the touchline and going in at 10-26, Oldham could feel well satisfied with themselves.

Both sides needed to start strongly after the break. Rovers got first use of the ball from the kick-off and substitute Dale Ferguson, a big, strong forward, smashed through Oldham’s right-flank defence to send in supporting full-back Alex Walker with an inside ball that looked suspiciously forward.

Ferres added the goal for a 32-10 lead, whereupon Rovers regained the initiative they had in the first quarter of an hour and went on to add three more tries by Parata, Ferres and Walker.

Injuries didn’t help Oldham’s cause, Owen going off early with what looked like a recurrence of his back problem, to be followed in the second half by Hewitt, who looked to have a lower leg injury and then, almost at the end, by Dupree.

He suffered a head injury which caused a short hold-up and he eventually walked off with support as referee Michael Smaill indicated that he had placed the incident on report.

Scorers: Oldham – goal, Abram 1/2; tries, Hartley, Bridge; Rovers - goals, Chisholm  4/7, Ferres 2/2; tries, Parata (2), Ferres (2), Welham, Kopczak (2), Walker (2).

OLDHAM: D Abram; Ince, Hartley, Roberts, Holcroft; Spence, Hewitt; Joy, Owen, Dupree, Langtree, Bridge, Bent. subs; Charnock, Nelmes, Gregory, Reilly.

ROVERS: Walker; Gale, Welham, Hardcastle, Blackmore; Holmes, Chisholm; Kopczak, Parata, Lockwood, Halton, Ferres, Field. Subs: Jones, Springer, Cooper, Ferguson.

HT, 10-26; Pens, 7-5; Ref, Michael Smaill.

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