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Now Joy and Bridge call it a day

OF greater interest and news value than what happened in this inconsequential last game of the Betfred Championship season was news of the pending retirement of Oldham forwards Danny Bridge and Phil Joy.

DEWSBURY RAMS 21

OLDHAM RLFC 14

It was broken by the club shortly before Dewsbury formed a pre-match players’ guard of honour at the Tetley’s Stadium to recognise the retirement of their own Liam Finn.

Bridge, Joy and Oldham captain Gareth Owen, whose retirement had already been announced, were also honoured, Bridge and Owen before appearing in their last match for their hometown club.

Joy, who didn’t play in this one, was on the pitch pre-match to receive the plaudits of the crowd.

In breaking the news, Oldham chairman Chris Hamilton said:

“Like Gareth Owen, Phil and Danny say their bodies have had enough.

“They went most of the 2020 season without any rugby because the season was curtailed by Covid and Phil Joy, especially, has missed a lot of 2021 because of injury.

“Going so long without rugby has had a massive affect on them – and a lot of other clubs are reporting similar situations. It’s not just happening at Oldham; it’s happening all over the place.”

All three are local lads who have played a considerable time for home-town Oldham, led by 29-year-old Joy, who has been at the club nearly ten years, starting out in the reserves.

Overall, he has scored 27 tries (rare for a big front-row man) in 166 games, having made his debut against Gateshead Thunder (now Newcastle Thunder) in 2012.

Back-row man Bridge has scored 19 tries in 58 games, having been at the club three and a half years.

With several other players expected to be seeking pastures new in time for the 2022

season, there were emotional departures at the end of this game and plenty of pictures being taken with fellow players and fans.

The future of the boss, coaching consultant Brian McDermott, is also shrouded with uncertainty.

His current agreement has expired now, but chairman Chris Hamilton has said his stay can’t be ruled out.

Reflecting on his two and a half months stay at Oldham, which can be broken down to ten games, nine defeats, one away draw at Swinton Lions and numerous decent displays with huge backs-to-the-wall efforts, McDermott said:

“For sheer determination, desire and effort these lads have been unbelievable.

“We dropped our standards a little bit against Sheffield and Widnes way, but other than the lads have been tremendous in terms of sheer effort.

“They come to training straight from work, get out of their cars and I can honestly say they have worked as hard and have shown as much commitment as any group I have ever worked with.

“My conclusion is that we didn’t have the armoury to break down opponents as often as we needed to, but in terms of hard work and defence these men have been fantastic.

“It has been a humbling and an eye-opening experience for me, I can tell you.

“As for Chris Hamilton (club chairman and owner), I have enjoyed working with him and I would say he is a gem within the game.

“He runs a brilliant ship at Oldham and he gets neither the headlines nor the support he needs and deserves.”

Considering this final game was a dead-rubber for both teams, with nothing at stake only pride and winning pay, it was hard, physical, competitive and full of good rugby.

Tries by winger Lewis Carr and centre Adam Ryder gave Dewsbury an early 8-0 lead, but Roughyeds hit back to lead 12-8 at half-time with tries by Dan Abram and Danny Bridge, both converted by Abram.

An Abram penalty pushed Roughyeds into a 14-8 lead early in the second half.

Defending brilliantly, and enjoying major contributions on both defence and attack from centres Ryan Ince and Max Roberts – especially on attack from Ince — and full-back Tommy Brierley, Roughyeds led from midway through the first half until the last few minutes.

Sustained Rams pressure led to Ryder’s second try with only eight minutes left.

Thereafter, it was a game that belonged to the home side’s talented veteran stand-off Paul Sykes.

He converted the late try off the touchline to level the scores at 14-14 and then, after a magnificent set by the home forwards that took them from one end of the field to the other, he struck a drop goal under pressure to edge Rams into a 15-14 lead.

Only second before the final siren, Sykes then floated a lovely kick to the corner which allowed busy second-rower Michael Knowles to soar high, collect and drop over the line.

Everything Sykes touched was turning to gold by now and his conversion from wide out on the left was, to him, a mere formality.

Oldham didn’t deserve to lose, and certainly not by seven points, but in the main it was the story of McDermott’s late-June intervention — massive effort but with little reward.

Scorers: Dewsbury – drop goal, Sykes; goals, Sykes 2/4; tries, Carr, Ryder (2), Knowles; Oldham – goals, D Abram 3/3; tries, D Abram, Bridge.

DEWSBURY: Fleming; Gabriel, Ryder, Dixon, Carr; Sykes, Finn; Beckett, Day, Garratt, Tomlinson, Knowles, Magrin. Subs (all used): Speakman, Fletcher, Stevens, Schofield.

OLDHAM: Brierley; D Abram, Ince, Roberts, Holcroft; Charnock, Spence; Dupree, Owen, Kirk, Langtree, Bent, Bridge. Subs: (all used): Jinks, J Abram, Nelmes, Reilly.

Ref: M Rossleigh; HT: 8-12; Pens: 5-2; Att: 827.

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