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Oldham edge past cup holders Halifax in 24–20 Win

ROUGHYEDS hit the ground running as they got their 2024 season underway with a 24-20 win against 1895 Cup holders Halifax Panthers.

Oldham stood firm to Halifax – a side that has reached the championship play-offs in two of the past three seasons – who threw all their might at League One Oldham.

Sean Long’s men were quick off the line and rarely produced an error in what was a strong showing, considering they have not played for over a month.

After last weekend’s Law Cup was called off, as well as not being able to train fully due to frozen pitches, it was hardly the ideal preparation going into the game, but it didn’t seem to impact the team’s performance on the field.

Panthers were easy on the eye, and trickery from their halves reaped rewards, but it was the numerous loose carries and knock-ons that were their downfall.

Logan Astley from full-back produced several meandering carries and was a real handful for the Panthers tacklers.

It was the awareness from the Oldham side which was the most impressive – they exploited every Halifax error to the fullest extent.

In the opening stages, Halifax had a huge opportunity to open the scoring, but just as the ball was about the be grounded, it was spilled.

Roughyeds withstood a good ten minutes of Panthers pressure before, and it was when Halifax were advancing that Oldham fought back.

A Joe Keyes pass out wide was clawed out of the air by Mo Agoro who thundered some 80 or so metres up the field to score a try against the run of play.

Minutes later, some deceptive running by Astley – as he ran laterally across the Boundary Park hybrid surface – nearly set Ben O’Keefe away to score, but he was wrapped up just before the line.

Had Ellis not spilled the ball, when Oldham were shaping up to score after forcing a goal-line drop-out, they could have had another.

More Oldham pressure came as they forced another drop-out which resulted in Danny Craven nearly sneaking in with a clever dummy close to the line.

Halifax fought back and Greg Eden, the beneficiary of an inch-perfect James Woodburn-Hall pass, dived over for a try in the corner.

Just before half-time, Agoro got another as he leaped for the line at the tightest of angles after being played in by Astley.

Roughyeds picked up where they left off in the second forty, but an incorrect play-the-ball meant Oldham could not capitalise on good field position achieved after a Halifax loose carry in their own half.

But Oldham were invited in again, and this time it was Ben O’Keefe who pounced on a loose pass by Joe Keyes to run 30 metres or so to make the scores 18-4.

Halifax got a chance of their own, due to an unforced error by Jordan Turner, which gave the Panthers a scrum close to the Oldham line – the result of which was a Greg Eden try.

Panthers were in the ascendancy, and after forcing a goal-line drop-out, Woodburn-Hall’s deceptive run allowed him the space to run through the Oldham line unopposed to make it 18-12.

Oldham were invited in again after a howler of a kick, from Joe Keyes, which went out on the full by some margin.

Roughyeds, in good field position, shifted the ball out left and Jordan Turner used all his power to force his way over the line to score – making up for his earlier error.

Halifax blew another opportunity as they looked certain to score when Joe Keyes broke the line, but nobody collected the offload and Oldham scrambled it back.

Panthers had a Ben Crooks try ruled out in the final ten minutes because of obstruction, but that did not dent their want to find a way back in.

There was good work from Louis Jouffret as he flung a pass to Ben Tibbs who brought Halifax to within four points of Oldham, with minutes to spare.

There was desperate, unpredictable play from Panthers in the remaining stages, but Oldham were alive to the dangers as they forced several interceptions to secure the win.

There were 13 debutants wearing red and white on Sunday afternoon, and this win was a real statement of intent in terms of what Sean Long and his men can achieve in 2024 – and Oldham are only going to get better.

Scorers:

Oldham: goals, Ellis 4/5; tries, Agoro x2, O’Keefe, Turner.

Halifax: goals, Keyes 0/2, Jouffret 2/2; tries, Eden x2, Woodburn-Hall, Tibbs

Teams: OLDHAM: Astley; Agoro, O’Keefe, Turner, Johnson; Craven, Ellis; Kopczak, Wildie, J.Chapelhow, Wardle, Lawton, Taylor. Subs: Aldridge, Farnworth, T.Chapelhow, Moran (all used). 18th Man: Paga

HALIFAX: Woodburn-Hall; McComb, Tibbs, Crooks, Eden; Jouffret, Keyes; Murray, O’Brien, Lannon, Kavanagh, Gee, Fairbank. Subs: Inman, Tangata, Larroyer, C.Davies (all used) 18th Man: O.Davies

Referee: Mike Smaill; HT: 12-4; Pens: 1-3; Att: 1521

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