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Craven's heroics rescue Oldham in North Wales

Danny Craven struck a dramatic last-minute drop goal as Oldham fought back from 24-8 down to steal a thrilling 25-24 win at North Wales Crusaders.

Having suffered a first league defeat of the season last weekend at Keighley, Sean Long’s Roughyeds left it late to break down an inspired Crusaders defence and get back to winning ways by the narrowest of margins.

“Sometimes you have to win ugly and North Wales played the perfect game,” Long told Roughyeds TV.

“It shows the character of the lads, and you have to have belief that you can do it.”

Oldham were without injured captain Jordan Turner and in-form forward Adam Lawton, while the game came too soon for winger Mo Agoro and prop Pat Moran as they both recover from injuries. Centre Ben O’Keefe though was fit to return, while Logan Astley got the nod over Jamie Ellis in the halves.

Oldham then suffered another injury blow just moments into the game when centre Kian Morgan pulled up with a hamstring problem, hooker Jordan Paga brought on to play out of position from the bench.

North Wales started with energy and took the lead when prop Ben Evans powered over from close range, Ben Land adding the extras. That lead became 12-0 when veteran winger Patrick Ah Van skipped around Oldham’s makeshift right edge to touch down as the hosts dominated.

Oldham struck back when Jack Johnson finished off a sweeping move from left to right, but Craven - who had an off day from the kicking tee in the absence of Ellis - pulled his conversion wide.

Laulu-Togaga’e underline his class with a fine individual try before the break, but Craven was again off target as Crusaders took a 12-8 half-time lead.

A nightmare start to the second half saw Oldham fall further behind when Kieran Taylor out-jumped Cian Tyrer to touch down a towering kick, Lane adding his third successful kick at goal for 18-8.

Worse was to come when Craig Kopczak was sin-binned for a high shot and Crusaders struck again through the impressive Oli Davies on debut, Lane again converting for a shock 24-8 lead.

But Oldham showed patience and character in the final quarter to power back into the game. A superb individual effort from Logan Astley reduced the arrears before an opportunist effort from substitute Bailey Aldridge hauled the Roughyeds back to within four points with five minutes to go.

That was the signal for Craven to step up and take control. He levelled the scores with a wonderful individual run and finish, but with a touchline conversion to win it Craven again pulled the left-footer wide. That though merely prompted an even more dramatic winner, as Owen Farnworth set up the position with a barnstorming run and Craven fired the match-winning drop goal from long range to thrill the passionate travelling Oldham support.

“I’m over the moon for the fans who support us through thick and thin,” said Long.

“To win in that fashion shows that we are playing for the badge and the town.”

North Wales: Lane, Holmes, Taylor, Oakley, Ah-Van, Coates, Hughes, Evans, Burns, Barrett, Unsworth, Davies, Roberts-Else.
Subs: Costello, Rainford, Ellis, Bushell.

Oldham: Laulu-Togaga’e, Tyrer, O’Keefe, Morgan, Johnson, Craven, Astley, J Chapelhow, Wildie, Farnworth, Gallagher, Taylor, Hirst.
Subs: Aldridge, Paga, Johnson, Kopczak.

Scorers:

North Wales:
Tries: Evans, Ah Van, Taylor, Davies.
Goals: Lane 4

Oldham:
Tries: Johnson, Laulu-Togaga’e, Astley, Aldridge, Craven.
Goals: Craven 2.
Drop goal: Craven.

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