OLDHAM RUFC 19, LIVERPOOL ST HELENS 26
OLDHAM RUFC scored three tries and picked up a losing bonus point, but it was insufficient to stave off a fifth straight defeat in ADM Premier Division.
It was again a case of narrow margins as Oldham were again on the wrong side of the line as they remain eighth in the 12-club division.
And the match mirrored the opening half of the season in which Oldham have lack stability with an incredible 45 players used already as four made their first appearances of the campaign against LSH.
Oldham took the lead when the LSH defence failed to deal with a speculative kick through and the ever-alert Jaimie Dalloway was on it in a flash. He kicked the ball into the in-goal area and won the race to touch down and give Oldham a 5-0 advantage.
Unfortunately, it proved to be short lived. A flying winger looked as if he may go all the way. The Oldham defence scrambled really well and looked to have snuffed out the danger, but LSH arrived in greater numbers which they made count and levelled the score at 5-5.
Further disaster struck as Oldham attacked once again in the LSH half but were burgled by an alert and opportunistic LSH centre who intercepted a pass and had an unopposed 60m canter to the line and the conversion gave the visitors a 12-5 lead against the run of play.
Oldham had played well but the odd mistake and unnecessary penalty was, as ever, costing them dear.
However, they drew level after Nick Hackman was brought down by three defenders close to the line. He showed skill to offload to Tom Hannon who went over close to the posts.
Jordan McEwan’s conversion levelled the scores, but LSH restored the lead soon after with a penalty as it was 15-12 in their favour at the break.
It had probably been Oldham’s best half of rugby for some time. The set piece was functioning well and the structure in attack and defence was generally good bearing in mind the changes they had made and having a different starting 15 every week.
The optimistic about what lay ahead in the second half was short-lived as Oldham made a hash of the kick-off and handed possession back to LSH in a great attacking position. They took full advantage and touched down to lead 20-12.
They added to the lead shortly afterwards with two penalties and all of a sudden Oldham were trailing 26-12 and fearing the worst, with 20 minutes remaining.
To Oldham’s credit, they regrouped and dominated the remainder of the game, despite losing Rhys Jones to a foolish and totally unnecessary red card.
The seven remaining forwards grunted and groaned and started to out muscle the opposition. They were rewarded with a try by Ryan Pickles and McEwan’s excellent conversion made the score 26-19.
As the game drew to its conclusion, Oldham’s 14 men were camped on the LSH line. We looked to have scored and a series of penalties in the red zone may have led to a penalty try but, unfortunately, they eventually turned over the ball and LSH were able to boot the ball to touch and win 26-19.
All credit to LSH who were good all over the pitch and took their chances.
Oldham can take much from this game. The difference between the sides was a few mistakes that LSH took full advantage of, but they definitely appear to be heading in the right direction and hopefully we will be able to re-group over the festive break and can get a few players back and start to rebuild.
It has been a tough four months for the club and new coach Jimmy Forster, but not surprising when you reflect they have lost a large number of key players to injury and migration before the season started.
Success comes in cycles and it feels as if Oldham are going through a rebuilding process.