Roughyeds weather the storm

Date published: 03 March 2014


IT was hardly the best game of rugby league you’ll ever see, but in mitigation it was a blast from a wintry past — a stark reminder of what was often the norm.

Once it wasn’t exceptional to have a game of 31 scrums, as in this wet and windy confrontation on top of a hill at the head of a Welsh valley.

Nor was Dale Bloomfield’s early exit with hypothermia at Maesteg the first time a player in an Oldham jersey has suffered the consequences of extreme cold while shivering out on the wing.

The difference here was that this was a game marking the opening of a SUMMER campaign — proof positive that a consistently successful side in the modern era has to be a team for all seasons, capable of changing tactics and game plan according to conditions.

Oldham did just that in scoring 18 points to South Wales Scorpions’ four in a game abandoned by referee Adam Gill with eight minutes to go.

Roughyeds must now await the RFL verdict on whether the result will stand, but it surely must given that there was so little time left; that Oldham were 14 points to the good; and that Scorpions have already gone public in declaring their willingness to concede.

Within their limitations, the Welshmen did extremely well. They were pinned in their own half for practically the whole of the first 40 minutes, when Oldham had the wind with them, but they defended with a defiant and stubborn resistance which restricted Oldham to first-half tries by Bloomfield and Adam Files.

The home side’s best spell came early in the second half when they capitalised on Oldham errors to reply with a try by winger Alex Jones.

Scott Naylor’s men were able to weather the storm in more ways than one to gradually claw their way back into the ascendancy and clinch victory with a try by Steven Nield and a penalty goal by Lewis Palfrey.

But what of the change of tactics? That came relatively early on, after it had been shown the heavy, bitterly-cold conditions didn’t lend themselves to spreading the game wide.

Better by far to probe up the middle; concentrate on respecting possession and reducing the number of handling errors.

Oldham opened the scoring midway through the first half when Josh Crowley’s long pass left put Bloomfield over in the corner. He had plenty to do once he had safely gathered in the wet ball — the hardest part of the operation — but he got over the line with determined finishing.

Sam Gee took the kick and landed a gem of a goal out of the mud on the left-hand touchline.

The entire Oldham front-row was given a breather and within minutes of taking the field with his props Alex Davidson and Paddy Mooney, replacement hooker Adam Files had pulled off what he does best by blitzing the home defence from dummy half and scoring a try which Gee again improved with considerable aplomb.

Palfrey came on for the start of the second half, but it was Scorpions who briefly got on top thanks to a clean break up the middle by loose-forward Chris Vitalini which led to Jones going over in the corner.

Bloomfield’s departure disrupted the Roughyeds, who moved Palfrey to full-back and Tom Whitehead to the wing.

The re-emergence from the bench of Boults and Ward began to swing the balance of power back to Oldham