OLDHAM Roughyeds took advantage of wintry conditions at Whitebank Stadium to edge a young Saints 28-18, writes Graham Henthorne.
The home side took an early lead through centre Mathew Fogarty.
A knock on on the last tackle from the Saints was hacked on by the home side but as full back Nathan Ashe was about to diffuse trouble he appeared to be tackled without the ball allowing Fogarty to touch down.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Whitebank Stadium the pitch is on a slope diagonally from one corner to the other and the Saints, playing up hill in the first half, were constantly pegged back into the corner with some accurate kicking from the Roughyeds scrum half Jamie Dallymore.
Metres were hard to come by and the Saints were guilty of squandering good possession on a number of occasions.
Chris Flannery, doing his usual dependable job, drove the ball in well getting a rare repeat set, only to see the ball knocked on at the restart, as it was after Josh Jones’ break down the left minutes later.
There were a few familiar faces in the opposition and one of them, Miles Greenwood, extended the home side’s lead on 20 minutes with a trade mark angled run to the line from a scrum on the Saints 10.
On the half hour the Saints finally managed to exert some pressure on the home side and opened their account with a try from Nathan Ashe. Mark Percival managed to find some green grass down the right and expertly beat his opposite number to put Ade Gardner away. From the play the ball on the line Ashe weaved his way in at the right corner. Percival converted from wide out to put the Saints back in contention.
Coach Ian Talbot would have been well satisfied going in only four points down with the conditions in the Saints favour in the second half but, on the stroke of half time, the home side increased their lead once again. Winger John Gillam reacted quickest to a dropped ball racing away to score at the posts.
The Saints were urged to up their work rate in the second period and did just that straight from the off making it just as difficult for the Roughyeds to come out of their own half.
Great kick pressure form Flannery prevented a clearing kick on the last giving the Saints great field position. The ball was worked left and Josh Jones took three over the line with him to score in the left corner. Another great conversion from Percival put the Saints back within four.
The human wrecking ball that is Jordan Hand was relishing the contest up front putting in some big hits on his older opposite numbers. Greg Wilde was bundled into touch having seen a glimmer of a gap down the left that in better conditions may have yielded points.
Just as the Saints seemed to be getting the upper hand two penalties in a row on the hour saw the home side in Saints territory for the first time in the half. A mix up in the right corner from a neat grubber saw Gillam grab his second and Oldham’s fourth try to re-establish their lead.
Undeterred the Saints came straight back at the home side. An inside ball at the play the ball saw Dom Speakman go through only to be stopped short but on the next possession the Saints scored the try of the night. A great 40 metre break from Ashe picking the ball up on the run, saw him through to the full back and Percival took his inside ball to go the final 40 to the sticks.
The Saints were hunting the winner and a great kick from Danny Yates and chase from Gardner got a repeat set. On the fourth the same inside ball at the play the ball saw Joe Greenwood through only for the ball to fall in front of the supporting Scott Hale with the line at his mercy.
The Roughyeds got a fifth try on the final hooter to give the score a slightly inflated look.
Flannery and Gardner showed their experience in the terrible conditions and there were good performances from Percival, Greenwood, Hand and Speakman.
Tries: Miles Greenwood, Mathew Fogarty, John Gillam 2, John Clough.
Goals: Jamie Dallymore 4.
Tries: Nathan Ashe, Mark Percival, Josh Jones.
Goals: Mark Percival 3.
Half Time: 6-16
Full Time: 18-28
1. Miles Greenwood; 19. Tom Rigby, 30. Dave Cookson, 26. Mathew Fogarty, 5. John Gillam; Blank. Jack Reid, 7. Jamie Dallymore; 8. Jason Boults, 17. John Clough, 16. Liam Gilchrist, 14. Chris Clarke, 22. Paul Smith, 13. Valu Bentley.
Subs: 20. Danny Langtree, 11. Neil Rigby, 15. Bruce Johnson, 28. Michael Ward, 25. Martin Roden, 9. Danny Whitmore, 3. Chris Murphy, 12. Alex Thompson.
1. Nathan Ashe; 2. Ade Gardner, 3. Mark Percival, 4. Josh Jones, 5. Jayden Sandford; 6. Adam Swift, 7. Danny Yates; 8. Josh Perry, 9. Dom Speakman, 10. Carl Forster, 11. Scott Hale, 12. Chris Flannery, 13. Joe Greenwood.
Subs: 14. Marcus Baines, 15. Danny Jones, 25. Joe Bate, 17. Jordan Hand, 18. Corey Lee, 19. Greg Wilde.