Monday, 25 June 2012


Oldham 4 - Hornets 30

It's said that defence wins you games, and for 80 minutes it gave Hornets the upper hand in this, ultimately, one-sided derby.

But for 25 minutes there was, literally, nothing in this game; scores locked at nil-nil, both sides struggling to find any real fluidity. The only indication of the eventual outcome had been some sterling Hornets goal-line defence, prepared to scramble as a unit to repel an Oldham attack happy to persist with blunt-instrument charges at the line.

Then, up the hill and against the wind, Paul Crook hoisted a booming diagonal 40/20, and Oldham's body language indicated a chink in their resolve. From the resulting scrum, Steve Roper and Wayne English combined in a flowing right-to-left move to create space for Johnny Leather to score in the corner. Crooky banged home a sublime touchline conversion and the natives became restless.

There was a glimpse of hope for the home fans when Greenwood scooted in off a trademark Roden pass just before the hooter, but 6-4 after a nip and tuck half was scant indication of what was to come.

Hornets drilled the kick-off dead under the twitchy foot of Oldham scrum-half Whitmore (who had an absolute nightmare of a game), and set-up camp in the Oldham half. Within minutes, Gary Middlehurst was sent ripping through the smallest of gaps, only for the try to be struck off for a forward pass. No matter.

On the next foray to the Oldham line, Roper and Tony Stewart combined to create space for Leather to score his second.

Oldham extracted the digit and worked their way back upfield, where they threw themselves repeatedly against some inspired Hornets defence, and with the hour mark gone, the Roughyeds looked out of ideas.

Hornets on the other hand were more clinical. Having worked the ball close to the Oldham line, Wayne English set-off on a dancing lateral run and, when the opportunity presented itself, he showed great strength to cut inside and score by the posts.

A now dominant Hornets bullied and battered the home side back down the slope, compelling Oldham to start sets under their own posts. And when they eventually crossed the half-way line, shoddy handling presented John Cookson with 50 metres of open field. He took the ball on and, with Leather apearing at his shoulder fed him at pace for the winger to grab his hat-trick. Oldham were gone.

The next possession took Hornets back downfield, where Phil Braddish was rewarded for a hard-working performance with a bulldozing try from close range. Crooky added the extras, 30-4 - glum locals streaming for the exits.

There was still time for Hornets to launch two attacks: a mazy run by Chris Baines halted only by a last-ditch tackle by Onyango, then Chris Hough slamming a monster 40/20 downfield. From the resulting scrum Hornets looked set to open up a now tattered defence, but Roden's interception coming from an offside position denied Hornets the score, and secured him a yellow-card on the hooter.

This was a rock-solid Hornets performance, marred only by a recurrence of Dean Gorton's shoulder injury: a huge concern for all Hornets. We wish him well.

Whilst this is quite possibly the worst Oldham team of all time, you can only beat what's in front of you - and Hornets did that in accomplished fashion. Certainly, Oldham's five bonus points give them a false position in the league (they have only three wins this season) and it's now down to Hornets to chase down Whitehaven in the scramble for fourth.

On this performance, it looks unlikely that Oldham will get much at 'Haven next week, but Hornets can travel to Gateshead buoyed by this emphatic win.