The Birth of a Classic(o)
The Law Cup was first played for in 1921 to raise money for the Rochdale and Oldham Infirmaries - and was originally known as the ‘Infirmaries Cup’. As recorded in Hornets' Annual Report and Accounts from that year, a local MP – Mr A.J.Law – provided “a handsome Silver Cup for the Competition” and the winners received gold medals “the gift of Rochdale and Oldham gentlemen”.
At the first game, everyone concerned, including the players of both Clubs, gave their services for free contributing to a donation of £348 3s 7 ½ d to each of the two hospitals. Following the creation of the NHS, proceeds from the match in the 1948/9 season were distributed to local charities and the cup was referred as the ‘Charity Cup’. During the 1949/50 season it was decided that the majority of the proceeds would be used “for fostering of junior Rugby League games" - and the trophy renamed The Law Cup named after its original benefactor.
To date, the Law Cup has been contested 67 times - including a replay after the first game at Rochdale ended in a scoreless draw. The replay a week later at Oldham was won 12-2 by the Roughyeds.
Oldham have won the cup 44 times to Hornets 20. The cup was shared in 1954 and 1976, both games drawn.
The record attendance for a Law Cup game is 14,000 for a 34-0 Oldham home win in 1926 - just edging out the 13,900 present at the Athletic Grounds three years previously, when Hornets won 13-5.
A bit of needle
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Don't come running to us when you hurt yourself.
This week the Oldham Chronic bent the truth a little, pointing out that twelve of the previous 15 Law Cups have been contested at Spotland, with only three played: "... on the Oldham side of Summit Hill."
Scott Naylor was happy to get a little dig in. Speaking to the Chronic last month he said: "This is a game with our close rivals that doesn't need bigging up. Like all derbies, it's a massive game for both clubs and both sets of fans and it's nice that Rochdale are coming to us for a change."
"Their new coach, Carl Forster, is clearly more comfortable at the thought of coming to Oldham for a pre-season game than were some of his predecessors."
But Naylor has a short memory. Indeed, it's not entirely fair to blame Hornets for not wanting to play in Oldham when Oldham don't always play in Oldham.
Yes, it will be the first Law Cup to be played 'in Oldham' since 2011 (when Tony Benson's side won 34-28) - but we did quite happily travel to Stalybridge in 2017, winning that one 24-12.
As it stands., Oldham currently hold the venerable trophy having won 28-24 at Spotland last January - and if last weekend's pre-season results are any indicator - this year's Law Cup promises to provide a serious challenge.
A look at Oldham
Notwithstanding Hunslet Parkside's shock win over Fev, the most eye-catching result of last weekend was Oldham's 24-10 win at Big Spending Barrow. And, whilst Paul Crarey was careful enough to lay down a carpet of excuses, the Raiders side did contain Spedding, Dallimore, Charnock, Crellin, ex-Salford forward Walne, Jono Smith. And Deon Cross. Oops!
Reports suggest, though, that Barrow were out-enthused by Oldham - so no room for complacency.
Indeed, Naylor has put together a useful looking squad for 2019 - and it's one that's hotly tipped to win League 1 (even by Garry Schofield!).
Our four to watch out for are:
Ben Calland: The second rower is product of Salford's academy and (as Ray French might say) a 'former Blackbrook amateur' who cut his teeth playing for Corrimal Cougars in the Illawarra competition down-under. Sacked off a promising Judo career to play Rugby League. Did we mention that he's Matt Calland's brother?
Ritchie Hawkyard: the vastly experienced utility back is a former Scottish international with 378 pro- and semi-pro games under his belt. Having started his career at Bradford Bulls, he spent nine years at Swinton before moving to Keighley Cougars. Featured last week at Fullback.
Scott Law: Former Halifax and Hornets prop with huge experience. Keighley's 2018 player of the year played 200 games for Cougars over a nine year stint. A proper 'old-skool' prop who takes teams forward.
Zack McComb: the Huddersfield U19s product was signed last year from Siddal. Prior to that he had a stint at Batley that saw him play on dual-reg with Oxford and Gloucester All Golds. He weighed in with two tries last week playing outside former Hornets three-quarter Jack Holmes.
Hornets, are you ready?
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Hornets come into the game off the back of a thorough test by Mayfield. It's fair to say that it was hard to gauge a team performance given the permutations used, but what was clear is that the class of 2019 brings a sleeves-rolled-up work ethic and a willingness to do the hard yards on attack and defence.
The nature of the game did give us a chance to check out individual performances and there were a few that caught the eye. Early doors Jack Cottington and Ryan Millington got through a ton of work, Seta Tala put himself about and Dec Gregory looked sharp. In the second half Scotty Moore (Sponsored by TLCRF80mins) showed some deft touches as he engaged the footy cogs for the first time in a year, Shaun Ainscough looked solid going forward and mopping-up at the back. And Lee Mitchell looked every inch skipper material. Lots of positives.
Sunday is the next step towards galvanising individual capabilities into a team performance - and, for sure, Oldham are a very different proposition.
However it plays out, the A627M El Clasico never disappoints. Two traditional rivals going at it for 80 minutes. What's not to like? See you there.