Having had to miss last few games - was really looking forward to this one. With Gilly, Lucas, Boultsy, Junior and Foggy missing to name but a few this was going to be a struggle! Or was it?
Got off to worse possible start with a knock on from first kick, but goal line defence held firm. Heaton and Robbo, had outstanding games and were soon in the thick of the action by clearing their lines by up to 40m at a time, a pattern that continued throughout the game. For twenty minutes the play was frenetic, end to end, with both teams forcing errors. But on 21 minutes on the back of 2 penalties Swinton crossed the line with Foxen scoring wide right. Doddy juggled with the ball high above his head and somehow popped the ball into Foxen's hands and he scored in the corner. Mort converted the try with a superb kick from the touchline. 6 - 0.
Following more Swinton pressure, Heaton and Robbo make great yds up the pitch. Ball retention was poor at times by both sides. Swinton back in possession and in the style we have been accustomed to this season, fan the ball wide right and Ainscough crosses the line. Another good conversion by Mort, 12 - 0. Are Swinton now getting into their stride? Oldham were playing with much more aggression, enthusiasm and were definitely up for this one. Following sustained pressure near the Lions line, a deft kick was put into touch in goal. The ball should ave been sent sailing over the stand, but a fumble to ground it was followed by a kick back by a Roughyed and Noone was on hand to drop on the ball. Try given. Taking over the kicking duties his attempt swerved one way then the other and just shaved the outside of the post. 12 - 4.
Oldham were growing in confidence and following a penalty awarded just after the re-start, Sutton makes excellent yards up the pitch. That man Sutty, was in action again as he drove the ball to the line, the ball was off loaded and Luke Stenchion was on hand to gather and ghost though a gap to take the score to 12 - 8, Noony converts 12 - 10 and game on. Oldham - a further attack to try to take the lead but good defence by Swinton forced a knock on a half time.
Oldham were definitely in the ascendancy at the end of the half and needed to continue as they left off. But a penalty in the first play to Swinton put the lads on the back foot. Luke Stenchion gathers a ball as Swintn kick on the sixth. Robbo as ever and eager to gve his forwards a blow takes up the ball and bang, high shot, penalty to Oldham. Great yards by Bentley and Cloughy. Cloughy was at his best and was terrorisng em around the rucks. Oldham held just short of the line. Rugged defence pinned the Lions in their own half and a big hit forces a knock on.More Oldham pressure, Clough attacks the line, Rats puts out a superlative pass to Clarkey who has acres of room and scythes through the gap and scores a very good try. 12 - 14, and Noony converts 12 - 16. Oldham by this point were well worthy of their lead and forced Swinton to up their game.
The spirit in the Oldham side was reflected in the way they responded to a great kick chase forcing the Swinton player into touch on his own 22m line. Oldham congratualte one another and this encourages Heaton, Robbo, short of line, Cloughy held up, but the Lions goal line defence was strong.
Whitty's turn to go close, Noony near the line, Rats held, and Swinton forced to take up the ball on their own line. with ten minutes to go, both sides were trying to get the next killer score and subsequently the combination of continued big hits and desire to throw the ball wide resulted in a spate of knocks by both sides. Doddy had the upper hand at Whitebank when Brocky was playing fullback. But no such luck tonight. Brocky often snuffed out Swinton's attack forcing the error.
Swinton put the Roughyeds under all sorts of pressure, defending for their lives and Luke Stenchion again scoops the ball out of the air saving an almost certain try. The Heaton, Robbo combination again send Swinton back defending eventually on their own 22m line. It is worth noting that Heaton had diffused two massive bombs under great pressure from advancing Swintons players.
Oldham were intent on increasing the lead, with Robbo taking and gathering a great ball on the sixth. Elli on hand to extend the 22m gained to a further 20m.Oldham are 10m short. Stern goal line defence by Swinton saves the day. But it was a piece of Lions magic that regained the lead and secured the win for the home side. Having forced their way down field, Watson, who had been relatively quiet, standing in acres of space, put out a perfectly timed and positioned pass to Phil Joseph who hit the ball like a train. As soon as he hit the ball it said "TRY". Mort converted to the delight of the Lions fans who sensed a moment of relief as Oldham had certainly been more than a match for them on this particular night.
But it wasn't over. More bone crunching tackles forced errors and Oldham had no fewer than three oportunities to try to snatch back the lead. But to the delight of the Lions fans,Oldham's attempts to score tries from kicks on the first tackle resulted in a "foot in touch" and lost posession.
We had a great "crack" with the Lions fans who were dissappointed with a "subdued" display from their team. But credit Oldham with knocking Swinton off their game with a new found desire and enthusiasm that will be difficult for many teams to defend against in the run up to the business end of the season. Swinton will win the Championship and well done to them as they have been by far the outstanding team in this league. But can Oldham replicate this performance as they strive to improve their play off position. Well done to both teams - worth every penny of the entrance money.
Oldham 1 - 17 played out of their skins, but in my humble opinion, Phil Joseph was MOM, with Ben Heaton, Rats and young Robinson inspirational for the Roughyeds.
Lions snatch victory from jaws of defeat
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