Bouyed by their current, deserved position in the league, and their recent success against derby rivals, Workington, Whitehaven must have arrived at Whitebank Stadium expecting atough encounter, but confident of achieving another result.
Tony B's men had other ideas and Haven, for long periods of the game could not live with the tenacity of the Roughyed Defence, their improved Discipline and their Determination to cross the whitewash.
When the visitors came out in their " all black, away strip", I mentally punched air as it is my belief that it is worth 10pts to the opposition on a blistering hot day, especially in a sun trap like Whitebank. Basic Science, black absorbs heat - you tire early and white/bright reflects heat. Most youngsters in School will tell you the same.
In the early minutes, lung bursting runs often ended up with a knock on or lost ball due to the fercocity of the challeges from both sides. Oldham were first to cross the line, but Foggy gathers the ball at pace, touches down only to find out that there had been a forward pass. ( Are you listening SL?)
Following a penalty for a high shot on Robbo, Oldham force their way upfield towards the Haven line. Terrific handling by the lads, started by Karl Forber, gave Foggy a pass with Brocky on his outside with space. Still looking at the defence, he finger tip, passed the ball perfectly into the hands of Brocky who crossed for a great try. He set a pattrn whereby most players were able to improve the angle by running 10m or more towards the posts. 4 - 0, rel. easy conversion missed.
Haven were next to score. Robbo cool as ever, tried to diffuse a bomb. Was he taken out? The ref awarded a scrum. The ball is moved right from the scrum, and Rats puts in a Captain's saving tackle. But ex Roughyed Lee Doran makes up for two earlier nervous errors by feeding an inside ball to Beattie, to score a good try. 4 - 4 another rel. easy miss.
The Oldham pack are now relishing and matching the exchanges with the Cumbrian pack. Ben Hetaon and Shaun Robinson
again working their socks off with defence splitting runs. But a sad sight on any sports field is when a player requires medical attention. Dave Ellison, Oldham's most consistent prop in recent weeks, takes up the ball in his first exchange and is immediately in trouble, To their credit the Whitehaven players helped signal for assistance. Dave was taken away by ambulance with what was described as a possible compound fracture of the collar bone. Thankfully both sets of doctors and physios were able to tend to him whilst the ambulance arrived. We all wish him a speedy recovery and send him our best wishes.
Re-starting the game, 1m out, the Haven defence held firm. Following two sucessive knock ons, Haven are awarded a penalty and following excellent pressure, McAvoy scores a good try wide out on the right, breaking the goal line defence and following a missed conversion, the score is 4 - 8.
Two passaages of play see both sides clearing their own lines with Haven then making a forward pass. Ironic cheers from the crowd as the scrum is formed. Following more frenetic play, Haven are awarded a penalty, but kncok on, on half way. More great defence from Oldham!!!!! Only just on, young Casey makes ahalf break in the middle, Sutty makes great yards, but on the sixth tackle, that master technician Rats, combines with the Oldham star, Robbo, slips a beaut of an inside ball only for him to cross the line, improve the angle and level the scores. 10 -8 as Forber converts. Oldham taking charge at this stage.
On the re-start, Brocky sctters defenders in his wake, and penalty to Oldham for off side. Cloughy scoots from acting half, and the ball is worked right with more slick handling. Ben Heaton is on the receiving end of the ball. Haven lay off the tackle, and again lay off the tackle, moving wide and leaving a gap the "Shaw bus" could drive through. Ben takes the opporotunity to accelerate through the gap and score a good try. The ball is lofted in the air, yes? no? - hits the post as the hooter goes. 14 - 8 and a standing ovation from the crowd as they believe that the Roughyeds have the game by the throat.
Was this a re-juvinated Oldham we were seeing? Is it approaching the business end of the season? Typically we can always expect the Roughyeds to put in that extra mile as we approach the play offs.
AS the second half unfolds. Robbo makes his trade mark defence splitting run up to half way. Oldham are now pressing 22m out. Casey and Bravo combine. Will we score? Casey, ( I think) looks right and with precision timing, hoists a bomb into the right hand corner. As if mesmerised by the flight of the ball, Foggy soars and gathers in one take and plunges down to score a magical try. 18 - 8, followed by good conversion 20 - 8 and in the driving seat.
But it was not all one sided. Haven attack and apply pressure from a scrum 22m out. Tackles 1 - 5 are copy book hits, man and ball or round t'clogs.Rats gathers a chip, races 50m down field weaving in and out of defenders as he goes. Robbo and Forber make it to the 22m line. The ball is moved swiftly back towrds Cloughy, who spots a gap in the tiring Haven defence, and he ghosts around the ruck and scores without a finger laid upon him. 24 - 8, easy conversion, 26 - 8. Haven are still baking in the heat.
More ferocious tackling by Oldham knock Haven off their stride. Ben Heaton gathers a bomb under presuure and weaves his magic. ( Sam who?) Rats like all good captains is in support.and he and cousin Martin work the ball down field. Penalty to Oldham, and Danny Bravo 1m short. Foggy's chance and he is short of the line. Frantic scrambling goal line defence is stopping Oldham scoring again. A loan, "tek 1 pt" by yours truly, tut, was correctly ignored as Martin Roden put in a clever chip and Luke Stenchion got a richly deserved try. 30 - 8, 32 - 8 after the ball was slotted between the "H's".
Haven although tired,never gave up and fashioned a very good consolation try as the ball was worked cleverly along the line and Wiper added the points. 32 - 12, 32 - 14 as the conversion was complete. Haven progressed to the half way line. Following a knock on, Oldham receive a penalty. Foggy makes great in roads down the right, ably followed by Nooney. Foggy again more meters. Ben Heaton then comes into the line and takes a ball on his boot laces and is held up short of the line. The ball is moved left and then left again. Rats decides to switch and Mark McCully is on hand, as the ball is fed to Sam....sorry Ben Heaton as he hits the gap and the score extends to 38 - 14 following a good conversion.
But Haven were not finished. With no one at home, two successive chips and gathers see a second score for Wiper as the visitors scored their second consolation try. 38 - 20. The last score went to an Oldham penalty and the score finished 40 - 20.
Totally agree with Brooksy regarding performances. This was a great team effort and a win fashioned on solid defence. Well done again to Tony B and all of the lads. Yesterday I asked rather impertinently, whether the lads could emulate the effort put in by the reserves in gaining a terrific victory at Widnes. Enough said.
WHITEbank no HAVEN for Cumbrians.
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