Oldham v Leigh (and vice versa) used to be a regular event on the calendar, but it is some while since the two sides met at a senior level and this game was keenly anticipated in the Oldham camp since the fixture was announced. Oldham’s pre season preparations have gone well and the whole team was raring to get onto the pitch. On a day more like autumn than late summer the game kicked off on a grey, drizzly afternoon, but don’t let that fool you this game was anything but grey and drizzly with both teams fired up and seeking a first win of the season.
In the opening stages it was Leigh, who looked the more confident, and so they should, coming down from the division above they had a lot to prove, and on ten minutes they got the first try. Pressure had been building and the Leigh finally found some space down the Oldham right when the away sides defence seemed to go to sleep allowing the home side to score a converted try just to the right of the uprights. From then on Oldham seemed to wake up and get into their stride, good work by the forwards ‘picking and driving’ had the home team pinned in their own twenty metre area for long periods and the big forward drives by the likes of Andy Wood
, Jon Maslen
and Nathan Taylor
constantly had Leigh on the back foot. It wasn’t until right on the half time whistle that Oldham finally got on the score board via a penalty kick at goal given for interference at the ruck by the Leigh forwards. This was calmly slotted home by Jordan Green
Half time score Leigh 7 – 3 Oldham.
Shortly after the start of the second half Oldham’s dominance in the scrums and lineouts (Oldham won roughly 80% of the line out ball during the game) came to an abrupt end when the Leigh hooker left the pitch with an injured ankle and thus the game was reduced to uncontested scrums. A cynical ploy ? Who knows, but it did take a lot from Oldham’s game. One of the problems with uncontested scrums is that from the restart it’s hard not to carry on being passive, or so it seemed on fifty minutes when the Leigh number eight burst through from the back of the scrum to increase the home sides lead. Oldham needed to respond and they did via an excellent try. The forwards winning a turnover ball just inside their own half. Then a smart interchange of passes down the left wing between Louis Fitton
and Ryan North
eventually saw North race away to score between the posts. Green added the conversion and Oldham were back in the hunt. They had to be on their mettle though, as a couple of minutes later Leigh managed to force their way over the line and would have scored if it wasn’t for an excellent try saving tackle by Stuart Brennan
. Leigh went further in front on seventy one minutes when they scored a try after a bit of sloppy defending down the right. Oldham responded five minutes later when Dave Hudson
burst over for a try out wide in the corner. Green just failed with the conversion, and that was that.
Final score Leigh 17 – 15 Oldham.
There were many positives from the afternoon to take into the rest of the campaign. Oldham’s man of the match on the opening day of the season was Nathan Taylor
, but it could have been any one of a number of players.