Oldham 1st XV v Wigton 1st XV
A bonus point win in the Mud, to start 2018 off well.
Well, Happy New Year and I hope you had a great Christmas. Holy cow it’s 2018 already. I’m sure someone has slipped in an extra decade somewhere without letting on. The speed that time passes by is an absolute shitter as Oscar Wilde famously said. So, make damn well sure that you enjoy it because yours doesn’t last forever and it is being stolen from you by the greatest thief of all, time itself. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Our last two fixtures prior to the festive break were cancelled, firstly because of Storm Caroline who brought freezing temperatures and, on the day of the game, heavy snow to Manor Park which meant that we could not entertain Eccles. Their pitch was just as bad so the fixture could not be reversed. And the following week, a severe weather bomb appears to have targeted Keswick Rugby Club as our game was postponed at 9.30 on match day after we had all got up, prepared and had breakfast. But on the same day games took place at Kendal, Wigton, St Benedicts, Egremont, Silloth, Workington and Fleetwood. Surprised that such a fierce local phenomena as that didn’t make the news!
So we commence the second half of the season, after an extended break of five weeks by entertaining a Wigton team who have been going really well and who had beaten De la Salle on the last fixture of 2017, which is no mean feat as we all know. Wigton are a sleeping Cumbrian giant who are well drilled, very physical and capable of beating anybody in this division. They beat us 22-15 in the reverse fixture earlier in the season when we couldn’t stop conceding penalties and we were kicked to death by a very accurate goal kicker who just couldn’t miss on the day.
It was Storm Eleanor who decided to bring some chaos to the country this week and our pitch was under water on Thursday but by game time on Saturday, it was ready for business, if not somewhat boggy underfoot.
We had turned out a very young side in our last outing at Burnley with the majority being 26 or under and 7 being 21 or under. And those youngsters did us proud against a very physical Burnley side. So stick with it guys. We were able to welcome a few back this week in Will Mellor, Robert Froggatt, Josh Watson, Ryan North, Rob Somerwill and Callum Megram. But whilst these bring experience to the team, one is 26 and four are 23. But we also lost Charlie Roscoe who requires a hernia operation. I suspect hernia operations aren’t particularly high on Her Majesty’s Government waiting list just now so good luck with that Charlie. Ryan Arundale turned up in a flat cap with hair that hasn’t seen a pair of scissors for many a year. He looked like something from a Lowry picture. Perhaps he is growing it for Rob. If the wind gets up, there is every chance he could be whipped to death. Dean told me that he has a new eating plan. I was impressed until he advised me that it involves buying two kebabs in the evening ensuring that he has one available for breakfast. Well it’s a sort of start I guess so keep it up Dean.
The availability of such a large group of players presented the coaches with a different kind of selection headache as only Charlie was unavailable from the match winning squad at Burnley. Some players will therefore be disappointed not to have been selected this week, but we have used a lot more players than we would have hoped this year and it’s a long season and we are likely to need a good squad going forward. So the young lads who have stepped up brilliantly so far this year should really grasp the positives of their time with the first team and enjoy full game time with other club teams. Nobody who has stepped up has looked in the least bit out of place and they should keep training hard and wait for the opportunities that will come their way this season or next.
We have been informed officially that our law enforcement agencies aren’t as effective as they might be and that opportunities to prevent the atrocity at the Manchester were missed. When we digest this, we should not forget that as Home Secretary, Theresa May cut the police force by 40%. It doesn’t need Sherlock Holmes to deduce that these matters are inextricably linked. How political dogma hurts us all. Did you know that despite the huge cuts in public service since 2010, the billions of pounds that have been stripped out of our region by this current administration, the government still spends exactly the same amount of money in the north west now as it did when it came to power. That is some saving in return for all the lives that have been ruined. So instead of investing and supporting people in work, they now pay exactly the same amount of money to people, not to work. Can anyone work that one out? It is mind boggling. This Brexit malarkey is clearly in safe hands. That 350m a week that we were going to spend on the health service is going to be a long time coming because it’s going to cost us that much over the next four years to pay for our divorce.
We’ve also spent 3.1 billion, yes that is billion, on the HMS Queen Elizabeth and it takes on 200 litres of water per hour – and that is not for drinking or flushing toilets! OG would never have allowed that to happen.
Wigton kicked off and turned the ball over on the second play and then seemed to keep the ball for the next twenty minutes. They had brought along a powerful set of forwards who enjoy carrying the ball into contact. But Oldham’s lighter weight but more mobile pack had not forgotten how to tackle during the five week layoff and every yard made in open play was hard work. Unfortunately for Oldham though, we did appear to have forgotten that there are laws that you have to abide by and we were conceding what seems to be a penalty per minute early on which was allowing Wigton to gain territory. However, despite this early dominance the visitors didn’t really threaten to open the scoring and Oldham managed to contain the pressure.
On the 20 minute mark Oldham had a scrum close to their 22 by the right hand touchline. Hackman picked up and darted blind and slipped it to Mellor. Will drew the winger and moved it to Arundale on his own 10m line in little space. He attacked what little space he had and chipped the ball over the last man. He led the chase but still had to toe poke and control the unpredictable oval ball into the in goal area. He showed remarkable composure and skill to do this and touchdown to give Oldham a 5-0 lead. It really was a great individual try. When Ryan turns up with his head screwed on he is a real asset who hits hard. Let’s hope this particular Ryan turns up every week!! It wasn’t a great day for goal kicking and Jobson’s conversion missed the target.
The game continued in a similar vein really with Wigton having a lot of the ball but not really able to break Oldham down. Taylor, North and Somerwill put in excellent tackling shifts and were able to slow Wigton down at the breakdown. The bigger units of Blomeley, Souter, Jordan McEwan and Cullen regularly made good yards when carrying. Barber used the back line well with Watson and Aspin showing invention and pace (well Aspin showed pace) often making good progress particularly down the left.
By now Oldham had got on top of the annoying penalty count and were able to apply pressure of their own and were awarded an attacking 5m scrum. A push over wasn’t an option and Wigton wheeled the scrum towards the left touchline. Unfortunately for them, this suited Oldham perfectly as it allowed the Hackman/Mellor combination to find Froggatt in a one on one situation on the left wing 5m out. There won’t be many wingers at this level who can deal with Frog in these circumstances and he powered over to increase the lead to 10-0. The conversion was missed.
Oldham looked to be getting on top now and might have extended the lead as they pinned Wigton in their 22. But the penalty scourge returned and having been camped on their line for a period, three successive and unnecessary penalties saw Wigton advance into the Oldham 22 without having to do anything really. Oldham repelled a couple of attacks but on the last play of the half, they were all at sea and Wigton had a massive overlap on the left hand flank and looked certain to score. However, a sloppy pass went to ground to give Oldham a real let off and at halftime they led 10-0.
The scoreline did flatter Oldham as Wigton had more territory and more possession. But Oldham defended and scrambled superbly and clinically took the chances that came their way. The teams seemed pretty well matched all over the pitch. Wigton were probably just about on top in the scrum, although they never managed one against the head and the Oldham lineout functioned well for most of the half. The biggest problem was the penalty count which we didn’t really get under control until the latter part of the half. As the pitch continued to cut up, we suspected that we were in for another tough forty minutes.
And so it proved although Oldham were more on the front foot. Wigton were pushing in and defending tight but Oldham weren’t able to exploit the opportunities this presented out wide and much of the game was played between the ten metre lines. It sparked into life on 55 minutes when North was penalised for a tip tackle just outside the Oldham 22 providing Wigton with a great attacking position. But they took exception to the incident and a melee ensued which saw a Wigton player receive a red card. North received a yellow but the penalty was reversed and Oldham cleared the danger.
We then had a two minute period that settled the game with both teams down to 14 men. Oldham went on the attack and had a series of penalties and finally took three points beneath the posts. Wigton almost regathered the kick off but the ball was quickly moved to Mellor who made a trademark burst from his 22. He found Barber on half way who sprinted to the 22 and chipped into the in goal area and Arundale won the race to touch down for a high quality score. The conversion was missed but Oldham now led 18-0 and a three score lead was too much on the day. Megram, Louis North and Dean McEwan replaced Aspin, Somerwill and Cullen. Louis was exhausted after 10 minutes and Somerwill had to return. That truly is a cameo performance.
Oldham completed the scoring when Hackman drove over for the 4th Try, from a couple of metres following a sustained attacking period to provide a bonus point win.
Final score: Oldham 1st 23 v Wigton 1st 0
Wigton probably felt that they had been mugged. The game was much closer than the scoreboard would reflect and Wigton’s afternoon was probably summed up when in the last five minutes they eventually got over the Oldham line but the ball was lost. They have a large and powerful set of forwards and power and pace in the backs with their 13, a former Cumbrian sprinter and their man of the match on the day looking particularly threatening. They are missing some key players with long term injuries but are still a major threat in this division and will still have their sights on promotion.
Oldham will be delighted to have secured a bonus point win on a day where points were hard to come by. They will be particularly pleased to have kept Wigton off the score sheet. You have to go back a good few seasons before you find that again. It was a good team performance again and many players could have been man of the match but the award went to Jordan McEwan.
There were two disappointing aspects on the day really, the high penalty count early on could have been very costly on another day and, we bombed a number of great chances in the second half. Watson intercepted on half way and he was never going to go all the way but we made poor choices and blew a golden chance. Barber made a great break late on and had so many options available that it seemed impossible to take a bad one. But he chose the bad option and another one went begging. But you can’t get more than five points from a game so it didn’t cost us anything on the day but could certainly do so on another.
Is there any problem in the world that Donald can’t make even worse? Well it appears not as he has single handedly destabilised matters in the Middle East for a purpose than only he can understand, or can he? He has also told us this week that he has a big red button on his desk that could wipe North Korea off the face of the earth. He later told us that he is a stable genius....................mmmmmmmmmmmmm!
So, end of year report. 2017 was in fact quite a good year for us. We need to remember that we lost only once after Xmas last season and finished fourth. Whilst we got off to a slow start this season, we won 6 on the spin before the extended break and are currently at the right end of the table in a very competitive division. We have struggled with consistency of player availability, injuries and have fielded more players than we would have anticipated. And many of those who have stepped in have been at the very bottom of the age spectrum. So we should celebrate the young talent that we have at the club and ensure that they become embedded in Oldham RUFC because without them there is no future.
Next week we travel to Bolton who have returned to form following a difficult few weeks. They are a good outfit who always present a serious challenge so let’s hope we have good numbers again next weekend.
Report by Dave Roscoe