There was a time, before storms were celebrated and almost venerated, by some at least, when coronavirus was a problem far away on the opposite side of the world when we used to play rugby on a Saturday afternoon.. However, for a vast range of reasons, some reasonable, some questionable, some quite frankly ridiculous, we haven't done so since, well, ages ago.. We held our breath too this week as we travelled to Finney Lane to play Trafford MV, whose ground is within the floodplain of the River Mersey as the next storm was allegedly preparing to heap more misery on the north west.
Trafford have a first class set up and are always a well organised team, but for some inexplicable reason, they find themselves at the very bottom of the table. Really can’t fathom that one out. We won a proper tussle with them earlier in the season when both teams scored a four try bonus point in a high scoring encounter. Defences mustn’t have turned up that day.
For certain members of society, coronavirus is understandably a massive concern. Many people are more susceptible as a result of their age or underlying medical conditions. But the truth is, the virus is now well and truly amongst us and is part of our daily life. But to put this into some kind of perspective, 75 people have died on average per day in China from the virus, the vast majority of whom all had underlying medical problems. Here’s the key stat though. 60,000 people die on average each day in China. It’s a problem, but the media has turned it into a beast that it probably isn’t and has left people fighting over toilet rolls in the antipodes. Didn't realise that they bothered with the soft stuff down under. Anyway, Donald has the perfect plan to deal with the nasty virus, the trouble is, he wont tell anybody what it is!
Our injury crisis hasn’t got any worse, but it certainly hasn’t got any better and it doesn’t show any sign that it is likely to. A couple have had operations though now and will be working hard to get themselves fit by the final some time in April. Somehow, we managed to turn out 18 even though Robert Froggatt, Rhys Jones, Richard Keeling and Adam Takila were also not available. Chris Brown, Nick Wright and half fit duo Stuart Brennan and Jamie Dalloway were on the bench. The injury crisis is taking its toll at the club though as once again the twos and threes struggled to turn out teams but it is hardly surprising with 20 first team players missing this weekend.. The biggest issue though would be whether the players would remember what it was you had to do with the odd shaped ball having not played for so long and whether those who had been on the 5 day stag do to Benidorm would have recovered sufficiently to put a shirt on.
Trafford certainly didn’t look like a team at the wrong of the table as they immediately took the game to Oldham and opened the scoring close to the posts with almost their first attack The conversion was missed and they led 5-0.
The game then settled into a pretty scrappy affair and a pattern developed that endured for the next 75 minutes. It was a proper stop start affair which a large crowd struggled to enjoy. However, Oldham produced a moment of magic as they broke from their own 10m line. Good interpassing saw Davies in the clear and he had too much pace for the Trafford defence and scored by the posts. Megram's conversion made the score 3-7. Oldham looked the more assured in possession and despite playing into the elements, spent long periods in Trafford territory. It was no great surprise when they extended the lead as Davies scored a second try in the left hand corner showing real strength to hold off several tacklers. Megrams excellent conversion made the score 5-14.
Trafford appeared to be undeterred and continued to play with belief and got back into the game with a couple of penalties to trail 11-14 and then just before half time took a 16-14 lead when they scored an unconverted try. So despite being the more dominant team Oldham trailed 16-14 at half time.
This had been a good performance from Oldham all over the pitch. The scrum and the lineout were more or less on top in a tight contest and the backs looked pacy and capable of making breaks. The one on one tackling was effective and Oldham were able to manage some powerful charges by the Trafford forwards. Communication was better, but is too often interpreted as being criticism. Don't be so touchy.
We should have benefitted from the element in the second half even the wind and rain didn't fancy joining in this spectacle. But similar to the first half, just when it appeared that neither side would secure another score, Oldham produced another little bit of magic when Arundale created space near his own 10 m line. He drew the last defender and passed to Kurkeweiz who show a decent turn of speed to race in from the 10m line to make the score 19-19.
Shortly thereafter, Roddy made a trademark powerful break just outside the 22 and left would be tacklers in his wake. He took a high shot as he crossed the line and the referee awarded a penalty try and we led 16-26. Trafford kept themselves in the game with a penalty to reduce the arrears to 19-26 only for Jack Taylor, who had moved from hooker to the right wing to score beneath the posts. Jobsons conversion made the score 19-33 and the game was safe. .The last word went to Trafford however who scored on the final play and a quickly taken conversion gave them a bonus point with the final score 26-33.
It is hard to work out why Trafford are where they are in the table. They have some very good forwards and some very good backs. They like to play with ball in hand and the 4, 6,8 and 10 in particular are very good players at this level. They have pacy wingers and powerful centres. The club was full and they have a great junior section. They will win games and hopefully they will do enough to stay at this level.
A bonus point win away from home is always a great result. The Oldham boys who have played in 2020 have so much to be proud of. Many have stepped up and have performed with real credit at this level. Lets hope that they see this as a real opportunity and get down to training as much as possible Many contenders for man of the match but it went to Dean McEwan. A key part of any successful team is communication both in attack and defence. This can involve louder voices, cajoling and occasionally a bit of criticism. Unfortunately, people who play for Oldham seem particularly sensitive and delicate as they seem to take umbrage at the drop of a hat. Get over yourselves. It's not the Waltons. We don't have to be nice to each other for every minute of everyday. If someone does shout at you, think about why they are doing so. You may find out that it was in fact very constructive.
Heres the fact of the day anyway. Oldham played the last 20 minutes of the game with a hooker on each wing. And they both scored. Now that cant have happened very often anywhere, anytime.