Oldham 3rds returned home this weekend after a busy two-fixture Easter weekend the previous week, and needing a good result to keep the ship steady. Even though all three teams were playing this weekend, the thirds had an excellent turn out with a squad of twenty, having good strength in the pack and some decent runners in the backs. The biggest challenge of the day was going to be the conditions. Rain over the previous few days meant that the clubs second pitch was boggy again and with some standing water, and on the day a touring side had visited for an earlier game on the same pitch resulting in it being very cut up before the start of the 3rd team game.
However the Referee judged the pitch to be playable, so the game was on. North Manchester turned up short, so Oldham lent them some players. Thanks to Phil Walmsley, Rhys Jones, Chris Brown and John Leach for stepping up to make a game of it for North Manchester.
Predictably, from the kick off, the game proved heavy going. Forwards and backs alike ground it out in a slow paced game with all sorts of handling difficulties. North Manchester were clearly here with the intent of taking a good result away, but Oldham were the first to score, after going through a number of short phases into the North Manchester twenty two, and then Nick McDowell finished the move off with some excellent side steps, jinking his way through for the try. From this point onwards, despite a valiant defensive effort all round from Oldham, the advantage in the first half was always with North Manchester.
They put three tries on the board to go into the half time break with a commanding lead of 7-19.
In the second half, Oldham regrouped and fought hard but struggled to find enough consistency in the first twenty minutes to break down North Manchester. Eventually as the last quarter started, Oldham gained a good position just outside the North Manchester twenty two, and after a slow ball Kev Golland ran round to the right outside channel almost to the try line. At the breakdown, the ball became buried under a pile of bodies, but Oldham showed great determination in clearing the ruck and recycling the ball twice, with Billy Buckley eventually making the last few vital inches with the ball to score the try.
Oldham were still behind, and North Manchester looked like they were going to close the game out in the last ten minutes. They had a sustained period of pressure close to the Oldham try line, but eventually the ball was lost and a quick thinking Wayne Hadfield saw an opportunity to pick up the ball and sprint the full length of the field to score Oldham’s final try under the posts.
The conversion evened up the scoreboard to a final score of Oldham 3rds 19 v North Manchester 2nds 19
The result was a fair one all round, and Oldham were pleased to have taken a point from a fixture which was looking like it was going against them. Man of the Match went to Wayne Hadfield for a great effort throughout, and a superb final try to rescue the game for Oldham.