The first league game of the new season had arrived for Oldham 3rds this weekend. A number of the players had played a pre-season friendly the previous week at Rochdale, but for many there would be some cobwebs to blow off and some joints to loosen up. Conditions for the game were excellent if a little on the warm side, with a really good playing surface on the Knott Lanes pitch. Encouragingly, Oldham had a full squad and bench plus extras, so when it turned out that Eccles had arrived short in the front row, Oldham helped them out. Jon Maslen stepped up to play hooker for them in the first half accompanied by Jack Cavanagh in the back row. At half time two others stepped up to allow all of Oldhams players to pull on the red and white for at least some of the afternoon. Well done to John Charlton as one of those subs, returning to his first match after a number of years, and bringing a good degree of class with him as a former Broughton Park player, accompanied by Luke Ferrier, both of them stepped up to play for Eccles in the second half.
From kick off, Oldham were looking strong, and it soon became clear that the game was going to be hard fought by two well matched sides. Both sides had a number of older players, and Eccles probably had the edge in speed with some of their younger players. But in the first half, Oldham were looking the stronger overall. Oldham scored first with a darting run from the Eccles ten metre line by Craig Gedey to put Oldham into the lead. The second try was also Oldham’s, and also Gedey, this time from a skilful interchange between Gedey and Kev Golland in a two on two, to take apart the Eccles defence. Oldham were into their stride, but Eccles came back with two tries of their own, and the game was level. The final try of the first half was from Danny Roberts scoring his first ever try for Oldham. Roberts has been with the club since U12s and played all through the youth academy teams so well done to him for getting his name on the score sheet for the first time. This was converted by Jason Green, meaning Oldham went into the half time break in a position of strength and with some confidence.
Half Time Score: Oldham 17 v Eccles 10
As the second half started, the game was Oldham’s to win. In the first ten minutes, Oldham gained good position in the Eccles half and Danny Roberts ran the ball through for what should have been his second try. However instead of grounding the ball on crossing the line, he opted to run to the posts for the grounding, and as he got there the ball was knocked out of his hands by an Eccles defender, and no try was given; an unfortunate turn of events which was to prove crucial in the final outcome. Oldham were still strong though, and from an Eccles line out on their five metre line, they fluffed the move and dropped the ball, only for Neil Forsyth to run through snatching up the ball and crossing the line to ground it for Oldham’s fourth. This was converted by Gedey. Eccles replied with another try of their own, but Oldham were in what appeared to be a commanding position. A further Oldham try from Ross Cooper made Oldham feel they had sealed the game.
This was not so. In the last ten minutes, Eccles scored again, and Oldham were clinging on for the victory. In what Oldham were told was the last play, and after fierce competition for the ball, Maslen received the ball off the back of the maul and ran it into touch. However the Referee did not allow this to end the game and penalised Oldham, followed by some confusion of whether a penalty tap had been taken or not. Finally, Eccles used their possession to play the ball through the hands across the width of the field, outnumbering Oldham’s defenders, with their last runner tackled into touch over the corner flag by Kev Golland and one other. The Referee controversially awarded the try much to Oldhams dismay.
Final Score Oldham 3rds 29 v Eccles 4ths 29
This had been a great opening game for Oldham, and the sign of a potentially good season in the new league. A number of really good performances were apparent, including from Craig Gedey, Danny Roberts, Rob Somerwill and Ross Cooper. However Man of the Match went to Danny Roberts for an overall great performance, along with his Donkey of the Day award for not putting the ball down when in the opponents in-goal area.