This weekend saw a local derby against old rivals Ashton. The current league of only ten teams means that return fixtures have come round quickly, and the previous fixture was a tough one for Oldham. Since then, Ashton have showed their strength by remaining unbeaten and running clear at the top of the table with two games in hand. So Oldham had a tough task, but were clearly up to it with a good quality squad turnout.
The weather on the day had been very promising with sun and blue sky, but by the time the match arrived it was grey, cold and windy. However the rain stayed away and the surface was very playable. Oldham kicked off and Ashton ran back at them, and after just over a minute their first try was on the board. This was disheartening for Oldham but the team kicked off again aiming to redress the deficit. Unfortunately Ashton’s strength in their backs continued to cause problems for Oldham, and a further two tries within the first ten minutes put Oldham on the back foot. Oldham’s response was to keep the play tight in and around the pack, and this proved effective with a great passage of play putting pressure on Ashton well into their territory for a period of a few minutes, only spoilt by a penalty against Oldham. However they soon recovered and the same pattern of play ensued, this time rewarded with a try from Kristaps Lusins once the phases of play had Oldham on the five meter line. Ashton soon had another try, but Oldham scored once more in the first half with a try from Stuart Brennan. The first half was made more difficult by Lusins having a yellow card for tackling with no arms (according to the Referee), and then a red card for John Leach in a strange incident in which neither Leach, nor the opposition hooker Isaac Roberts, on whom the transgression was said to have taken place, were aware of the offence. It appears that the Referee thought he saw Leach's hand slip off his grip on his opponent into the face area, but those involved and close by did not see this as a malicious act and at worst accidental.
In the second half, Ashton continued to be the stronger team overall, as their play in the backs proved difficult for Oldham to match. However Oldham made good use of their own possession, and in the first half hour scored two tries, both from Stuart Brennan, who made an outstanding contribution overall. In the last five minutes, Rhys Jones kicked the ball across the field, and the Ashton right wing fumbled it, resulting in Nathan Bardsley picking up the ball and running in Oldham’s final try.
Final Score: Oldham 3rds 25 v Ashton-U-Lyne 2nds 55
Oldham were well beaten, but had still put in a great performance. Man of the Match went to Stuart Brennan who showed great class from beginning to end, and whose unremitting effort was superb.