The 13th January saw Oldham 3rds back for their second game of the new year, hoping to continue the run of good form in recent games. This week the opposition was 9th placed Didsbury Toc H, a visiting club who often bring a young team even at 4ths level to present a serious challenge to Oldham vets. On this occasion they turned up short, but Oldham had a full squad and therefore were able to lend Didsbury players to make up a full side. Thanks go to the following Oldham players who put on a Didsbury shirt in either the first or second half: Tomi Akingbehin, Dan Atkinson, Steve Jenkins, Chris Heptonstall, Brent Pollitt, Greg Higgins, Keith Chadwick, Matt Dyson and Kev Golland. Unfortunately, even though Oldham lent Didsbury a prop in each half, they still didn’t have a full front row, and therefore the game started with uncontested scrums, a frustration for the Oldham front row and also a nullification of one of the key Oldham strengths.
Oldham were clearly the stronger team from the start. Oldham kicked off and the pressure was on Didsbury immediately as Oldham regained possession from the kick off. Oldham used their possession well to keep the ball and keep pushing Didsbury back, but for the first half hour never found the finish to score a try. They also played ten minutes with fourteen men after Sean Barratt showed his disapprobation with Chris Gill who was baiting him, and his reaction played into Gill’s hands and resulted in a spot in the cooler. Didsbury had three chances in the first half hour from break away runs, but Oldham’s scrambled defence was good enough each time to deny them. Didsbury were also unlucky when one attack finished with a potential try being held up over the line. The closest Oldham came to actually scoring in the first half hour was a kick though from Jason Green which he chased shoulder to shoulder with the Didsbury full back, but just failed to touch it down. Finally in the last five minutes Oldham’s efforts were rewarded when a succession of three pick and drives allowed Kevin Golland to touch the ball down for Oldham’s first try, which was converted by Chris Brown. The half time score was 7-0.
Oldham had a number of changes in the team at half time so that players who had stepped up for Didsbury could play for Oldham. However the quality of the squad on the day meant that Oldham still had a strong side going into the second half. But even so, Didsbury were the first to show with a try in the fight corner after four minutes. This early score was to be their last though. Oldham stuck to their plan and Nathan Bardsley scored their first of the half from a kick and chase into the left hand corner. Zak Booth was next after eighteen minutes, powering through the midfield from his full back position. Jason Green scored a try after twenty one minutes which was converted by Chris Brown, and finally a second try for Nathan Bardsley down the wing in the thirty fourth minute.
The final score was 29-5. Oldham had sealed a great victory on their home turf, the second consecutive one in January. Further tries could have been forthcoming but Oldham dropped possession in good positions too many times, and on other occasions had outside backs running too flat resulting in over-runs for the crucial pass. But these are small points for Oldham to work on next week, and they will celebrate their current form. Man of the Match went to Chris Heptonstall for a great effort for both teams, and who is now coming into great form having returned to rugby this season.