Rovers close to causing an upset
Oldham Roughyeds .. 26 (12)
Sharlston Rovers .. 8 (8)
Carnegie Challenge Cup - Round 3
at Boundary Park, Oldham
Despite losing their unbeaten record, the players of Sharlston Rovers should hold their heads up high with the performance witnessed by a healthy 800+ crowd at Boundary Park as the Yorkshire cup champions pushed promotion aspiring Championship One side Oldham all the way.
The players gave the travelling 4 coaches of support lots to shout about as they came out all guns blazing looking to fight their way into the next round. It was obvious from the start that Sharlston had travelled not only to compete but with the ambition that they could take another notable scalp of professional opposition.
Sharlston matched the hosts from the off and the Rovers forwards laid a unyielding platform, an astute early kicking game from Bettison and Wandless settled their side into the game nicely playing mostly in their opponents half.
With the forwards evenly matched Oldham tested the fringes and some excellent handling found Kenyan Lucas Onyango on the touch side as the speedster sneaked in at the corner, Halliwell converted to lift the hosts after an unnerving opening 10 minutes.
Despite the setback Rovers showed real character to get back into the arm-wrestle as they put the blip behind them. Confidence rose as set after set Rovers kept finding the 5th and last kick and the Rovers stacked in the defence with captain Craig Miles and Sean Emblem grinding through the work load. Lockwood, Thompsen and Waddle took their side forward as Carl Saville marshalled the ruck area and with ever increasing possession the hosts looked nervous.
They had every right to be as the steady application of pressure almost paid dividends when Sean Emblem came on a storming run only to be felled inches short and with the try line calling out the robust second rower couldn’t repel the attraction of having another go with the try being ruled out for double movement.
The huge let off seemed to shock the Roughyeds into a response and despite holding out courageously, a touch judge overriding decision from the official gave the hosts a repeat set camped in the Rovers 20 meters. The added pressure told on Rovers defence and James Coyle somehow slipped the net and Halliwell added the under the H’s conversion with only 8 minutes remaining.
Despite trailing now by 12 points Sharlston didn’t let their belief slip and working down field on the return set a lovely grubber kick from player-coach Lee Bettison then provided Gareth Davies with a clear path to touch down for his 32nd of the season, but as the rapturous applause illustrated the most important of the season. Dale Ferris added the relatively easy conversion and Rovers’ tails were back up .
By this point Sharlston tails were really up and after gaining 2 penalties in quick succession, the Roughyeds’ advantage was further cut by the boot of Ferris as the interval approached.
Lifted by the sudden influx of points Rovers started the second period brightly and took the game to the hosts. They nearly brought the game back level when Davies raced through to supply Ferris, but pressure from the chasing winger and pressing fullback meant the pass back went to ground.
Probably the game changing event came only 8 minutes in as Jonathan Waddle received dangerous blow to the head which put the second rower out cold. A break in play of around 10 minutes left both sides holding until Waddle could be safely stretchered off with a precautionary neck brace. There was plenty of concern shown for the second row forward – who later recovered to get on his feet and cheer his team-mates on from the sidelines.
The long delay seemed to knock the wind out of Sharlston’s sails and Oldham punished Rovers’ lapse in concentration with 2 quick fire tries. With 25 minutes remaining and at 22-8 up, Oldham may have expected to go on and rack up a handful more tries. It is to Sharlston’s credit that this didn’t happen and as Oldham looked to hit the next gear Rovers locked them down to complete a reputable performance and finish with the knowledge that it was almost the result to match their effort.
The spirit shown and good will on the part of the crowd applauding the visitors from the field provided a perfect antidote to the unsavoury news that the previous day’s tie between Queens and Doncaster had been abandoned due to crowd trouble.
While Oldham progressed to round four, as far as Head Coach Tony Benson was concerned the afternoon belonged to the team from the tiny village near Featherstone.
“Today was all about Sharlston,” said Benson. “They turned up to play and gave us a very good game. They did everything well. Even in the ruck, they weren’t far off us. They worked hard, numbered up defensively and slowed us up. These are hard games to play. Teams like Sharlston don’t do what you expect in defence, so you really have to play what is in front of you and you can only do that once you have got a bit of momentum and they didn’t allow us get that going.”
Player coach Lee Bettison admitted his disappointment at the loss but applauded his sides performance saying “We knew we was going to be in with a shout if we performed how we know we can and today we played with the belief and desire to push them close. At half time we all had the belief that we could go onto win the game but a few wrong options and errors in key areas meant we couldn’t put anymore points on the board.”
“I’m extremely proud of how the players performed and rose to the occasion and I’m sure they all enjoyed the experience and the rapturous applause at the end of the game by the whole stand.”
“We’ll push on from here now with the credibility banked and look forward to some big games to conclude our season, including hopefully a good assault at the National cup, starting with the quarters at Wigan St Cuthberts in a couple of weeks.”
Oldham Roughyeds Team : 1 Paul O'Connor, 21 Lucas Onyango, 3 Danny Halliwell, 19 Craig Littler, 5 Lee Greenwood, 6 James Coyle, 7 Thomas Coyle, 14 Richard Mervill, 9 Gary Sykes, 25 Luke Menzies, 11 David Allen, 12 Tommy Goulden, 23 Chris Baines
Replacements : 16 Wayne Kerr, 10 Jamie I'Anson, 13 Robert Roberts, 18 Neil Roden
Sharlston Rovers Team : 1 Lee Maskill 2 Dale Ferris 3 Gareth Davies 4 Dale Potter 5 Brad Chatfield 6 Tom Wandless 7 Lee Bettison 16 James Lockwood 9 Carl Saville 10 Bart Thompsen 11 Sean Emblem 12 Jonathan Waddle 13 Craig Miles
Replacements : 14 Tommy Crowther 8 Andy Booth 17 Chris Bingham 19 Carl Spencer
Referee : Brandon Robinson
Penalty Count : 10-15
Attendance : 800
Man of the Match: Oldham #11 David Allen, Sharlston Rovers #16 James Lockwood