There’s an old saying that there are no points won in pre-season, and although that may be true there was plenty to play for at Bower Fold on Sunday afternoon as Rochdale Hornets took on Oldham.
Local bragging rights and the historic Law Cup were up for grabs, as the hosts looked to retain the trophy following last year’s victory at the Crown Oil Arena.
Just as he did 12 months ago Lewis Palfrey lifted the silverware aloft at the full-time whistle, however this time it was in Hornets colours as they ran out 24-12 winners.
You could use all the clichéd descriptions of a typical pre-season fixture to describe the game, as it was a scratchy contest, but as is the case in all derbies it was a full blooded affair.
The visitors weren’t at their attacking best due to a combination of errors and being on the wrong end of a 13-7 penalty count, however their commitment and controlled aggression in defence was something Alan Kilshaw will be delighted with.
After hardly touching the ball in the first period they still managed to go into the sheds at the break level with their opponents, and once they got a hold of the game they threatened to ruin riot on the Roughyeds.
It was an encouraging display with a number of first team regulars missing, which includes Jono Smith who is yet to feature this year, and the coaching staff deserve a huge pat on the back for getting the Hornets squad into impeccable shape ready for the new season.
The game started with a thunderous hit from Gavin Bennion which set the tone for the rest of the game, and the defence of the visitors saw them repel back-to-back goal line drop-outs before forcing George Tyson into touch.
On nine minutes Danny Yates was in for a try after chasing down Palfrey’s kick, however he was pulled back for offside.
Another drop-out followed by a penalty led to the home side opening the scoring as Phil Joy barged over from close range to plant the ball down, with Scott Leatherbarrow making it 6-0 with the conversion.
It took 17 minutes for Rochdale to have their first real attack of the game and they made it count, as straight from a scrum Chris Riley raced through a hole in the defence to score. Palfrey knocked over the conversion from the touchline to level the scores.
Lee Mitchell made his debut for the visitors on dual registration from Warrington Wolves and was a stand-out performer, racking up good numbers in both carries and tackles in a scrappy first 40 which ended with Tyson being dumped into touch again.
The 575 fans who had braved the cold conditions saw the second period start as the first had ended, with errors and penalties littering the opening exchanges.
Hornets hit the lead after 55 minutes though as Ben Moores, who once again impressed, found Jordan Case with a short-ball as the second rower spun over for a converted try.
Oldham gave their rivals a free ride up the field 10 minutes later when they were penalised for holding down and were made to pay for their mistake, as Moores came up with another try assist. This time it was with the boot as he stabbed a kick into the in-goal where Garry Middlehurst pounced to score against his former club, with Palfrey’s conversion making it a 12 point cushion.
With just 10 minutes left on the clock the game was put to bed, as Yates broke before finding Case in support, and off the back of that play the Hornets were in again, with Yates the architect. The half-back, who went on to win his second successive Karl Marriot trophy for man of the match, fired a cut-out ball to Lewis Galbraith who finished well in the corner against his hometown club for a six pointer.
Two minutes from time a Tyson kick somehow fell for Gareth Owen to score an Oldham consolation, before Tyson and Paddy Jones were sent-off after the final whistle for fighting.
It was a heated end to the afternoon but once tempers had calmed Palfrey paraded the trophy to the vocal travelling support, before taking the Law Cup back home to Rochdale.
Scott Turner, Harry Warburton, George Tyson, Sam Gee, Jamel Chisholm, Scott Leatherbarrow, David Hewitt, Adam Neal, Gareth Owen, Phil Joy, Jack Spencer, Micky Wood, Paul Clough Subs: Kenny Hughes, Patrick Diskin, Michael Ward, Joe Burke
Tries: Joy (13), Owen (78)
Goals: Leatherbarrow 2/2
Chris Riley, Jake Eccleston, Jordan Case, Lewis Galbraith, Jack Holmes, Lewis Palfrey, Danny Yates, Samir Tahraoui, Ryan Maneely, Gavin Bennion, Josh Crowley, Lee Mitchell, Garry Middlehurst Subs: Ben Moores, Jo Taira, Matty Hadden, Paddy Jones
Tries: Riley (17), Case (55), Middlehurst (65), Galbraith (70)
Goals: Palfrey 4/4
Penalty count: 13-7
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