WELL done Hornets . . . oh dear, Oldham!

Roughyeds went to the Crown Oil Arena for their traditional pre-season Law Cup clash as hot favourites, but Hornets surprised everyone – even their own fans, one suspects – with a rousing team performance that caught Matt Diskin’s men on the hop.

The vanquished visitors were second best for all but one brief spell early in the second half when they pulled back 12 of the 14 points they conceded without reply in the first 40 minutes.

For most of the game League 1 Hornets gave their Championship opponents a few lessons in how to defend stubbornly, how to tackle in numbers and slow down Oldham’s play-the-ball and how to take advantage of a Roughyeds defence that, to be kind, was well below its best.

Oldham, in the main, were lacklustre, lacking energy and short on determination and drive.

Their shortage of forward strength, made even more acute when Ed Smith hurt his back in training on Saturday morning, was evident before kick-off when they named the only 17 players available and a bench of four that comprised of two backs, hooker Matty Wilkinson and one other forward, Daniel Igbinedion, who is still finding his feet at a new club which he only joined a fortnight ago.

Despite the best efforts of Phil Joy and Jack Spencer, Oldham struggled to establish go-forward up front with the result that any threat from the halves or out wide from the second-rowers and the backs was largely nullified.

They were shell-shocked by the determination and resolve of a Hornets side that had a point to prove and by the time they sorted themselves out in the dressing room at half-time it was too late and the damage was done.

True, they pulled back from 14-0 down to 14-12, but by that time nothing could shake Rochdale’s self-belief or their determination to go on and finish the job.

Briefly, Oldham had the momentum but it was at that time that Hornets showed their true mettle, first defending superbly to stop Roughyeds taking the lead for the first time and then finishing them off with the decisive try by Luke Fowden.

Three tries to nil in the first half told its own story. Partially due to injuries but also because they’re in need of more forwards, Oldham lacked the capacity to make ground up the middle and thus lacked the opportunity to bring their wider players into action.

They rarely looked like breaking down a rock-solid Hornets rearguard whereas the home side had two cagey old-timers in Sean Penkywicz and Shaun Ainscough, who had outstanding games individually but, more importantly, mentored the youngsters around them and instilled in them the belief that they could win.

Man-of-the-match Ainscough set up the first two Hornets tries for Lewis Sheridan and Sam Freeman; Andy Lea grabbed a third just before half-time; and it was Ainscough again who created the winner for Fowden with quarter of an hour left.

As for Oldham, they gave their fans hope with converted tries by Dave Hewitt and Dan Abram in the 50th and 55th minutes, but they didn’t have the composure to go on and win it.

Oldham’s last chance of snatching a draw came and went when Abram elected to go it alone with Kyran Johnson and Harry Aaronson unmarked on his outside.

Danny Langtree and Wilkinson figured prominently in the build-up to both of the visitors’ tries, Langtree narrowly winning the Oldham RL Heritage Trophy as the Roughyeds best player from Wilkinson and full-back Abram.

OLDHAM: Abram; Kay, Worthington, Hutchings, Johnson; Charnock, Hewitt; Joy, Owen, Spencer, Langtree, Bridge, Bent.

Subs: Brook, Wilkinson, Aaronson, Igbinedion.