A STIRRING final 25 minutes saw Cornwall give promotion-chasing Oldham a fright in a fiery Whitebank encounter before going down 36-16, writes Gareth Davies.

During the opening stanza, the game was punctuated by spates of handbags involving both teams as merry whistle blower Kevin Moore struggled to keep a lid on proceedings.

Finally realising that the best course of action was to reach for his back pocket, Cornwall’s Tom Ashton and Oldham’s Deane Meadows were sent for a 10-minute sabbatical. However, Ashton can feel hard done by after bustling prop Meadows thrust his head against the Cornwall man’s.

Nevertheless, Moore, after consulting with his two assistants, brandished yellow cards at both players.

Before this 31st minute melee, Cornwall had defended their line manfully against a constant barrage of Oldham pressure which resulted in veteran winger Patrick Ah Van grabbing a brace of tries. 

Ah Van, who moved to Oldham from divisional rivals North Wales Crusaders over the winter, notched up the personal milestone of 150 career tries, which has spanned the NRL, Super League and now the third tier, with his first of the afternoon.

Cornwall struggled for ball and territory during the opening 40 minutes and when the visitors did get in range, errors cost them the chance to test the Roughyeds’ rearguard.

For Oldham, their cause was not helped just 19 minutes in when half-back Kieran Tyrer, playing on dual registration from Wigan Warriors, landed heavily on the artificial Whitebank surface after a hard, but 100% legitimate tackle from Leo Tennison.

Tyrer was helped from the field in some discomfort and understandably, did not return to the fray. Although the incident was placed on report by referee Moore, it did not deter Tennison who, on his senior debut and at just 19, delivered a powerful performance in both attack and defence.

But Tennison and his new Cornish team-mates handed the advantage to the home side just before the break when Harvey Wilson – the third Oldham player to take part in the game on dual-registration from Wigan – and Gregg McNally, both scored.

With Oldham leading 20-0 at the turnaround, the next try was always going to be crucial, with Cornwall knowing that if they scored, it would hand them a lifeline. Another Oldham four-pointer and it would surely be game over with the latter coming to fruition.

Ah Van, at 36, rolled back the years with another powerful try just three minutes after the break to stretch Oldham’s lead.

The hosts then cut loose with George Hirst powering over, and then McNally bagged his second of the afternoon. Ah Van even took over the goalkicking duties at this point to boot over two fine conversions from out wide.

Cornwall’s cause was not helped by a second yellow card of the afternoon as Jack Ray was ruled to have tackled Jordan Paga off the ball. But after McNally’s try, Cornwall finally got on the scoreboard.

A short kick-off from Cameron Brown wasn’t dealt with properly and Charley Bodman seized on the loose ball. Charging towards the line, flamboyant Welshman Bodman was cut down five metres short. The ball was quickly shifted left and Harry Aaronson, playing against one of his former clubs, burrowed over from dummy half.

Adam Rusling’s effort to add the extra two points unfortunately hit the woodwork but Cornwall had registered points and this inspired Mike Abbott’s men.

With the wind very much in their sails and Oldham on the back foot, Cornwall then dominated the rest of the match with Brown scoring the first of his two tries 13 minutes from time. 

Rusling’s neat grubber saw the former Hull Kingston Rovers man kick forward again with Brown on hand to dot down. With Rusling adding his first successful kick, Cornwall had reached double figures.

It got even better for the Choughs just four minutes later when Brown ran across the Oldham defence before he dummied and dropped his shoulder to go through a gap. Another Rusling conversion saw Cornwall on a roll.

Punching holes down the middle to create good field position, Cornwall should have had another as time ticked down when Errol Carter found space on the right touchline. Only last-gasp Oldham defending denied the visiting flyer as he was bundled into touch.

Then, with the final hooter having sounded, Brown kicked crossfield in the game’s last play to find Aaronson, who hacked forward. The ball appeared to be knocked back towards his own line by an Oldham defender and Aaronson scored.

Referee Moore initially got into position to award the try but he was overruled by his assistant and the final whistle sounded shortly after. 

Oldham: McNally, Hartley, Carr, Morgan, Ah Van, Tyrer, Paga, Nelmes, Wilkinson, Meadows, Hirst, Baker, Whittel. Interchange: (all used) Slater, Jowett, Wilson, Makin.

Cornwall: Whitton, Carter, Nichol, Ashton, Aaronson, Brown, Rusling, Ray, Collins, E Badham, Cullen, Dimech, Lloyd. Interchange: (all used) Trerise, Boots, Bodman, Tennison.

Referee: Kevin Moore.

Attendance: 437.