Bitter Defeat

Category: Heritage

Bitter Defeat

On this day …. 13 May

Thirty years ago today, on 13th May 1990, the Robins endured an agonising loss to Oldham in the second Division Premiership Final, after appearing to have had the contest well won. The game was played as a curtain-raiser to the 1990 Rugby League Premiership Final between Bradford Northern and Widnes – Rovers’ only appearance at Old Trafford to date. Rovers had already been crowned Division Two champions, and were assured of their place in Division One for the following season.

Rovers led 13-0 after 17 minutes with two tries, the first a brilliant individual effort, and a drop goal from man-of-the-match Wayne Parker, and two conversions from Mike Fletcher. Lord got Oldham on the scoreboard but further tries by Garry Clark and Paul Lyman put Rovers 23-8 up at the break.

When Des Harrison stormed over two minutes into the second half, Fletcher converting to make it 29-8, and with Rovers playing confident, classy football, it really did look all over. But Oldham then mounted a remarkable comeback. If there was an element of fortune about the try that got them going, there was no doubt about what followed, as they scored five tries in 26 minutes to lead 30-29. However, they were only able to convert one of these tries, and with seven minutes to go, Rovers still had a chance. With Bryan Neibling exhorting his troups to one last effort, Rovers had two chances to snatch the game back. But both went begging and Oldham held on for their third win over the Robins that season.

“We just seemed to ease up a bit,” Niebling said afterwards, “and Oldham came back hard at us – once they’d scored a couple of tries they got a roll on, and there was nothing we could do to stop them.” But the Robins had achieved its main target for the season, and were back in the top flight.

The Rovers team that day was – David Lightfoot; Garry Clark, Mike Fletcher, Greg Austin, Anthony Sullivan; Wayne Parker, David Bishop (sub: Jimmy Irvine); Bryan Niebling (capt), Chris Rudd, Asuquo Ema, Des Harrison (sub: Colin Armstrong), Andy Thompson, Paul Lyman.

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