Whitehaven lost out in their opening League One fixture after a strength-sapping duel with Oldham Roughyeds.

Only one try was scored in the whole contest as a forward slog, in heavy conditions, tested the stamina of both teams.

It didn’t help Whitehaven’s cause that they only had three options from the interchange bench, a handicap that has continued from their pre-season warm-up games.

For Haven, the key phase was early in the game when Oldham had been reduced to 12 men for 10 minutes.

Despite spending the majority of the time in the opposition 20-metre zone, the hosts could not get over the line.

In truth, Whitehaven rarely looked capable of unlocking the Oldham defence.

What also damaged Haven’s hope was the high penalty count against them in the second half.

As a result, ex-half-back Paul Crook took the opportunity of putting four of them through the sticks to gradually pull his side clear.

After a fairly even start to the game, the advantage swung Whitehaven’s way on nine minutes.

Oldham had dropped the ball on the home 20-metre line and it was picked up by Dave Thompson. He raced down the touchline before being halted on the Oldham 20 by David Eccleston.

The Roughyeds winger wouldn’t let Thompson up to play the ball and was shown a yellow card by referee Brandon Robinson.

Then followed 10 minutes of continuous Whitehaven pressure but they couldn’t break a resolute Oldham defence.

The nearest they came was when Connor Holliday put in a long cross kick which went beyond the last Oldham defender but also agonisingly out of the reach of a diving Thompson.

On the return of Eccleston, Oldham took charge and went ahead on 23 minutes.

Some smart handling in the Haven 10-metre zone saw Phil Joy and Danny Langtree involved before hooker Matthew Wilkinson dived over for the try, converted by Crook.

Oldham could have gone in further ahead but Crook, surprisingly, missed a straight-forward penalty shot at goal.

It became a real slog in the second-half but a 3-3 penalty count at the break turned into 17-8 in Oldham’s favour.

As a result, Crook made Haven pay for their indiscipline (although some decisions had everyone mystified) and he kicked four penalties in the 46th, 63rd, 67th and 70th minutes to push Oldham comfortably over the finish line.

Whitehaven weren’t helped by a yellow card for Dion Aiye and their best chance fell to Jason Mossop.

Forster set-up the opportunity with a strong run and pass but the winger couldn’t gather cleanly as the ball ended up in touch.

Match Facts

Whitehaven: Buns, Mossop, Taylor, Holliday, Thompson, Billsborough, Phillips, Shackley, Abram, Coward, Gillam, Reece, Forster.

Subs (all used): Tilley, Aiye, Nzoungou.

Oldham: Nield, Eccleston, Holms, Reid, Johnson, Crook, Hewitt, Joy, Wilkinson, Neal, Bridge, Langtree, Lannon.

Subs (all used): Hughes, Nelmes, Spencer, Jones.

Try: Wilkinson. Goals: Crook (5).

Half-time: 0-6

Penalties: 8-17

Referee: Brandon Robinson

Crowd: 785

Star Man: Ian Gillam