A dominant home performance from Batley Bulldogs will have pleased coach John Kear as preparations for the new season continued at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium on Sunday. Andy Hay, however, will be far from pleased as the hosts showed way more composure and defensive stability than the Rovers.
The influential Alistair Leak set up Batley’s first try out of dummy half, a sharp ball to the onrushing Joe Chandler who crashed over the line without any dramas. Featherstone had a lot of possession before Chandler’s score, but couldn’t muster any points from the pressure. Scott Leatherbarrow missed the conversion, 4-0 after 17 minutes.
Eight minutes later and Batley added to their lead through hooker Leak. James Craven made a darting burst to the line before the ball was stripped out, Leak picked up the pieces and dived over the whitewash. Leatherbarrow converted for 10-0 to the hosts.
A brief summing up of the half from a Featherstone point of view came from the ensuing kickoff. The experienced Paul Sykes kicking out on the full to the despair of the travelling Featherstone fans. Despite good yards from Alex Rowe, Batley knocked on near the Rovers line and couldn’t capitalise on their opponent’s mistake.
Two tries in the final minutes of the first half left Batley ecstatic as the whistle blew for the first 40. Leatherbarrow assisted Johnny Campbell with a grubber to the corner, Campbell taking advantage of opposite number Blackmore’s naiveness. The final try of the half was courtesy of brilliant work from Wayne Reittie, who was being quickly ushered into touch before he could offload to right side partner Shaun Ainscough. Leatherbarrow added the extras on both occasions, a 22-0 scoreline at halftime was no less than Batley deserved.
The second half started as the wintry conditions continued, with Featherstone kicking downhill for the final 40 and hoping for more attacking instinct. The intensity between the two Championship clubs was still at a high level, feistiness is never far away when West Yorkshire clubs collide. Trialist turned permanent signing Tom Thackray impressed the home crowd, along with fellow pack members Alex Rowe and Adam Gledhill. For the Rovers, Paul Wood was never far away from the action, while Andy Ellis put everything on the line for the cause, despite getting no real reward for the effort.
Shaun Squires nearly got his first try in Bulldogs colours, doing the hard job in collecting a high bomb but losing the ball as he tried to ground it.
Things turned sour for Featherstone soon after Squires’ effort, Nathan Chappell sin binned for a late charge on main kicking pivot Leatherbarrow. After Chappell’s sin-binning, the game turned into a bit of an error show with knock-on’s halting attacks on a number of occasions.
Chappell returned to the field and nearly set up a try for Will Sharp but his looping ball was just too high for the potent winger to latch on to. The following Batley scrum saw a first tackle knock-on which gave Featherstone the free play, Ben Blackmore failing to make amends for the Bulldogs error with a knock-on of his own. The Rovers got the loose head and feed, their travelling fans would have a try to celebrate by the end of the set.
Young Leeds Rhinos loanee Mason Tonks made a great run which led to a try, a burst which the Bulldogs defenders didn’t have an answer for. Paul Sykes converted Tonks’ score, 22-6 to the hosts. The best try of the game would be the last, and you’ll do well to find a better one than this..
With Batley stuck on their own twenty metre line, it was going to take something special to spark a break up the Mount Pleasant hill. An audacious Leatherbarrow ball to Ainscough took out a few Rovers players as the former Whitehaven man put on the burners. The ball then went through a variety of Bulldogs hands before Shaun Squires laid on the final ball for Alistair Leak who was not going to be stopped as he made his way to the try line. All ends of the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium were applauding a truly spectacular team try, one that wouldn’t look out of place in the NRL. Leatherbarrow missed the conversion, 26-6 to the Bulldogs with seven minutes remaining.
Rovers had chances to make the scoreline more respectable but lost ball wreaked havoc on the Post Office Road side, the defence from Batley was top notch which was the case for the whole game. The final hooter sounded to the roars of jubilation from the Batley supporters, if the game was a sign of things to come then the season will be a good one for Kear’s men. Three games and three losses for Featherstone now in their preseason schedule, but with a number of overseas players to still come over, improvements won’t be too far away. Next up for Rovers is a tie against York City Knights next Sunday whilst Batley play a Heavy Woollen Select XIII, coached by Danny Maun.