The first Heavy Woollen derby of the season went the way of the Batley Bulldogs. A Jonny Campbell brace certainly helped the Bulldogs cause as the visiting Dewsbury Rams couldn’t quite get the decisive score in the final minutes. Before the game, both clubs paid tribute to those who lost their lives in World War One. Sixteen of those who fell played for either Dewsbury or Batley.
It took seven minutes for the first try of the game at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium, highly rated centre Shane Grady made the most of good yards created by forwards such as Matthew Haggerty. The final ball came from Karl Pryce who kept chiming in from full-back on occasions. Tom Hemingway couldn’t convert the try from a tricky angle.
Batley replied six minutes later with a try from Wayne Reittie. Reittie latched on to a chip from scrum half Scott Leatherbarrow, the former crawling over the line after he caught the ball under the attentions of a couple of Dewsbury players. Jordan Grayston, likewise to Hemingway, couldn’t convert which left the scores at 4-4.
Batley couldn’t improve on their equalising try as Joel Farrell restored Dewsbury’s advantage, a simple dummy half try would have disappointed Bulldogs coach John Kear. A change of kicker ensued and Shane Grady converted Farrell’s try. The Rams were on the attack soon after their second try but coughed up possession when things were looking good.
The Rams showed some defensive steel after their mishap in attack, denying the Batley attack who were looking for another leveler. The Bulldogs got their leveler through some sublime skill from Jonny Campbell, the Batley winger returned after a year suspension. A speculating ball from Leatherbarrow got knocked down by a Dewsbury defender, the ball ended up in the hands of captain Campbell and what he did with it amazed everyone. A delicate kick and chase over the defender really left the Dewsbury defenders trumped; Campbell re-gathered and planted the ball down. A truly spectacular score, which was applauded from everybody in the ground. Grayston converted for 10-10 at half-time.
Batley came out of the blocks quickest and they forced Dewsbury to drop out, the attacking pressure raising with every tackle. Wayne Reittie had a try chalked off for a forward pass, good work from right side partner Shaun Ainscough until the pass. Dewsbury’s Kieran Hyde went close a short while after Reittie’s disallowed try; big unit Haggerty then dropped the ball which relieved pressure.
With less than twenty minutes to go, the Heavy Woollen derby was finely poised and people speculated whether a piece of magic would separate the teams. Magic did occur, yet again, from Batley Bulldogs and it was that man Campbell who finished off the play. Strong running and bouncing off tackles from Alex Rowe and trialist Tom Thackray set the Bulldogs up well, the ball found its way left towards Shaun Squires who provided a flick pass to Campbell who couldn’t be stopped. Grayston converted well and six points was the difference between the teams once more, with sixteen minutes remaining.
It didn’t take Dewsbury long to react to Batley’s third try, Anthony Thackeray put up a very nifty kick towards Shane Grady who out-jumped Campbell for a brace of his own. Grady converted his own try and the scores were once again level, with the clock ticking down.
At one end, Sam Wood went agonisingly close to scoring the winner but ref Roby adjudged him to have knocked on. Batley were soon piggybacked down the field with a penalty and they were sniffing a winning try. Another penalty in front of the sticks came, and the two points were too good to turn down. Grayston hammered home the decisive two points that were the difference between these two tough West Yorkshire outfits.
A late barrage of Dewsbury pressure was withstood by Kear’s Bulldogs, who got their pre-season off to a sweet start.