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Kingstone Press Championship Round 16 Preview – Batley Bulldogs v Sheffield Eagles

The Eagles face their second Friday night trip to West Yorkshire in as many weeks with the challenge of Batley Bulldogs on the horizon in round 16 of the Kingstone Press Championship. Batley were downed by Featherstone last Sunday at the Big Fellas Stadium after Sheffield got the better of Hunslet two days prior.

Last Time Out

Batley Bulldogs visited Featherstone in the first fixture after the inaugural Summer Bash, an event which saw neither team gain a win. It was Andy Hay’s Rovers who came out on top in this one as they overpowered Batley during the first forty minutes. The Bulldogs improved in the second half, scoring 16 points without reply at one stage, but the damage was done as Featherstone collected the spoils and moved ever closer to a spot in the top four. Paul Sykes crossed the stripe on four occasions, three of those coming in the first half within eight minutes of each other. Andy Ellis and Matt James opened the scoring for Featherstone before the Sykes show got underway. Jack Ormondroyd finished off the first half’s scoring in the 34th minute, ironically making the score 34-0 after the conversion. But, Batley made a mini-revival with three tries in succession from Shaun Ainscough, Alistair Leak and Lee Mitchell. The 2,067 people at the Big Fellas Stadium were given two more Featherstone tries before the end of the match, former Batley winger Ben Blackmore crossed the chalk before Sykes scored his fourth, and final, try of the day.

Sheffield Eagles bounced back from their disastrous performance in Blackpool against London Broncos with a 54-10 victory over Hunslet Hawks at the South Leeds Stadium. Menzie Yere crossed the whitewash four times in the match, bringing up 150 tries in an Eagles shirt. However, the Eagles only had a 10-6 lead at half-time before a monster second half effort saw 44 points go the way of Mark Aston’s side. Jack Lee put Hunslet in front on 26 minutes through a try out of dummy half, but it was Sheffield who had the lead after 40 minutes as Yere and Sam Smeaton both went over. A knock-on from the restart gifted Sheffield with some brilliant field position, and they took full advantage as Tony Tonks barrelled his way over the line. The second half scoring had started, and would continue to do so at a fast pace for an Eagles side who got into the groove to show no mercy. Yere completed his hat-trick with two tries in as many minutes before Scott Turner added to Sheffield’s ever-growing tally on 50 minutes. Liam Mackay replied well for Hunslet as he ran a great line to get through an Eagles defence that didn’t leak many points during the encounter. Four tries came in the final quarter as Yere scored his fourth of the day, then Rob Worrincy notched an interception try which will have brought back good memories for the former Halifax winger. Michael Knowles and Quentin Laulu-Togagae wrapped things up with a try apiece.

Key Battle

At the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium, with the infamous slope playing a part in proceedings, the battle of prop forwards is always a good one to keep tabs on. Both teams have solid forward packs, both in the front-row and back-row, so a feisty encounter may well be on the cards as one side looks to get the upper hand. For Batley, former Sheffield players Alex Rowe and Tom Lillycrop will be wanting to show the South Yorkshire club what they are missing out on. Also, Adam Gledhill and Keegan Hirst have been ever-presents for the Bulldogs this season and they’ll need to make sure they’re on form this Friday as Sheffield come to town. The Eagles have performer very well in the pack this season, with off-season signings Tony Tonks and Steve Thorpe playing to a high standard. The regular faces, Eddie Battye and captain Mitch Stringer, have also gone well this campaign which will have pleased Mark Aston as he still searches for his best squad of 17.

Prediction

Sheffield’s good form against Batley over the years has been well publicised, and they’ll be expecting to carry it on for another season with a win on Friday night. Batley have a tough run of games coming up, this match is the first of three in the space of ten days as London and Leigh wait over the horizon. A win against the Eagles would spark come confidence into the Bulldogs who are only two points in front of 11th placed Whitehaven. Sheffield come into this one as favourites, and the loan signing of Dave Petersen from Bradford Bulls will only improve their chances as he covers for the injured Pat Walker – Sheffield by 14

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