Batley Bulldogs v Sheffield Eagles
Sunday 16th September 2018, 15:00pm
Super 8s - Round: 5
Stats over last 8 encounters
Despite off-field matters taking over the sport this week, I think it may be time to remind people that there is some rugby league to be played!
So fear not, Sheffield Eagles travel to the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium this weekend to face Batley Bulldogs in a match between two teams who will almost certainly be playing in the same division next year.
‘Almost certainly’ doesn’t apply to Batley, who are 12 points clear of the relegation zone, but Sheffield are only six points away from Swinton with six left to play for.
It’s highly unlikely that the Eagles will be caught but that doesn’t matter one iota to coach Mark Aston as he rallies his troops for the final three games of the season.
The Bulldogs have been revitalised in the Shield thanks to the signing of Louis Jouffret.
The former Whitehaven loanee has become a big hit in West Yorkshire and the full-back/half-back has signed permenantly ahead of the new campaign.
If the Eagles are going to come away from the infamous sloped pitch with the spoils, Jouffret will need to be kept quiet.
Last Time Out
Sheffield’s ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ performances in 2018 were put into one 80-minute spell against Featherstone Rovers last Friday.
After starting the game on the front foot, going 6-0 up thanks to Blake Broadbent’s opener, the Eagles conceded three consecutive tries and were behind the 8-ball.
Brad Knowles, Anthony Thackeray and Harry Newman were the first half try-scorers for Featherstone, before Dakota Whylie kept the momentum going after the restart.
Ian Hardman and Newman subsequently crossed to put the end result beyond doubt, however the latter was sin-binned in the final ten minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Hardman kicked a penalty before the Eagles ended the match on a high note as Broadbent completed his brace, rounding off a brilliant individual performance from the prop who keeps improving each week.
Batley left it late but a late surge was enough for Matt Diskin’s men to beat Rochdale Hornets 26-12.
The Bulldogs went 10-nil up thanks to tries from Alex Rowe and Johnny Campbell but the Hornets got on the board before the break courtesy of a Jack Fox four-pointer.
Rochdale turned the game on its head as Barrow-bound centre Deon Cross touched down twice in quick succession.
Batley weren’t to be denied a home victory though, even attacking up the Mount Pleasant slope, as Adam Gledhill, Wayne Reittie and Sam Smeaton all crossed to salvage the win.
As mentioned earlier in the article, Jouffret is the current man of the moment for Batley.
A star-studded performance at Barrow two weeks ago was enough for the club to offer Jouffret a permanent deal and the Frenchman will stay a Bulldog for another year at least.
Capable of playing in the halves and at full-back, the youngster has improved since his loan spell at Whitehaven where he got his first taste of Championship rugby.
Linking up with ex-Eagles Dominic Brambani and Patch Walker, the mix of youth and experience is key for Batley and they have been getting results.
It’s always a tough trip when you go to Mount Pleasant and a good kicking game is vital to any chance of a victory.
Cory Aston was in top form when the Eagles last visited the Bulldogs’ back yard while Simon Brown’s prowess when putting boot to ball is known throughout the division.
If the Eagles’ very own partnership of youth and experience can come to the fore, the visitors have every chance of a victory on Sunday.
Mark Aston was left dismayed after his side couldn’t capitalise on their good start against Featherstone.
He told the Sheffield Star: “We didn't drain them enough, we let them off the hook and that’s what I said to them after the game,”
“That's happened a few times this season, and we’ll be looking to improve on that. We have been in games and then we have lost our way.”
Bulldogs boss Matt Diskin received good news in the week as rising stars Jouffret and Keenan Tomlinson both agreed new deals.
He told the Yorkshire Evening post: “We are building well looking towards next season,"
"Louis is a great signing for us, he’s already a key member of the squad and we’re thrilled to have him on board for 2019.”
By Dan Fowler