Sheffield Eagles 18-2 Batley Bulldogs
Sunday 28th July 2019, 14:00pm
1895 Cup - Round: No Round
Joel Farrell, Jacob Ogden, Olly Davies,
Pat Walker (3),
Sheffield Eagles booked their place in the 1895 Cup Final with a scrappy 18-2 victory over Batley Bulldogs.
Joel Farrell, Jacob Ogden and Oliver Davies scored the only tries of the game as Sheffield held firm in defence but showed glimpses of what they’re capable of in attack.
For the Bulldogs, their wait for a Wembley appearance goes on after a below-par performance in awful conditions in South Yorkshire.
Sheffield came into the contest after a tough loss away at Toulouse Olympique and head coach Mark Aston made two changes from the team who travelled to the south of France.
London Broncos duo Ben Hellewell and Nathan Mason were brought into the fold at the expense of Sonny Esslemont and Nathan Mason.
For the Bulldogs, there were wholesale changes from Matt Diskin following their loss to Leigh Centurions last time out.
Six players came in for the West Yorkshire club as Johnny Campbell, Dom Brambani, Jack Downs, Dane Manning, Paul Brearley and James Brown replaced Keenen Tomlinson, Danny Yates, Sam Walters, Tom Lillycrop and Michael Ward.
The two teams’ routes to this stage were a mixed bag to say the very least. Both sides passed through the first match with relative ease as Sheffield defeated a youthful Halifax while Batley knocked Rochdale out of the competition.
Drama followed in the quarter-finals as Sheffield and Batley beat Doncaster and York respectively, the former in the last minute while the latter had to go through golden point extra time where Louis Jouffret was the hero with a drop goal.
Neither set of fans will have wanted the same sort of emotional turmoil as the last round but with the way the first quarter played out, it certainly wouldn’t have came as a surprise that more of the same was occurring.
The first five minutes saw Batley have most of the possession and also a try ruled out. After Aaron Brown was penalised for an incorrect play the ball, the Bulldogs had great territory and worked space on the right flank through Sam Smeaton and winger Wayne Reittie dotted down but with a foot in touch.
Another chance arose for the Bulldogs when Ryan Millar dropped a Jouffret bomb close to the winger’s own line.
It wasn’t meant to be for Diskin’s men just yet, though, as Jack Broadbent couldn’t handle a pass from David Scott, the ball then squirmed past Johnny Campbell and into touch.
As the rain started to pour down faster, errors did start to creep in and everyone in the stadium knew that whoever kept their cool would be heavy favourites in the conditions.
The Eagles made their first foray forward when Jacob Ogden was hit with a shoulder charge.
But just as their opponents did in the minutes beforehand, the Eagles squandered the opportunity as Hellewell knocked on a Guzdek pass.
As the first quarter edged towards its end, a frantic few seconds saw possession change teams on multiple occasions.
Batley spilled the ball backwards in their own half, giving a chance for Anthony Thackeray to spread his wings but his pass to Blackmore then went to a Bulldog. The pressure was starting to show on both sides and it needed a cool head to break the deadlock.
When you need someone to dab a ball into the in-goal area and pile the pressure on, the Eagles’ preferred choice will always be Patch Walker and he showed exactly why on 27 minutes.
With a pass available, Walker went to his trusty boot to slide a kick into the danger area and Joel Farrell was there to pounce against his former side. The half-back then kicked the conversion for a 6-0 lead.
Batley also got on the board before the interval as they won a penalty 30 metres shy of the Eagles line. In a central position, Jouffret pointed towards the sticks and duly obliged.
The Eagles finished the half on top, both on the pitch and on the scoreboard. Two consecutive goal line dropouts went to the hosts but no reward at the end of it as Batley held firm with Millar being denied.
The start to the second half was a complete contrast to the first as Sheffield had all of the ball and the territory, but just like the Bulldogs couldn’t capitalise.
Thackeray landed a grubber on the post and it bounced up for anyone to hold, the grateful recipient being Batley full-back Scott who couldn’t get out of the in-goal.
Again it was the Bulldogs’ defence holding firm and keeping them in the contest.
The second breakthrough almost came via Farrell but he was penalised for double movement.
It wasn’t long after that, with 15 minutes to go, that Sheffield breathed a little easily. Brown took the ball to the Batley defence, passing on to Walker who fed Jacob Ogden over the line. Walker was on target with the conversion.
In a half where Batley threatened on only a few occasions, they had a chance with six minutes remaining to get back into the contest but another pass was flung into touch and the mood around the Bulldogs fans was diminishing by the second.
The visitors were looking to build pressure and a number of high kicks went up to Josh Guzdek, but as the full-back has done consistently for several years now – dealt with them with aplomb.
The clock was against the Bulldogs and their desperation saw Sheffield gain key field position towards the end of the contest as Aston’s men looked to put the dagger in.
One minute remained when Oliver Davies crashed on to a short ball, powering past Scott on the try-line to send the Olympic Legacy Park wild. Walker maintained his 100% goal record right till the end.
Sheffield Eagles will write a second chapter in their Wembley book, following on from coach Aston and the class of 98’s heroics against Wigan.
By Dan Fowler for the League Express