Bulldogs edge past Eagles
SHEFFIELD EAGLES 18
BATLEY BULLDOGS 20
BATLEY BULLDOGS’ playoff credentials were on full show against Sheffield Eagles as they returned to West Yorkshire with an invaluable win.
A fortnight after beating Featherstone, the Bulldogs will have wanted to make amends for a little slip-up against Whitehaven on home turf last Sunday.
This wouldn’t be their most stylish win but it was full of guts and grit - a real workmanlike effort.
With three tries inside the first 14 minutes for the visitors, it looked like it was going to be a very long night at the office for Sheffield.
Dale Morton broke the deadlock after just four minutes, the winger the beneficiary of a looping ball to the flank. Tom Gilmore couldn’t convert from a tough angle and he would suffer the same fate from the other wing soon after.
Dane Manning was left alone to catch a last tackle kick, he got the ball away to rangy second-rower Lucas Walshaw who fed Johnny Campbell to touch down.
Morton completed a quick-fire brace as the Olympic Legacy Park crowd were left shellshocked but there was still hope considering Gilmore was zero from three from the tee.
That optimism was only fuelled more when Vila Halafihi ducked over from dummy-half as Batley were offside from their own kick. Josh Guzdek was on conversion duties for the Eagles and it was a simple enough task from in front of the sticks as he halved his side’s deficit.
Just after the half-hour mark, Blake Broadbent put on a brilliant step to bypass the Batley defence and reach out to score next to the posts. Guzdek was on hand to convert and despite it being three tries to two to the visitors, it was all square on the scoreboard.
However, the Eagles have had trouble defending deep into the first half on multiple occasions this year and that would be the case again as Batley went into the sheds six points up.
The last play of the first period saw the Bulldogs halves combine, Gilmore’s grubber dotted down by Ben White. A new kicker, Luke Hooley, had the much easier job of converting from bang in front. A finely poised second half awaited.
Indiscipline was the main issue for Sheffield at the start of the second half. Joel Farrell was sin-binned for backchat before another penalty gave Hooley a chance to extend Batley’s lead to two scores.
That is exactly what he did and Batley’s dogged defence would be enough to see them home.
It wouldn’t be without a scare though as Sheffield threw the kitchen sink. Ben Jones-Bishop crossed the whitewash but it came from a forward pass.
On the hour, Anthony Thackeray put himself out of the game with a monumental effort to barge past a Batley defender to the line. It would be a penalty try as he was felled in the act of scoring, but didn’t get the ball down. He would go off the field and not return. Guzdek’s conversion put Sheffield back to within two points of their opponents.
There wouldn’t be any further drama as Sheffield couldn’t muster another clear-cut opportunity. A brilliant evening’s entertainment in South Yorkshire.
Report by Dan Fowler for League Express, photo by Alex Coleman