BATLEY boss Matt Diskin admitted he has some tough selection decisions to make ahead of the Championship opener in Toulouse after his side’s 38-12 win over Castleford - which was their third straight pre-season victory.
The Bulldogs, close to full strength, were ruthless from the off against a youthful Cas side who appeared like rabbits dazzled by headlights in the early stages.
Diskin’s men ran in four tries in 15 minutes to lead 20-0, but were then faced by a vibrant opposition for the remainder of the half.
After the break, playing down the slope, the young Tigers applied plenty more pressure which Batley repelled with distinction in ever-worsening weather - the bitter cold being increasingly laced with fine rain.
Diskin said: “We’ll take a 19-man squad to Toulouse and it’s going to be very tough (to choose who).”
His squad will be bolstered further by the loan of two of their opponents’ outstanding prospects - Tom Holmes and Will Maher.
“Tom Holmes played with nice tempo and caused some problems which is encouraging from our point of view,” observed Diskin, who also takes sidelined Cas back Jy Hitchcox for the season.
“Big Will (Maher) did big minutes and when a big man does that the quality drops off but he made some strong carries where he needed to be.”
Tigers assistant coach Danny Orr also gave Maher massive praise for playing all but three minutes in strength-sapping conditions, adding: “It was a really big challenge for a very young team with a lot of potential playing against a good Championship side.
“They found it difficult at the start and gave themselves a lot to do but got back in it and were reasonably happy at half-time.
“They all loved the experience and the lads who are being loaned out will become better players for the experience.”
Cas made the worst possible start as cold hands fumbled the kick-off, allowing James Harrison to force his way over after less than 60 seconds.
Within a couple of minutes Harrison claimed his second and when Dave Scott added a third try, and Wayne Reittie successfully chased a Dom Brambani grubber, a rout seemed a possibility.
But the Cas youngsters learned fast, steadied the ship and even dictated the course of the latter stages of the half, hitting back with well-worked tries from Kieran Gill and Dec Sheehan, both converted by eye-catching teenager Jake Sweeting, to trail by eight points at the break.
The Bulldogs began the second stanza the way they had the first with Alex Rowe crashing over from close range. Meanwhile Scott claimed his second try on the hour.
The Tigers again grew in stature as the half wore on with Jack Render being denied when shunted in to touch near a corner flag - just one example of determined goal-line defence which must have impressed Diskin.
Batley scored the last try when Hill touched down in the closing stages.
BATLEY: Dave Scott 9, Wayne Reittie 7, Sam Smeaton 7, Macauley Hallett 7, Shaun Ainscough 7, Cain Southernwood 7, Dom Brambani 7, Brad Hill 7, Alistair Leak 8, Alex Rowe 8, Dane Manning 8, James Harrison 7, Patch Walker 7. Subs: James Brown 7, James Davey 7, Trae Sullivan 7, Danny Bravo 7, Joe Chandler 7, Alex Bretherton 7, Mike Hayward 7, Shaun Squires 7.
Tries: Harrison (1, 4), Scott (9, 60), Reittie (15), Rowe (43), Hill (76). Goals: Walker 3/5, Brambani 1/1, Southernwood 1/1.
CASTLEFORD: Jake Sweeting 7, Dec Sheehan 7, Kieran Gill 7, Tuoyo Egodo 6, Calum Turner 6, Callum Mcllelland 7, Tom Holmes 7, Brandon Douglas 6, Luke Million 6, Will Maher 7, Luis Johnson 7, Connor Fitzsimmons 6, Jacques O’Neil 6. Subs: Jack Render 6, Rory Dixon 7, Dan Igbinedion 6, Paddy Burns 7, Robbie Storey 6, Jamall Goodall 6, Jake Trueman 6, Harvey Kear 6.
Tries: Gill (26), Sheehan (37). Goals: Sweeting 2/2.
Ref rating: N. Bennett 75/100 / Half-time: 20-12 / Penalties: 6-8 / Sin Bin: None / Sent Off: None / Weather: Bitterly cold with second half rain / Man of the Match: Dave Scott (Batley) / Attendance: 602 / Match rating: 3/5.