Batley extend gap over rivals in race for top four

BATLEY earned their fifth straight win in the Championship as they edged a tight contest with struggling Sheffield 24-10 at a rain-drenched Sheffield Hallam University Sports Park last Friday night.

John Kear came back to haunt his former club as his side made the short hop back to West Yorkshire with maximum points as Mark Aston’s men slipped to their fifth consecutive defeat.

The Eagles had the first sight of the line when Keal Carlile’s fizzed offload, just yards out, looked to have presented Michael Knowles with the chance to go over but Dave Scott’s timely tackle kept the home side at bay.

At the other end, Cain Southerwood’s grubber kick on the last was superbly diffused by Quentin Laulu Togagae on his own line before the PNG star showed his worth in attack when Carlile injected pace into a home move and with Cory Aston being the dummy runner, the Eagles full-back had the space to force his way over from point-blank range.

But the Bulldogs responded positively to the setback and after being held up initially for a few sets, Keegan Hirst led from the front as he powered his way to the whitewash and against all the odds, he managed to ground the ball over the line despite the attentions of a number of home defenders.

In the next phase of play, Menzie Yere put his body on the line to prevent Pat Walker from going over from close range before Rob Worrincy agonisingly failed to gather Ben Blackmore’s pass despite having the line at his mercy.

The visitors grabbed the lead for the first time just shy of the interval when Aston was penalised for not being square at the tackle and Walker made him pay when he arrowed the resultant penalty between the sticks.

The Eagles suffered a blow in the dying seconds of the first stanza when Laulu Togagae made a hash of Walker’s bomb and Greg Minikin was on hand to pounce on the loose ball as Batley opened up an eight-point advantage at the break.

Sheffield got themselves back within striking distance early in the second half when superb hands along the line saw the Bulldogs short of defensive cover and George Tyson broke the defensive line and despite the last-ditch attentions of Scott, he delivered the knockout blow to reduce the deficit to four.

However, Batley reasserted their grip on the game just minutes later when the Bulldogs ran the ball on the last and with Dominic Brambani pulling the strings, the ex-Eagle paved the way for Minikin to release Wayne Reittie, who went over in the corner.

There was a crucial moment, just entering the final quarter, when Aston’s pass saw Laulu Togagae show his jinking feet to make something out of nothing but as he agonisingly reached for the line, the ball squired out of his grasp, to release the pressure on the visitors.

The away side were coughing up the ball on a regular basis but the home side failed to make it count as Steve Thorpe was unable to gather Aston’s pass despite being just yards out.

However, Batley finally put the game to bed when Joe Chandler made something out of nothing to bulldoze his way to the line before showing good awareness to ground the ball whilst being encircled by Eagles defenders.

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