BATLEY held off local rivals Dewsbury to secure a vital 18-16 win in the race for a top four place on an emotional afternoon at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium.
Following a heartfelt tribute to recently-lost MP Jo Cox prior to kick-off, the home side were slow out of the gates and fell 10 points behind in as many minutes.
But the Bulldogs fought their way back to lead at half-time, hanging on in the second half to claim a precious victory as John Kear’s men leapfrogged Bradford Bulls back into the fourth and final middle eight spot.
A 40-metre beak from scrum-half Andy Kain on the Rams’ opening set immediately put the hosts on the back foot. Full-back Dave Scott was able to recover and clean up Paul Sykes’
grubber-kick, but when the Dogs turned the ball over bringing it away from their own line, the
visitors made them pay at the
second attempt. Sykes’ scampering run and pass set up Jason Crookes to drag his way over the line and give his side a third-minute lead.
The Rams continued to dominate the opening stages and went over again in the 10th minute when Kain dived through a gaping hole in the Bulldogs’ defensive line to score from close range and increase the lead to 10-0.
Momentum quickly swung though and a combination of quick hands set up Dogs winger Alex Brown to score in the left corner on 22 minutes.
The hosts charged straight back down the slope on their next set and crossed again when James Brown’s offload set up Chris Ulugia to drive over despite the close attention of a host of Rams defenders.
Pat Walker missed a relatively straightforward penalty attempt, before starting a move that ended with Alex Bretherton strolling home for the Bulldogs’ third try soon after, meaning they took a 16-10 lead into the sheds.
But, much like the first half, the hosts started the second period slowly and when Dewsbury full-back Josh Guzdek dived over within two minutes of the restart, the lead was reduced to just two points.
Sykes missed the chance to level the scores when his penalty attempt crashed off the post, but the experienced stand-off pounced on the loose ball to retain possession for his side. And Sykes’s extra effort paid off when the Rams were awarded another penalty soon after, which he successfully converted on this occasion.
But almost immediately Walker slotted home a penalty for the Bulldogs to restore the hosts’ two-point advantage. Tom Lillycrop went agonisingly close to further extending their advantage but the charging front-rower was held up over the line by the scrambling Rams defence.
With 13 minutes to play, the Bulldogs were reduced to 12 men when winger Wayne Reittie was sent to the sin-bin by referee Jack Smith for kicking out after the tackle.
But Kear’s men held off the Rams’ late rally to secure another important two points.