BATLEY BULLDOGS put in a determined opening-day performance but Featherstone Rovers, led by Dane Chisholm, pulled away in the second half to start the year with a hard-fought win (18-38).
The sides were level at half-time with a score that reflected the Bulldogs’ strong efforts to match last season’s Grand Finalists, but the class in the Rovers team came through in the second half with Chisholm’s two tries, and 22 points in total, leading them to victory.
Craig Lingard had reasons for satisfaction despite coming out on the losing side in his first competitive game as head coach at Batley.
“I was really pleased with the effort of the boys today,” he said. “I’m disappointed to lose the game but there were a lot more positives than negatives to take out of it.”
Featherstone blew an early chance to score the first points of the game when Craig Hall’s poor pass failed to find Greg Worthington when they had an overload, but the two did link-up for a 13th-minute try.
Hall took an inside pass and somehow managed to offload for the centre to score despite the mass of bodies wrapping him up.
Batley had done little wrong up to that point and their good work with ball in-hand soon got them into good position to attack.
Their first try came from Danny Yates’s chip to the corner, which was spilled by Luke Briscoe under pressure from Dale Morton to allow Lewis Galbraith to pounce.
Four minutes later Alistair Leak, almost straight off the interchange bench, was in support of a piercing Anthony Bowman break created by James Brown, with Morton converting both tries for a 12-6 lead.
It didn’t last until the break though as ill-discipline allowed Featherstone to attack with two players on dual-reg from Leeds combining. Callum McLelland sent a looping cut-out pass to Briscoe on the touchline and he did well to juggle before diving into the corner.
Going down the hill in the second half Featherstone finally put Batley to the sword with Chisholm leading the way.
The first was gutting for the home side as Yates’s pass was intercepted by the half-back, who raced the full length despite the best efforts of Morton.
Rovers were gaining momentum and they were soon back on the attack, with Chisholm going at the line himself, dummying and gliding through to score again.
Batley didn’t give up the fight and Lucas Walshaw managed to get over on the last play after the ball had been kept alive well, but they were set back when Chisholm kicked a penalty in front of the posts with 14 minutes to go to make it a two-score game.
Two more tries sealed the deal in the closing stages as Josh Hardcastle took in McLelland’s pass to score, before Chisholm weaved through and kicked ahead for James Harrison to get a try against his former side.
Despite the final scoreline Featherstone had to battle hard to get the result and head coach James Webster, himself taking charge for the first time, was satisfied with his team’s display.
“It’s a very tough place to come, especially in these conditions,” he said.
“I thought Batley made us work hard for it, they were dogged and tenacious and made us work hard for every point we got, so I’m happy to get off to a winning start.”