Brave Batley stage second-half comeback but can't cause cup upset

Brave Batley stage second-half comeback but can't cause cup upset

BATLEY BULLDOGS produced a superb second-half comeback but couldn’t snatch the win away from Widnes, as the Vikings narrowly avoided following Super League rivals Wakefield out of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.

Wayne Reittie’s second try of the game 10 minutes from time cut the home side’s lead from 26-6 to 26-22 and left the home side clinging on.

But Widnes hung on to claim a quarter-final trip to St Helens.

After a sloppy start defending Widnes’ kick-off, Batley produced the first spell of attacking pressure helped by the game’s first penalty.

Alex Rowe and James Brown were prominent with strong drives before full-back James Craven’s kick for Reittie forced Widnes to drop out. Rowe and Brad Day further tested the home defence as the Bulldogs made an encouraging start.

It was nearly 15 minutes before last year’s semi-finalists threatened the Batley line, and then it was only brief  after Gil Dudson tried to smash his way through from half-way, rather than pass to Kevin Brown, who was perfectly placed to race clear.

Eventually, Widnes made the expected breakthrough. Patrick Ah Van’s charge provided the inspiration, Brown’s dummy split the defensive line and Matt Whitley’s off-load took Lloyd White under the posts. Jack Owens slotted the first of his three goals.

Batley were level three minutes later off the back of their fourth successive penalty. Rowe rampaged forward from close range and managed to roll over and touch down. Scott Leatherbarrow’s boot tied the scores.

Widnes produced a carbon copy move to their try in their next attack but Whitley’s pass to White was ruled forward. With 10 minutes to go before half-time Widnes hit the front for a second time. Brown was the creator with a long pass to his left which Ah Van gobbled up on a trampling run over Reittie to the line.

The Vikings were now getting all the penalty decisions – six in a row – so it was no surprise when Widnes extended their advantage. Joe Mellor slipped out the pass and Brown strolled through flimsy tackling.

Brown repeated the trick two minutes later after Ah Van and Marsh cut open Batley down their right flank to make it 20-6 at half-time.

That break came at an opportune time for tiring Batley, who were soon under the cosh from the re-start.

Within five minutes Cameron Phelps brushed aside James Craven’s flimsy challenge to add Vikings’ fifth try and fourth in 15 minutes.

Brown couldn’t catch Mellor’s pass off his boot laces to complete a hat-trick and Batley celebrated their reprieve with a second try.

Leatherbarrow kicked to the corner on the sixth, Ah Van lost the ball behind his own line and Reittie pounced.

And as unlikely as it seemed, shortly after the break Batley sensed a famous comeback. Matt Fozard gave them greater hope as Rowe continued to punch holes in the home defence.

That belief grew when James Craven atoned for any earlier defensive lapses with a stunning dummy and overhead assist for Reittie’s second touchdown 11 minutes from time. Leatherbarrow cracked over a magnificent conversion and Batley were within four points.

Only Ah Van’s last-gasp tackle prevented Fozard crossing again as Widnes hung on.

Batley coach John Kear praised his team for their effort.

“That’s what the Challenge Cup is all about. The lads were written off but came here and gave a great performance,” he said.

“And how pleasing and respectful of the Widnes fans to give our lads a standing ovation.

“Our guys showed a great level of belief and desire and mental toughness because they were tired.”

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