Bulldogs cruise into Challenge Cup sixth round

FOUR tries in a devastating seven-minute second-half spell helped Batley to a 28-10 win over Championship rivals Featherstone Rovers and progress to the last 16 of the Challenge Cup.

The Bulldogs trailed by two points at half-time, but stormed to victory after the break, with influential scrum-half Dom Brambani pulling the strings to move his side within one win of a place in the quarter-finals.

After just one defeat in their opening nine games this season, John Kear’s men had suffered back-to-back losses in the last fortnight, before bouncing back in style thanks to a second-half blitz against Jon Sharp’s Rovers.

Kear was without key men Chris Ulugia and Alex Rowe, who have been ruled out for at least the next three weeks, but the Bulldogs showed there is no reason they cannot keep up their early-season form, putting on a fine display in front of almost 1,500 fans at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium.

Shaun Squires opened the scoring for the hosts in the eighth minute, touching down after Will Milner lost control of Brambani’s kick on the last.

Both sides had potential tries ruled out by the television match official before the visitors levelled the scores on 24 minutes. Pat Walker’s 40-20 put the Bulldogs in striking position, but from the scrum, Misi Taulapapa stole the ball from Dave Scott and raced 80 metres untouched.

The TMO waved away another would-be Batley try soon after, before Kyran Johnson nudged Rovers ahead at the break with a penalty goal after the half-time hooter.

Some scrambling Bulldogs defence early in the second half kept them within two points, before bursting into life on the hour mark.

First, Brambani raced through a gap and offloaded to substitute James Harrison, son of former Batley head coach Karl Harrison, for the 19-year-old’s first professional try.

James Brown and Alex Bretherton combined to set up Shaun Ainscough two minutes later, before Brambani burst through the shell-shocked Rovers defence again to score on the hosts’ next set.

Keegan Hirst charged through a gap and offloaded to Cain Southernwood to score the Bulldogs’ fourth in seven minutes, opening up a 20-point gap.

The visitors, who did not touch the ball between Harrison’s 59th minute try and Southernwood’s six minutes later, composed themselves and went over for a consolation try courtesy of Jamie Cording.

But it was too little, too late and  Walker sealed an excellent victory for Kear’s men with a last-minute penalty goal in front of the sticks.

“I think we played really well over the 80 minutes,” said Kear.

“That was the form we were showing in the first four rounds of the Championship, and I’m delighted with that because we were a bit scratchy in the last two weeks.

“It was the easiest half-time team talk I’ve had to do. The players were saying if we stick at this, we’ll get them eventually and that’s what happened.”

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