IN STRONG SUPPORT: Half-back Gareth Moore finds teammate George Flanagan with a pass
TALK of an end-of-season collapse seemed a world away as the Bulldogs reignited hopes of grand final glory.
Though winless in six ahead of kick-off Batley were expected to win. They simply had to.
However the manner of victory was nothing short of remarkable, those in attendance witnessing something of a transformation as the Bulldogs
recorded their biggest league victory of 2013.
The three points were undoubtedly sealed before half time and what followed is likely to have sent a clear and direct message to the Bulldogs’ title rivals.
Keighley, themselves smarting from a losing streak, had every chance of tightening their grip on a play-off spot.
But a near-faultless performance from John Kear’s side put paid to their hopes.
Ashley Lindsay was named man of the match ahead of several candidates, including Featherstone-bound half-back Gareth Moore who more than silenced his critics.
ON DEBUT: Cumbrian hooker Alistair Leak looked every inch the part while on Bulldogs duty
Despite avoiding a whitewash defeat, the Cougars were always second best to the men from Mount Pleasant.
And the visitors’ rout began inside nine minutes as Tom Hemingway crashed over out wide.
Hemingway, believed to be heading across the valley for 2014, was at the centre attention once more as he improved Lindsay’s first touchdown of the afternoon.
And the Bulldogs returned to the dressing rooms 16 unanswered points to the good as Hemingway added extras to a 35th-minute Moore score.
The Cougars began brightly after the break, reducing the gap five minutes in through Shaw Cross Sharks head coach Joe Chandler.
But optimism soon faded as Batley bagged a trio of tries in the space of eight minutes.
A big hit from Alex Rowe set the platform for a skilful Moore kick, which full-back Miles Greenwood palmed back to Lindsay for his second.
Hemingway, who kicked a total of seven goals, was then on hand to set up the next.
The stand-off’s chop over was pounced on by Jason Walton, who took advantage of some poor Cougars defence.
George Flanagan charged over for a trademark try from dummy-half to help make it 34-6.
New signing Alistair Leak, handed a dream debut having joined from National Conference League outfit Egremont, was introduced at this point.
And the young Cumbrian playmaker performed admirably, appearing far from out of his comfort zone during a one-sided closing third.
With hosts Keighley in free-fall, matters went from bad to worse for Paul March’s men.
Richie Barnett, by some way the worst player on the pitch, was embarrassingly caught out as he attempted to hack poession downfield.
The centre, much to the dismay of the home support, chipped the ball into the path of Bulldog Gareth Potts.
And the former Wakefield Trinity Wildcat graciously accepted the gift, galloping 60 metres to touch down.
The demolition was complete, six minutes from time, when Greenwood claimed a much-deserved score as the Bulldogs moved to within four points of fourth-placed Halifax.
BULLDOGS: Miles Greenwood 8; Gareth Potts 8; Jason Walton 8; Danny Maun 8; Johnny Campbell 8; Tom Hemingway 9; Gareth Moore 9; Alex Rowe 8; George Flanagan 8; Anthony Mullally 8; Alex Bretherton 8; John Davies 8; Ashley Lindsay 9. Subs: Keegan Hirst 7; Ayden Faal 7; Jay Leary 7; Alistair Leak 8.
Tries: Hemingway (11), Lindsay (16, 48), Moore (35), Walton (51), Flanagan (58), Potts (63), Greenwood (74)
Goals: Hemingway 7/8
COUGARS: Craig Moss 5; Gavin Duffy 6; Elliot Cosgrove 6; Joe Chandler 6; Richie Barnett 4; Danny Jones 6; Paul March 6; Matthew Bailey 6; James Feather 5; Sean Hesketh 5; Oliver Pursglove 5; Josh Lynam 6; Brendan Rawlins 6. Subs: Scott Leatherbarrow 6; Scott Law 5; Jode Sheriffe 5; Ben Sagar 5.
Tries: Chandler (45)
Goals: Leatherbarrow 1/1
Referee: Thierry Alibert
ThePress Man of The Match: Ashley Lindsay – The back-rower was immense in terms of inspiriting the Bulldogs to a much-needed victory
Match Rating: 3/5
By Steve Martyn