Bulldogs secure their first 'middle eights' victory

WAYNE REITTIE scored two tries to earn Batley Bulldogs a potentially lucrative  11-10 victory at Mount Pleasant over their winless part-time rivals Featherstone Rovers in The Qualifiers.

But it was Dom Brambani’s apparently random drop-goal just before the half-time hooter that separated these Yorkshire rivals.

With a £50,000 difference between finishing seventh (£550,000) or eighth (£500,000) at the end of the Qualifiers, this was a vitally important fixture for both clubs.

And Batley celebrated as such when the final hooter sounded, though happy coach John Kear insisted: “It wasn’t about the money. We built that up as the battle of the part-timers. We had earned the home draw by finishing third and so we needed to nail it from finishing third.”

On Brambani’s golden point, Kear smiled: “Dom is a clever player and you might as well take the drop-goal and claw back a point.

“You have got to have faith in your players, they are going to come up with a try at some stage and I did have that faith.”

While Kear was delighted by his team’s on-field decision making, opposite number Jon Sharp was highly critical of his side for their choices.

“It was a great game for the spectators between two desperate teams,” said the Rovers chief.

“Both of us wanted to do well knowing it was a foregone conclusion we won’t be in the Million Pound Game.

“But we committed hari-kari. At 10-7 up, the (kicking) cone got sent on and then it got sent off by the players.

“Players have got to be accountable for that because it is not good enough. It is a lack of respect to Batley and a lack of understanding about games and pressure situations.”

Batley, playing up the slope in the first half and beaten in both their last two meetings with Rovers, took a 14th minute lead with Reittie’s smart first finish.

With the ball hastening out of play and the metal posts of the pitch fencing coming quickly into view, Reittie just got his fingertips to Shaun Squires’s kick through. Patch Walker missed the touchline conversion attempt.

Reittie almost snatched a carbon copy touchdown minutes later, this time from Alex Bretherton’s kick. Rovers were grateful to Misi Taulapapa’s defensive cover for stopping another four pointer.

Rovers then took the lead after 19 minutes as Alex Brown spilled Danny Craven’s high kick in the blustery, rainy conditions and Luke Briscoe pounced on the loose ball. Jamie Foster, playing his first game for Rovers since July 3, missed the conversion.

Defences remained on top until the 38th minute when Rovers scored on the opposite flank from another Leeds loanee.

Hardman was the provider and James Duckworth, who had earlier tested the home defence with a strong run down the Batley left, went in for another unconverted score. Then, with the seconds ticking down, Brambani clipped over a drop-goal from 15 metres

Full-back Dave Scott was in action at both ends of the field early in the second half. Denied a try at one end after being held up in-goal, Scott then ended Anthony Thackeray’s weaving run to the opposite try-line.

But a penalty resulted from the play the ball and Foster made it third time lucky to give Rovers a 10-5 lead.

That advantage became 10-7 with Walker’s 57th minute penalty although the Bulldogs opted to run another penalty when they might easily have gone for goal.

Brambani knocked on over the Rovers line as the Bulldogs strove to go ahead for the first time. The game was now something of a penalty-fest with a 63rd minute award equalling the tally of points scored at that stage.

Rovers were profiting from referee Joe Cobb’s whistle but they couldn’t break Batley’s defence as Alex Brown produced a vital stop on Craven.

Brambani’s 40/20 then lifted home spirits and another kick by the scrum-half to the corner caused Foster to knock on.

Batley eventually attacked the same corner with Walker, Brambani and Sam Smeaton setting up Reittie for his second of the game.

Walker missed the extras but Brambani’s earlier single pointer was now a masterstroke.

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