JOHN KEAR was ecstatic while James Lowes felt robbed after Batley continued their stunning start to the season by coming from 24-12 behind to draw a breathtaking encounter with the very final kick.
The Bulldogs’ biggest crowd of the season savoured a see-saw game which could have gone either way, then looked like it was heading Bradford’s before a late rally and controversial last-minute Pat Walker penalty ensured the sides were level.
Walker’s kick appeared to miss to the right but the Bradford players appeared stunned as the tough judges raised their flags.
“It was a fantastic occasion,” announced Kear at a busy Fox’s Biscuits Stadium.
“It’s great when there’s a crowd like this here generating a fabulous atmosphere and these are the sort of games you want to play in.”
Batley stay second and have now faced all of last year’s top four in their first six matches, without being beaten by any of them. Meanwhile the Bulls, with a game in hand, remain unbeaten in fourth place with three wins and two draws.
Batley welcomed back Joe Chandler after concussion prevented him playing in the previous week’s success over Workington.
Steve Crossley and Paul Clough made their first appearances of the season for Bradford, who had Matty Blythe in place of groin injury victim Adrian Purtell.
The Bulls were also without Adam Sidlow (broken hand) and Tom Olbison (ill).
Omari Caro opened the scoring for the visitors with Danny Addy landing the first of his four conversions.
But Batley, playing down their famous slope, hit back with tries from on-loan Bulls centre Chris Ulugia and Dave Scott, the second score set up by another ex-Bulls player Cain Southernwood and the result of a thrilling break from Ulugia.
Now it was Bradford’s turn to assume superiority with tries from Dale Ferguson and Jay Pitts (two), either side of half time, seemingly giving them a seemingly winning cushion.
But Kear’s class of 2016 is built of stern stuff and they battled back.
Alistair Leak was held up before inspirational skipper Keegan Hirst pounced when a spiralling Southernwood kick bounced free and Pat Walker’s third successful conversion narrowed the deficit to just six points.
A tense final 14 minutes followed and when Alex Rowe collected another Southernwood bomb then, several pairs of hands later, Alex Brown dived over in the corner, it left Walker with the opportunity to tie the scores.
But the Batley loose forward, having kicked 11 straight goals in the previous eight days, narrowly failed to add the extras and, as the clock ticked down towards zero, the points looked to be heading to Odsal.
However, just as the hooter was about to sound, referee Ben Thaler, in consultation with his touch-judge, awarded a penalty for a ‘grapple tackle’. Walker then redeemed himself with a successful kick from over 35 metres out in controversial crcumstances as the the ball appeared to swing wide of the uprights and much was said on the matter following the full-time hooter, though it stands and Batley remain within reach of pole position in the Kingstone Press Championship.
“It was a justified penalty and I felt the official showed some bottle to by awarding it,” said Kear.
Bulls boss James Lowes was predictably less happy, saying: “I could probably show you a hundred similar tackles that go unpenalised. Why choose this one with just seconds to go?”