Kear and Hirst lose in final game with Batley

BATLEY BULLDOGS lost their final game of a remarkable season against Salford Red Devils, who booked their place in the Million Pound Game thanks to a convincing 42-14 victory.

And just as Salford secured their spot in the Million Pound Game head coach Tim Sheens promptly walked out on them.

The former Australia coach is unable to mastermind the Red Devils’ bid for survival in their biggest game for years because of his new job with Hull KR.

Coaching his current side against his new side, where he will be head coach whatever division they are in, is too great a conflict of interest.

So director of rugby Sheens will have to watch next Saturday’s do-or-die relegation battle on TV at home. Presumably from behind the sofa, with his hands over his eyes!

While Rovers need to find a way out of Saturday’s heartbreaking defeat by Huddersfield, Salford will go into the clash with their confidence boosted by this victory.

Any concerns about this being a potential banana skin took just 13 minutes to evaporate, with Salford stamping their authority on the game.

Gareth O’Brien was put over by Michael Dobson for the opening try and O’Brien, preferred at full-back to Niall Evalds, then played a part in the second try for Junior Saíu.

O’Brien converted both and suddenly all the talk about having to watch how London were doing in their game seemed faintly ridiculous.

Not that Batley were poor. Anything but, in fact, and they threatened the Salford line on a couple of occasions before winger Wayne Reittie went over in the 20th minute for his 100th career try.

But there was little doubting that they were second best to a Red Devils side littered with experienced stars. Not to mention stars who knew their reputations and livelihoods were on the line if they didn’t produce the goods.

The same applied last week, of course, and they failed badly then in wimping out to a 19-16 defeat to London. But this time, their heads looked in the right space as they went chasing the victory that would give them a lifeline next Saturday.

Dobson was revelling in the space he was getting and put Weller Hauraki through a huge gap for their third converted try for an 18-4 lead.

Giant forward Ben Murdoch-Masila was also enjoying punching holes in the Batley defence and set up the next try from Greg Johnson.

The punishment kept on coming for the home side and centre Sam Smeaton’s ‘reward’ for a try-saving tackle on Sa’u was an ankle injury that ended his game in the 34th minute.

Smeaton could only look on helplessly, too, as Salford promptly kept up the pressure and went over seconds later, again thanks to the Dobson and Hauraki double act.

Hauraki’s second touchdown was soon followed by a Josh Griffin try and the 34-4 half-time scoreline made it a case of damage limitation for the home side after the break.

They made a good start in the pursuit of that with Pat Walker producing a pinpoint kick for Reittie to dive over for his second.

Dominic Brambani again missed his conversion attempt but at least the slope was helping them, and loose forward Luke Blake almost grabbed another try in the 58th minute only to be held up by some determined Salford defence.

Keegan Hirst, who had been given a guard of honour along with John Kear by the Batley players before kick-off, was having a big game in his final appearance before his move with the coach to Wakefield.

It took Salford 22 minutes of the second-half to finally get up the hill and score, with Logan Tomkins putting Robert Lui over.

Batley threatened next, with prop Alex Rowe held up over the line by Adam Walne and the part-timers continued to press as they finished their Qualifiers campaign with a flourish.

They got reward for their efforts when centre Chris Ulugia grounded a Kain Southernwood grubber, with Walker adding the goal to make the scoreline highly respectable.

O’Brien had the final say with a converted try but Kear was full of praise for his Championship battlers: “I am really pleased.

“At half-time we said we wanted to win the second half and they did that so I am really proud of them.”

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