BATLEY BULLDOGS fell to a sixth defeat from seven Championship games last weekend, but head coach Matt Diskin felt there were plenty of positives to build on ahead of this week’s visit of Toulouse.
The French outfit come to Batley tomorrow (Saturday, kick-off 3pm), and it will be the second time in as many weeks that the Bulldogs have come up against full-time opposition after the loss to Toronto.
They went down 34-12 to the Wolfpack in Hull but their coach believed that there were positives to take out of the game, and not only from a second half in which they matched their opponents for points.
“I thought we could take positives from the first half as well. I thought we actually delivered for the first time in a while some of the stuff that we actually practised,” said Diskin.
“Some of the tries they scored were exceptionally good, we made them work for it and there were some really good aerial finishes.
“There wasn’t a lack of effort. When we had the ball we weren’t bad with it, and I thought we showed a lot of character to draw that second half.”
Diskin dropped a number of players the previous week against Bradford, and was pleased with the response he got from Dane Manning, who played at loose forward and assisted both tries, along with Louis Jouffret and Sam Wood.
“Manning I thought was really good in that middle channel, he’s got loads of energy and he’s really tough to handle around there. For me it’s more his natural position and I thought he played really well,” the coach said.
“I thought Louis Jouffret played nice and square at the line and created some space for the people outside him, which is what we’re asking our half-backs to do, so I thought those guys that came back in, Sam Wood included, were pretty solid.”
Niall Walker also came into the side for his long-awaited debut, having had surgery in pre-season following his move from Hunslet, and Diskin was pleased to see him finally get on the field.
“It was a good opportunity to give Niall some game time coming up to a busy period before and after Easter, and I thought he did okay,” said the Bulldogs boss.
“He carried the ball, he’s a handful and he’s got some good acceleration into contact. He was a little off the pace in defence because he hasn’t had much practice with the rest of them but I thought that for his first hit-out, he gave a good account of himself.”
There was also a debut for young half-back Olly Russell, who has joined the side from Huddersfield Giants as part of the loose dual registration agreement between the two clubs.
Russell was due to spend the season on loan with Leigh Centurions but failed to make an appearance in the early rounds, leading to his recall by Huddersfield.
He was made available to Batley last weekend, and Diskin says that he will be in his plans again this week against Toulouse.
“He played right at the line, was prepared to take the line on, created space for runners on the outside of him, and I thought his kicking game was quite good as well,” Diskin said of the youngster’s performance.
“He’s in our plans until Huddersfield pick up any injuries in the half-back positions, and he has complemented the group really well.”
Batley will search for only a second win of the season when they take on Toulouse, and Diskin knows it will be a difficult task.
The Frenchmen sit second in the table and come into the game in great form, with a stunning win over Toronto two weeks ago followed last weekend by a 50-0 rout of Barrow, and no side in the division has scored more points.
“Toulouse are a fantastic side if you look at how they’ve performed in the Championship over the last few years,” Diskin said.
“They’re a fantastic side with some real athletes and there are some real quality footballers across the park, so it’s going to be a really tough task.
“They’ve got some really good footballers. (Stan) Robin, (Johnathon) Ford and (Mark) Kheirallah are three fantastic players that do a lot of close work with each other, and that’s the benefit you get when you’re full-time, you can build those relationships to a depth that you can’t do at part-time level.”
However, he adds that “they’re also a team that’s beatable. If we can continue the form from last week into this one then come the end of the game I don’t think we’ll be far off. We’re playing at home, we always look to give a good representation of ourselves at home, so I don’t expect it to be any different this week.”
Diskin says that last year’s 46-22 home win over the same side holds no relevance as they aim to repeat the feat.
“Last year is last year, that’s gone now. Things have changed. We’re going into the game confident that we can get a result, as we do every game.
“I know it’s going to be tough, I’m not under any illusions that it’ll be easy because Toulouse are a great team, but we want to play at home with some confidence off the back of the performance against Toronto.”