A dramatic last gasp Tom Lillycrop try was the difference as Batley Bulldogs came from 36-12 down to defeat Rochdale Hornets 38-36 in a quite incredible match at The Fox’s Biscuit Stadium.
Batley were under immediate pressure in the opening moments of the game. Rochdale were through for what was seemingly an easy try. However, the referee awarded Batley a penalty for a forward pass in the build up.
After strong early pressure by Rochdale, they took the lead after Robert Massam bundled his way over in the corner for the visitors. The conversion was added by Levitt to put Rochdale in control.
The majority of the opening exchanges were played in Batley’s half and Rochdale doubled their tally soon after. Levitt this time dived over for the visitors after extensive pressure on the Batley try-line. Levitt then failed to add the extra two points.
Within five minutes, Rochdale were over once more. This time, a quick break on the wing allowed Benjamin Jullien to score. Levitt then added the extras for Rochdale to give the away side a 16-point lead.
Batley’s opened their scoring for the day soon after. A string of penalties gave the Bulldogs an opportunity and superb craft by Holmes, then Hayward set through Macauley Hallett who crashed over in the corner. Brambani’s kick was put wide.
Within minutes of the restart, Rochdale were over in the corner once more. This time, Lewis Galbraith dived over after a strong run. The conversion by Levitt was scored and Rochdale extended their lead.
On the half-hour mark, Batley were over for a second time through Sam Smeaton. A strong Holmes pass found Harrison, his fast hands set Smeaton free and he barged his way over for the Bulldogs. Brambani’s conversion was missed once more but Rochdale’s lead was cut to fourteen.
With a minute, Rochdale were down to twelve men and Batley took immediate advantage. Brambani spotted Hallett in space on the wing and delivered an inch-perfect kick into his path. Hallett pounced on the ball to double his own tally and put Batley within ten. Brambani’s kick was wide once more but momentum was with the Bulldogs for the first time.
Moments before the break, Brambani attempted another kick to the corner, this time for Reittie to chase. The Jamaican international was a matter of inches away from scoring for the Bulldogs but the ball agonisingly found touch.
In the last attack of the half, Smeaton broke through for Batley and was tackled just a matter of metres from the Rochdale try-line. Then, a stray pass denied Hallett his hat-trick before the hooter sounded to bring the half to an end.
From the restart, Rochdale extended their lead through Matthew Hadden. With one tackle remaining, Hadden latched on to a clever grubber and finished well. Again, Levitt added the extra points.
With Batley needing a bit of inspiration, James Brown was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle five metres out. From the resulting penalty, Rochdale opted to take the two points in front of the sticks and extend Rochdale’s lead.
Moments later, the visitors were over again through full back Jack Johnson who found a gap in the Batley defence and stretched clear to punish the Bulldogs under the posts. Levitt again added to his impressive kicking tally for the game and Rochdale led 36-12 with a quarter of the game to play.
From the restart, Smeaton doubled his own tally for the game with a try from close range for the Bulldogs to give them a glimmer of hope. This time, Brambani missed the kick once more and Rochdale’s advantage remained at twenty points.
Five minutes later, Will Maher was over for Batley for his first try of the season from close range after a powerful run. Brambani added his first conversion of the game.
Batley pressure continue after Lillycrop forced a goal-line drop out which was poorly dealt with and Rochdale found touch. However, Batley forced more errors from the following set.
Batley were then gifted a penalty but for the second time in the game, Brambani’s kick failed to find touch.
Rochdale were resolute in defence as Batley looked to find gaps. With 8 minutes to play, Hadden was sent off for a professional tackle for Rochdale and Batley were over from the following set through Ainscough out wide. Brambani, from the touch line, missed the conversion once more.
Within a minute, Batley were over again in the corner through Ainscough. Quick hands set free Ainscough who touched down out wide. Brambani, incredibly, kicked the conversion to put Batley just four points behind with four minutes to play.
Then, in the dying seconds of the game, an outstanding run by Brambani allowed Lillycrop to force his way over for Batley in quite unbelievable fashion. Brambani’s successful conversion put Batley ahead for the first time in the game.
With seconds to go, Sam Smeaton’s incredible last ditch tackle denied Rochdale a try that would have won them the game.
Batley held on to edge an incredible game of rugby.
FULL TIME: Batley Bulldogs 38-36 Rochdale Hornets.