A crushing 50-0 defeat of the York City Knights has set the Bulldogs up for an explosive clash with Halifax at the Shay in what may well be a decider for third-place in the final league ladder.
BATLEY BULLDOGS 50-0 YORK CITY KNIGHTS
by Mark Ward
Co-operative Championship, Loverugbyleague.com Stadium, 19 August 2012
A strong defensive display was the platform this afternoon for the Bulldogs to run up an unanswered half-century against the York City Knights and move ominously into the third play-off spot in the Co-operative Championship table. No doubt the visitors will point to a depleted side today, but John Kear's side's dominance was such that the Knights never genuinely threatened the home side's line throughout the 80 minutes. An unfortunate injury to York full-back Ben Dent, which resulted in him being stretchered off on the hour, ended up slowing the Bulldogs' scoring rate after a break in concentration, and ultimately arguably saved the Knights from an even heavier defeat.
The defensive effort from the Bulldogs was superb throughout - time and again, York came up against a cerise brick wall and were unable to break through it. The tackling, when required, was ferocious, and by contrast when the hosts went forward, it was in a decisive way. A nine-try mauling ensued, and the Bulldogs enter their final game of the regular season in a fortnight with one of their best points differences for many a season.
The rout started as early as the 5th minute; following an opening spell of pressure up the slope, Gareth Moore's deft chip to the corner looked to be drifting into touch, but Johnny Campbell did exceptionally well to bring the ball in and ground it without running out of space. Unfortunately, the conversion proved too difficult out wide for Moore but the Bulldogs had serve their clear intentions to pepper the York line. As the host continued to dominate, they extended their lead on 12 minutes. A superb run from Gareth Potts set up the field position for the Bulldogs and with the visitors penned on their own line, the once-again outstanding Ben Black stepped back on himself to fox the Knights defence and fall over the whitewash. This time Moore converted comfortably and the 'Dogs were already ten points to the good.
With the Knights continuing to find it difficult to clear their line, they fell further behind at the quarter-way mark. Black was once again the architect, as he saw Danny Maun hitting the line at speed and his perfect pass left the Batley centre screaming towards the in-goal to score. Again Moore was on hand to convert comfortably to edge the Bulldogs further ahead. Three minutes later, Alex Brown thought he had scored but Moore's final pass was deemed to have travelled forward by referee Matt Thomason.
On the half-hour came the game's stand-out moment - Chris Thorman's speculative chip on the last tackle was gathered in by Gareth Potts, and the Batley full-back stormed the full length of the pitch to demonstrate his blistering pace for a truly outstanding try. Moore's dependable boot pushed the score on to 22-0. As the game hurtled towards the half-time hooter, there was one final act - Alex Walmsley's powerful run knocked over his markers like skittles, Black continued to the line and then Matty Wildie crashed over from dummy-half (ably converted by Moore) to bring the curtain down on an impressive half.
HALF-TIME: BATLEY BULLDOGS 28-0 YORK CITY KNIGHTS
GOLDEN GAMBLE WINNER: 17767
Coming down the slope after the interval, Batley continued to press forward in ominous fashion and had added to the scoring again on 42 minutes. Following a second successive set at the Knights' line the hosts finally found a gap and Brown darted in at the corner which left Moore with a conversion which proved too difficult. Two minutes later, with the visitors visibly wilting, Ash Lindsay was the next Bulldog to score, deftly fielding Black's crossfield kick and Moore's latest conversion pushed the score onto 38-0.
Still the tries kept coming for the hosts - on 48 minutes it was that man Black creating gaps across the York line and once again Brown found enough space to wriggle in to score his second try of a productive afternoon, again converted by Moore. This try signalled a better spell of defensive work from the Knights, holding their opponents scoreless for almost quarter of an hour before full-back Dent's injury held up play for a further 15 minutes.
From the restarted drop-out after the injury, Black picked up the ball and then fed Jason Walton who powered down the wing to score, with Moore bringing up the 50 with the conversion, but with a good quarter of an hour remaining, it was almost as if the Bulldogs retired on their half-century. The game petered out in the closing stages with neither side prepared to take the game by the scruff of the neck although Potts thought he had scored with five minutes to go, but Moore's pass was forward.
So, a good display from the hosts and they go into their final game at Halifax in a fortnight knowing that victory will secure a minimum of third place and home field advantage for two of a potential three play-off games. John Kear stated after the game that play-off football starts at the Shay and there is little doubt that a titanic struggle awaits in two weeks' time!
BATLEY BULLDOGS: 1 Campbell, 2 Potts, 3 Walton, 4 Maun, 5 Brown, 6 Black, 7 Moore, 8 B. Smith, 9 Mennell, 10 Scott, 11 Bretherton, 12 Applegarth, 13 Lindsay. Interchange: 14 Wildie, 15 Hirst, 16 A. Walmsley, 17 L. Walmsley.
T: Campbell, Black, Maun, Potts, Wildie, Brown 2, Lindsay, Walton
G: Moore 7
YORK CITY KNIGHTS: 1 Dent, 2 Pryce, 3 Poutney, 4 Garside, 5 Elliott, 6 Thorman, 7 Craig, 8 Sullivan, 9 Brining, 10 Aldous, 11 E. Smith, 12 Davies, 13 Freer. Interchange: 14 Carter, 15 Sutton, 16 Ellis, 17 Esposito.
SCORING SEQUENCE: 4-0, 10-0, 16-0, 22-0, 28-0, HT, 32-0, 38-0, 44-0, 50-0
REFEREE: Matt Thomason
MAN OF THE MATCH: Ben Black (Batley Bulldogs)