The Bulldogs completed 2012 with a workmanlike display in the traditional Boxing Day derby with the Dewsbury Rams, triumphing 28-18 in front of a bumper Bank Holiday turn-out.
BATLEY BULLDOGS 28-18 DEWSBURY RAMS
Friendly, LoveRugbyLeague.com Stadium, 26 December 2012
The Heavy Woollen bragging rights returned to the Bulldogs this afternoon, but both the hosts and their visitors, the Dewsbury Rams can pull positives from their first proper hit-out in months in front of a healthy 2,212 crowd. Home coach John Kear fielded a familiar side with a smattering of new names (four of whom found their way onto the scoresheet), as the Bulldogs secured a relatively routine victory by bossing the game in key passages, but Glenn Morrison must also have been pleased that his new-look Rams side caused their opponents a few headaches once they had found their feet.
The hosts played down the slope in the first half, and dominated the first quarter of an hour of the game to establish a firm foothold on proceedings. The Bulldogs opened the scoring on 7 minutes - the outstanding Alex Rowe provided the platform by punching through the Rams' defensive line and a flowing move ended with John Davies' basketball tip allowing Danny Maun the opportunity to power in at the corner despite the attention of both Hale and Morton. Tom Hemingway added the difficult extras from the touchline and the hosts were off and running. Three minutes later, Jason Walton's huge hit on James Craven caused the latter to spill the ball, and the Bulldogs capitalised from the resultant set as Ben Black reacted quickly to a loose ball to chip through for Rowe to swallow up and dive over to score. Once again, Hemingway tagged on the conversion and the hosts were sitting pretty at 12-0.
However, the Rams gradually regrouped and enjoyed the better of the exchanges for around 15 minutes midway through the half. With the visitors camped near the line on 16 minutes, Dale Morton committed the cardinal sin of putting the ball to ground on just the third tackle. The introduction of Jy-Mel Coleman seemed to improve Dewsbury in attack, but they still struggled to pierce the resolute home defence and as we reached the half-hour mark, the Bulldogs were once again in the ascendancy. With prodigal son George Flanagan back in Batley colours, there was an air of inevitability that the hooker would score, and he did so on 34 minutes with a trademark low dive after good work from Adam Scott. Hemingway once again converted to push the Bulldogs into an 18-0 lead, but the hosts suffered another scare on 39 minutes when Mark Applegarth dropped the ball in centre field and although Tommy Gallagher snapped up the loose carry, he didn't have the pace to make any impact up the slope.
HALF-TIME: BATLEY BULLDOGS 18-0 DEWSBURY RAMS
Despite a daunting deficit to reduce, the visitors performed well after the break with forwards Lillycrop and Aizue creating an impressive platform to work behind down the slope. A good spell of pressure from the Rams was rewarded on 47 minutes when Matthew Tebb burrowed over from close range although Morton inexplicably missed the relatively simple conversion just to the left of the posts. On 54 minutes, Jonathan Schofield wriggled clear of the Bulldogs' defensive line to threaten, but he failed to spot Gareth Potts who came in from behind him to dislodge the ball. However, two minutes later, the Rams perfectly executed a set move on the left wing allowing James Craven to skip clear and dash in to score. This time Coleman had a go at the extras but he also missed to leave the score loaded 18-8 in favour of the hosts.
Let there be no doubt that the two scores from the visitors left Batley looking shaky, but the hosts gradually recovered their composure and extended their lead on 63 minutes with a classy try as Ben Black's sublime pass allowed Miles Greenwood a clear run to the Rams line to add to the scoring. Hemingway's fourth conversion of the game appeared to have wrapped up victory at 24-8. However, Dewsbury refused to give up the ghost and, after a series of tit-for-tat handling errors, they scored again on 68 minutes when a poor defensive effort from the 'Dogs allowed Scott Spaven in to score, ably converted by Coleman.
The game drew to a close, but there was still time for a brief flurry of scoring to round off proceedings. On 74 minutes, Mennell and Maun moved the ball left and flying winger Greg Johnson was on hand to down the ball in the corner, but this time the conversion was too testing for Hemingway, and the Rams had the final word on 78 minutes when Craven added his second try, running onto a flat pass from Coleman, who then also missed the conversion.
In the final analysis, this will not go down as a classic Heavy Woollen derby. However, both Batley and Dewsbury took the opportunity to shake off the pre-season rust and there were positives all over the pitch, suggesting that 2013 may see both sides capable of challenging at the right end of the table this term.
BATLEY BULLDOGS: 1 Greenwood, 2 Potts, 3 Walton, 4 Maun, 5 Campbell, 6 Black, 23 Hemingway, 19 Rowe, 9 Mennell, 12 Applegarth, 17 L. Walmsley, 16 Davies, 13 Lindsay. Interchange: 21 Johnson, 24 Whitmore, 15 Hirst, 14 Flanagan, 25 Leary, 22 Scott, 11 Bretherton.
T: Maun, Rowe, Flanagan, Greenwood, Johnson
G: Hemingway 4
DEWSBURY RAMS: Craven, Morton, Hale, Cosgrove, Akadiere, Brown, Spaven, Lillycrop, Wright, Spiers, Spicer, Hepworth, Tonks. Interchange: Tebb, Schofield, G. Scott, Beckett, Coleman, Aizue, Gallagher.
T: Tebb, Craven 2, Spaven
SCORING SEQUENCE: 6-0, 12-0, 18-0, HT, 18-4, 18-8, 24-8, 24-14, 28-14, 28-18.
REFEREE: C Leatherbarrow
MAN OF THE MATCH: Jason Walton (Batley Bulldogs) - big hits a-plenty and never took a backward step in 80 minutes.