On a frozen night in Batley, the Bulldogs beat the freeze to host Halifax in an 18-18 draw which represented a good work-out for both sides ahead of the new campaign which starts in just ten days' time.
BATLEY BULLDOGS 18-18 HALIFAX
by Mark Ward
Warm-up Match, LoveRugbyLeague.com Stadium, 24 January 2013
Based on the arctic conditions, and a pitch that was covered in inches of snow earlier this week, tonight's friendly between two of the Championship's heavyweights was never destined to be a classic, but both the Bulldogs and Halifax served up lots of honest endeavour to play out an 18-18 draw which entertained the rather sparse attendance. The Bulldogs deserve a lot of credit for getting tonight's game on, which was due to a mammoth pitch-clearing effort from both club officials and fans during a bitterly cold day.
John Kear took the opportunity to shuffle his squad with new boys Ben Blackmore, Matt Dawson and Jacob Fairbank all getting a run-out, and far from looking disjointed with such a mix of players on the field, the Bulldogs performed well with the exception of some disappointing goal-line defence at times. Halifax brought a strong squad and, although never behind in the entire match, their hosts were good value for at least a share of the spoils in the final analysis.
Super League referee Richard Silverwood made a rare return to the Mount and, to his credit, he did all he could to let the game flow and displayed his credentials as one of the better referees in the game.
The visitors made a flying start to the match, kicking down the slope, and they were in front as early as the third minute. It was a simple set play and a combination of Andy Bracek and Ryan Fieldhouse creating the opportunity for the latter to dive over the line, ably converted by the boot of Steve Tyrer. Gradually though, the Bulldogs felt their way into the game and were starting to dominate possession when they levelled matters on 13 minutes; sustained pressure near the line allowed Ben Black the opportunity to once again hurt his former club. Tom Hemingway slotted over the extras and parity was restored on the scoreboard at 6-6.
Three minutes later, Fieldhouse missed Ben Black's towering kick in the corner and in the ensuing melee Mark Applegarth appeared to touch down for the Bulldogs, but on consultation with his touch-judge, Mr Silverwood instead awarded a goal-line drop-out. Despite continuing to dominate, the hosts fell to a sucker-punch on 20 minutes, as old boy Paul Handforth reacted quickest to Craig Ashall's dab through to score and Tyrer's second conversion of the night established a 12-6 advantage that Halifax would hold onto until the interval.
HALF-TIME: BATLEY BULLDOGS 6-12 HALIFAX
GOLDEN GAMBLE: 0386 for £63.
The Bulldogs were quick out of the blocks from the restart and on 42 minutes, Paul Mennell's opportunistic burst caught the 'Fax defensive line flat-footed to score, with Hemingway's add-ons once again bringing the scores level at 12-12. The arrival of Alex Rowe and Tony Tonks on the field play resulting in some tit-for-tat monster tackles that briefly enlivened the crowd, then on 55 minutes, Halifax once again recaptured the lead. In truth, the Bulldogs defence fell off badly, allowing Handforth to create the space for Lee Paterson to score, and Tyrer extended the visitors' advantage to 18-12.
As the conditions got colder so the handling errors increased and the game deteriorated as a spectacle. However, on 68 minutes, Ben Black's deft chip was hacked dead in goal by Halifax and from the resultant drop out, the Bulldogs drew level once again. Good approach play by Mennell set up a platform for Danny Whitmore to dart in, ably converted by Mennell himself. The hosts pressed hardest in the final ten minutes although Halifax probably came closest to snatching a win on 75 minutes but Craig Ashall's abject drop-goal attempt went under the crossbar.
So, in the end, honours even, and good preparation for both sides ahead of an arduous season which may promise much for both of these sides.
BATLEY BULLDOGS: 1 Greenwood, 21 Johnson, 11 Bretherton, 20 Faal, 27 Blackmore, 6 Black, 23 Hemingway, 8 Smith, 24 Whitmore, 10 Potter, 22 Scott, 16 J. Davies, 12 Applegarth. Interchange: 5 Campbell, 2 Potts, 3 Walton, 26 Dawson, 19 Rowe, 9 Mennell, 25 Leary, 17 L. Walmsley, 28 Fairbank.
T: Black, Mennell, Whitmore
G: Hemingway 2, Mennell
HALIFAX: 1 Fieldhouse, 2 Sheriffe, 3 Tyrer, 4 Heaton, 5 Worrincy, 6 Handforth, 7 Thackeray, 8 Ambler, 9 C. Ashall, 10 Bracek, 11 Casey, 12 Divorty, 13 Murrell. Interchange: 14 K. Ashall, 15 Paterson, 16 Robinson, 17 Barlow, Tonks, I. Davies (both unnumbered).
T: Fieldhouse, Handforth, Paterson
G: Tyrer 3
SCORING SEQUENCE: 0-6, 6-6, 6-12, HT, 12-12, 12-18, 18-18
REFEREE: Richard Silverwood (RFL)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Paul Mennell (Batley) - looked lively and inventive around the ruck and heavily influenced the game from off the bench.