The Bulldogs strengthened their grip on Northern Rail Cup qualification with a hard-earned win over Toulouse Olympique to maintain their 100% record in the competition.
BATLEY BULLDOGS 34-12 TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE XIII
Northern Rail Cup Pool A, Cougar Park, 25 February 2012
Toulouse may have left Mount Pleasant empty-handed this afternoon, but they provided John Kear's Bulldogs outfit with an excellent workout in an entertaining Northern Rail Cup qualifier played out in cold and blustery conditions. For the second successive weekend, the home side blasted into a seemingly unassailable lead by the break, only to be pegged back enthusiastically by their opposition in the second half. However, Batley were much more coherent this week and produced an impressive response when Toulouse threatened to force their way back into the game.
There was a second debut for Alex Brown today and a hugely impressive knock and home debut try for Alex Walmsley, but it was Gareth Moore who once again orchestrated the victory with an outstanding display, particularly before the interval, which earned him a personal haul of 14 points as the Bulldogs all but secured a place in the Quarter-Finals of the competition they won in 2010.
The opening quarter of an hour was an arm-wrestle in the truest sense. Both sides diligently completed their sets but without genuinely threatening a score, but as the first-half wore on, so the Bulldogs started to take control of proceedings. The warning signs were there for Toulouse on 15 minutes - first Danny Maun was held up over the line, then Jason Walton just failed to hold a bullet pass from Ben Black with the line beckoning. It seemed that a piece of individual brilliance would be needed to open the scoring and Moore duly obliged on 17 minutes with a crafty ball steal from the otherwise impressive Nathan Ross, before haring down the wing and under the posts to score an excellent individual try. A conversion of his own try saw the Bulldogs open up a 6-0 advantage.
With the hosts now in the ascendency, they extended their lead five minutes later when Black and Paul Mennell combined with lightning reaction to feed in Kris Lythe to dart under the sticks from close range, leaving Moore with the simplest of conversions. Matters became much worse for the Frenchmen on 26 minutes when Mennell's scampering run set up a platform for Black's kick to the corner; Johnny Campbell leapt like a salmon to catch the bomb and Jason Walton was on his shoulder to add to the scoring. Moore's latest conversion pushed the score out to 18-0 - a deficit scarcely deserved by the hard-working visitors. However, only wayward passing by Black (who found opposite number Ford instead of a team-mate) on 34 minutes stopped Toulouse dropping further off the pace and the introduction of the hard-running Walmsley further unsettled them, and the young forward ran onto a great ball from Black on 40 minutes to score the 'Dogs fourth try of the afternoon ably converted again by Moore.
HALF-TIME: BATLEY BULLDOGS 24-0 TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE XIII
GOLDEN GAMBLE: 9884
Facing down the Mount Pleasant slope in the second-half, the rejuvenated Toulouse side performed considerably better, driven on by the outstanding efforts of full-back Ross and stand-off Jonathan Ford. However, it was that man Walmsley again who almost added to the scoring on 49 minutes, but he lost the ball over the line. Two minutes later, Campbell's knock-on from Nicolas Delgal's towering kick proved costly, as from the resultant set Ford fed in Ross (with a hint of a forward pass) to reduce the deficit, assisted by Damien Couturier's conversion.
From the restart came controversy - Moore's kick failed to travel 10 metres before Campbell recovered it, but this was overlooked by the officials and Ian Preece's veering run resulted in a try to put the Bulldogs on the front foot although Moore failed with the boot for the only time during the afternoon from out wide, leaving the score at 28-6. However, the visitors refused to throw in the towel and promptly racked up their best spell of the game, with a ten minute spell of domination and flowing rugby which resulted in a try on 56 minutes. Those men Ross and Ford were both involved in a bit of jinking and ball-juggling which got Olympique down the field and allowed Ryan Houston to score (again converted by Couturier).
The French started to throw the ball around and for the first time in the game the Bulldogs looked ragged, and in danger of being sucked into a nail-biting finale. However, the game-breaker arrived on 61 minutes when Campbell intercepted one loose pass too many and raced 80 metres to seal victory for the hosts with Moore's dependable boot once again on hand for the extras. The Bulldogs scored two more tries through Johnny Walker and Ian Preece, but both were chalked off for infringements - obstruction in the build-up to Walker's effort and one can only assume Preece was adjudged offside for what looked a perfectly good score on 72 minutes, but despite this, Kear's men closed out an impressive third win in a row to set up a blockbuster at Featherstone next Sunday!
BATLEY BULLDOGS: 1 Preece, 2 Campbell, 3 Walton, 4 Maun, 5 Brown, 6 Black, 7 Moore, 8 Smith, 9 Mennell, 10 Potter, 11 Bretherton, 12 Walker, 13 Lythe. Interchange: 14 Lindsay, 15 Walmsley, 16 Applegarth, 17 Toohey.
T: Moore, Lythe, Walton, Walmsley, Preece, Campbell
G: Moore 5
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE XIII: 1 Ross, 2 Houston, 3 Couturier, 4 Reveillon, 5 Meurin, 6 Ford, 7 Delgal, 8 Gonzalez, 9 Gigord, 10 Delploux, 11 Saintignan, 12 Williams, 13 Planas. Interchange: 14 Djemai, 15 Canton, 16 Moliner, 17 Barthau.
T: Ross, Houston
G: Couturier 2
SCORING SEQUENCE: 6-0, 12-0, 18-0, 24-0, HT, 24-6, 28-6, 28-12, 34-12
REFEREE: G Dolan
MAN OF THE MATCH: Gareth Moore (Batley Bulldogs)