BATLEY Bulldogs held off a brave second half fightback from Dewsbury to regain the Roy Powell Cup but more importantly earn the Boxing Day derby bragging rights, writes Andrew Hunt.
It was far from a Heavy Woollen classic but the game certainly served its purpose and both Bulldogs coach John Kear and Rams counterpart Glenn Morrison were happy with their sides performances on a bitterly cold early afternoon.
Batley threatened to run away with things early on as their big pack rumbled down the Mount Pleasant slope and set up a good field position for them to open up an 18-0 lead.
However, Dewsbury fought back well after the break and would have pushed the Bulldogs much closer had they been able to land more than one conversion to their four tries.
Batley piled on early pressure and took just six minutes to break the deadlock when hooker Paul Mennell, stand-off Ben Black, Greenwood and Davies linked in a sweeping crossfield move.
Danny Maun gathered the final pass and handed off a defender on a determined run to score at the left corner and scrum-half Tom Hemingway tagged on a brilliant touchline goal.
Hemingway’s kicking was to prove the difference between the sides, for while he landed four goals from five attempts, Dewsbury only converted one of their tries.
There were handling errors on both sides but Batley capitalised on their chances early on and extended their lead after 10 minutes.
An attacking move appeared to have broken down when the ball went to ground but it was judged to have gone backwards and when a Dewsbury defender knocked on in attempting to pounce on the loose ball, the Bulldogs took full advantage.
Alex Rowe was on hand to pick up the ball and had the simple task of crossing the line for a try on his debut. Hemingway slotted over the goal and the Bulldogs led 12-0.
Dewsbury struggled to get out of their own half in the opening quarter but the introduction of Jy-mel Coleman from the bench gave them impetus to attack.
Aaron Brown sent over a delightful kick to the right which Batley winger Johnny Campbell dropped it when leaping to defuse it close to his own line.
However, Dewsbury knocked on early in the tackle count and a chance went begging.
Former Shaw Cross amateur Matthew Tebb was introduced from the bench but he sustained a nasty cut above an eye, the first time he drove the ball in and was forced to leave the field for running repairs.
The game became a little disjointed as a total of 12 substitutes were used in the opening half hour before Batley extended their lead after 33 minutes when Hirst drove close to the line before Flanagan darted over for a trademark try from acting half-back and Hemingway added the extras.
New prop Tom Lillycrop was Dewsbury’s best forward as he tried hard to drive the visitors upfield.
Dewsbury did have a half-chance to pull a try back before the break when Tommy Gallagher broke from halfway be he lacked pace up the slope and was easily caught by the Batley defence.
Tebb was re-introduced early in the second half, sporting a head bandage and wearing one of two no5 jerseys, and just a minute after coming back on, he burrowed over a host of defenders to score Dewsbury’s first points but Dale Morton sliced his conversion attempt wide.
Dewsbury pulled another try back in the 55th minute when they moved the ball quickly left and full-back James Craven came into the attacking line at pace and raced over for a cracking try in the corner.
Coleman was unable to add the goal but Dewsbury supporters among the healthy 2,200-plus crowd had renewed hope.
Scott Spaven, Tebb, Coleman and Tebb again were all held close to the line by a resolute Batley defence as the Rams had their best spell of the match.
However, Batley’s impressive defence remained solid and having driven into a good field position, the Bulldogs struck with a decisive try.
Hirst again showed his power by charging at the defence before the impressive Black produced a lovely short pass to send Greenwood racing through and over at the side of the posts. Hemingway’s conversion was a formality and Batley led 24-8.
Dewsbury could easily have crumbled but showed great heart to fightback once more and just four minutes after conceding a fourth try, they replied with one of their own.
Spaven benefited from a good attacking move to gather the final pass and skip through a gap to cross. Coleman added the conversion and Dewsbury were back to within 10 points.
Batley moved play quickly left and Maun drew the final defender before sending Greg Johnson racing up the touchline to score. Hemingway was unable to convert but Batley had a nice cushion going into the final stages.
Dewsbury deservedly pulled a fourth try back in the final minute when Craven darted through a gap to score another unconverted try but it was the Bulldogs who celebrated the derby win.
Batley Bulldogs: Greenwood; Potts, Walton, Maun, Campbell; Black, Hemingway; Rowe, Mennell, Applegarth, L Walmsley, Davies, Lindsay. Subs (all used): Johnson, Whitmore, Hirst, Flanagan, Leary, A Scott, Bretherton.
Dewsbury Rams: Craven; Morton, Hale, Cosgrove, Akaidere; Brown, Spaven; Lillycrop, Wright, Spiers, Spicer, Hepworth, Tonks. Subs (all used): Beckett, Schofield, G Scott, Tebb, Coleman, Aizue, Gallagher.
Referee: Chris Leatherbarrow (St Helens).
Full match report, picture special from the derby plus reaction in this Friday’s Dewsbury Reporter and next Thursday’s Batley News