Batley Bulldogs: Sheffield show they’re steeled for defence of title

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Sheffield look determined to defend their Championship title after grinding out a 16-0 win in the first elimination round of the play-offs.

The teams who met in last season’s Grand Final produced a compelling battle dominated by defences with first points not posted until 63 minutes. The game was played at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium but Sheffield struggled to exploit the big pitch until Bradford-bound Etu Uaisele, pictured, scored the first of his two tries.

Coach Mark Aston said: “Defensively we were outstanding, any team that doesn’t let points in for 80 minutes is pretty special. We ground Batley down. We knew we had to hang on in and be disciplined.”

Chances were few in the first half but Batley could have taken the lead in the final two minutes with a penalty 25 metres out but Scott Leatherbarrow put his kick wide and he missed another touchline kick after the hooter.

Sheffield gradually took control after the restart as Batley tired and struggled for possession. A kickable penalty was ignored but they opted to take the next with Dominic Brambani kicking the game’s first points.

A 40-20 by Brambani gave position and a penalty was spurned as Eagles went wide right for Quentin Laulu-Togagae to send Uaisele in near the flag. The win was secured with Stringer producing a great off-load for Laulu-Togagae, to race in for his 31st try of the season. Brambani added the goal. Andrew Henderson and Duane Straugheir set up the move for Uaisele’s second try.

Batley’s coach John Kear felt the score line didn’t reflect his team’s efforts adding: “Both teams defended very well indeed and the weight of possession and field position at the end was just too much for us.”

Sheffield: Laulu-Togagae; Turner, Yere, Uaisele, Taulapapa; Briggs, Brambani; Battye, Henderson, Stringer, Knowles, Straugheir, Walker. Subs: Davey, Garside, Tagaloa, Green.

Batley: Greenwood; Reittie, Heaton, Chandler, Brown; Black, Leatherbarrow; Smith, Nicholson, Applegarth, Bretherton, Scott, Blake. Subs: Rowe, Gledhill, Davies, Grayston.

Referee: Dave Merrick.

Attendance: 695.