THE HARSH realities of life in the Qualifiers struck immediately for Batley Bulldogs as they were vanquished at Hull KR.
John Kear’s side have enjoyed a fairytale season, finishing as high as third in the Championship and earning their place in the end-of-season jamboree against Super League sides.
But, for all the part-timers wanted to enjoy the experience, it was hard to do anything of the sort as they were put to the sword all too easily by last season’s Challenge Cup finalists.
Hull KR, who won the inaugural Qualifiers with a 100 per cent win record in 2015, were too powerful, too fast and simply too good as they quickly got their latest bid for Super League survival up and running.
Ex-Leeds Rhinos centre Thomas Minns scored a first-half hat-trick as they built up a 36-12 interval lead, comfortably shrugging off going behind to the game’s opening try from Batley hooker Alistair Leak after just three minutes.
Pat Walker converted that score for the visitors but they did not cross again until the final play of the half.
Substitute Tom Lillycrop barged over from close range after a smart pass from James Brown but, in between, the struggling Bulldogs were found wanting far too often.
They missed the leadership of Keegan Hirst, their captain who was stood down for this game by Kear after a breach of discipline, while winger Shaun Ainscough limped off injured on the half-hour.
That saw Sam Smeaton, the ex-Featherstone Rovers centre signed from Halifax, make his debut but he was powerless to prevent the slide especially as half-back Walker also departed injured in the first period to add to their problems.
Kear admitted: “They were better than us; they did a number on us and you have to compliment them.
“Hull KR showed us a great deal of respect with how they prepared and had obviously done their homework.
“On reflection we lost a half-back and winger in the first 2o minutes.
“They were both carrying knocks and when they came off that messed up our rotations. But we showed spirit. That’s one of our trademarks; when we get knocked down we get back up again and I’m really pleased we hung in there for the full 80.
“There’s a lot to take out of that ready for London next Sunday and I guarantee we’ll be a better team at the end of round seven than we are now. “If that’s the case, it’ll have been really worthwhile.”
Ex-England hooker Shaun Lunt broke from deep to set up a try for Iain Thornley soon after Leak’s effort to ease any potential KR nerves, Minns getting his first in the next set as they again struck from their own half.
After Batley winger Wayne Reittie almost touched down Dom Brambani’s chip, Minns got his second as he twisted out of some lame defence before Rovers scored the try of the half via Matty Marsh after another long-range attack.
James Greenwood stepped through some feeble defence for their fifth try, Josh Mantellato’s fifth kick making it 30-6 after just 23 minutes.
Minns completed his hat-trick before the break and, though Batley had their best spell of the game at the start of the second period, sustained pressure amounted to nothing.
Instead, Ben Cockayne latched onto Mantellato’s grubber as Rovers countered to bring up 40 in the 50th minute and Greenwood quickly added his second to add on the misery.
Maurice Blair got in on the act, too, before – after Batley kept Rovers scoreless for almost 20 minutes – Mantellato got his own try and ninth conversion.
Batley kept battling and were rewarded with a try from powerful prop Alex Rowe – one of their better performers – with 30 seconds remaining, Brambani improving.
Hull KR: Cockayne; Sio, Minns, Thornley, Mantellato; Marsh, Kelly; A Walker, Lunt, Tilse, Blair, Greenwood, Clarkson. Substitutes: Larroyer, Allgood, Donaldson, Thompson.
Batley Bulldogs: Scott; Reittie, Squires, Ulugia, Ainscough; P Walker, Brambani; Rowe, Leak, Gledhill, Day, Bretherton, Chandler. Substitutes: Davey, Lillycrop, Brown, Smeaton.
Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven).