Positive signs for Batley Bulldogs and Dewsbury Rams as rugby league returns

PRE-SEASON BRAGGING rights went to Dewsbury Rams who pipped hosts Batley Bulldogs 22-20 in the sides’ first game for 12 months.

Sunday, 7th March 2021, 4:30 pm
Batley Bulldogs' try scorer Luke Hooley, with ball, takes on the Rams’ defence with Jonny Campbell in support, far left. Picture: Bruce Fitzgerald.

Both coaches used every fit and available player in their squad so it was difficult to assess either team’s prospects for the season, but there were positive signs.

Rams appear to have made an astute signing in hooker Reiss Butterworth, from Huddersfield Giants and ex-Halifax half-back Tom Gilmore will clearly be hugely influential for Bulldogs.

Considering Batley’s previous game had been 364 days earlier and Rams were coming off a 51-week break, the quality of the game was good and neither team looked far off being match ready.

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Dewsbury Rams' Aaron Hall goesover between the posts for his side’s first try against Batley Bulldogs. Picture: Bruce Fitzgerald.

Rams coach Lee Greenwood reflected: “The vast majority of our team played at least a straight 40 minutes, so in that respect, I’m definitely happy.

“It was never going to be perfect, but the majority of it was pretty decent and to sneak a win, with everybody getting 40 minutes and a full squad effort, I was pretty pleased.”

Both teams played better uphill, Batley leading 14-12 at the interval thanks to Luke Hooley’s try after the half-time hooter.

There were some fine tries, particularly after the break from Rams’ Adam Ryder – when Sam Day, Paul Sykes and trialist Alex Smith moved the ball from left to right – and Davey Dixon, who swooped over at the corner off Ryder’s pass. That levelled the scores and Paul Sykes’ touchline conversion won it for the visitors.

Dewsbury Rams players celebrate a try during Saturday's friendly against Batley Bulldogs. Picture: Bruce Fitzgerald.

Joe Sanderson had landed a kick from the same spot for Bulldogs in the first half, but then hit a post with his straightforward conversion attempt after Hooley’s try, which proved crucial in the end.

But defences were the most impressive aspect, considering the limited amount of contact work permitted in training.

“While there were some really good bits of play from both teams with ball in hand, there was some good defence,” Greenwood added.

“It was good to get a win in the end and I think we just shaded it.”

The lead changed hands eight times, five in the opening 40 minutes and there was no shortage of entertainment for fans watching the live stream via the RFL’s Our League platforms. That was good value at an early bird price of £4.95, though the rise to £10 on the day will have put off casual spectators and is worth rethinking.

Neither team had played before under the sport’s new rules, six to go and no scrums, which Greenwood felt had little impact on the contest.

“You couldn’t tell the rules had been changed, it didn’t feel particularly quicker than normal,” he said. But the new Covid restrictions did take some getting used to.

Greenwood admitted: “You have got all your players split across different rooms, you can’t talk to them as one.

“It is totally different and obviously it would be good to get a crowd in, but we are doing what we are allowed to do .”

Batley struck first through Jodie Broughton, but Aaron Hall touched down and Liam Finn converted to edge Rams ahead. Bulldogs’ Dale Morton and Hooley then crossed either side of Matty Fleming’s touchdown for the visitors, which Finn improved – both Rams’ first-half tries coming from kicks.

Lucas Walshaw scored Batley’s only second-half try, goaled by Ben White and Rams held on despite Chris Annakin being sin-binned 10 minutes from time.

Craig Lingard, the Batley coach, said: “I was slightly disappointed with the second half.

“I think we let Dewsbury dictate the field position and possession and we started forcing it a bit when we didn’t need to, but we played four different teams in the four quarters and I was reasonably happy.

“In general I thought we defended pretty well, certainly on our own line.”

Batley Bulldogs: Hooley, Morton, Logan, Buchanan, Broughton, White, Gilmore, Everrett, Leak, Blagbrough, Washaw, Senior, Bowman. Subs Reittie, Campbell, Gledhill, Ward, Toinks, Lillycrop. Sanderson, Kaye, Flynn, Inseon, Horn.

Dewsbury Rams: Chapman-Smith, Gabriel, Liu, Fleming, Oakes, Finn, Abram, Hall, Butterworth, Garratt, Tomlinson, Knowles, Morris. Subs Annakin, Carr, Clavering, Davis, Magrin, Maertin, Ryder, Schofield, Scott, Smith, Sykes, Thornton, Walton, Wardill, Day, Dixon.

Referee: Tom Grant (Leeds).

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