John Kear will go up against his former club Sheffield Eagles in the Kingstone Press Championship Grand Final at Leigh Sports Village next Sunday after his Batley side toppled favourites Featherstone 21-20 in extra time in Sunday’s dramatic semi-final.
Rovers were on course for a fourth successive final when they led 18-0 after half-an-hour, but Batley, who needed extra time to beat Leigh in the semi-finals a week earlier, stormed back to force added time and replacement hooker George Flanagan kicked a golden-point drop goal to condemn their hosts to a first defeat under football manager Sean Long.
The Bulldogs can now look forward to a first Grand Final, with Kear facing the team he famously coached to Challenge Cup glory at Wembley in 1998.
There was no sign of an upset when two tries from full-back Ian Hardman and one from centre Greg Worthington, all converted by Liam Finn, put Rovers into a commanding lead.
Prop Alex Rowe pulled a try back for the Bulldogs on the stroke of half-time and, although Finn added a penalty to extend Rovers’ lead to 20-6, Batley rallied in the final quarter.
Tries from wingers Gareth Potts and Greg Johnson brought the visitors to within two points and Gareth Moore kicked a penalty - his fourth goal from as many attempts - three minutes before the end of normal time to level the scores.
Finn had a drop-goal attempt charged down and was wide with another effort in the first period of extra time while Batley’s Ben Black, who struck their match-winner against Leigh, also failed with an attempted one-pointer before Flanagan was on target six minutes into extra time.
Oldham will meet neighbours Rochdale in the Championship One promotion play-off final next Sunday after John Ford scored a first-half hat-trick of tries in a 64-8 win over London Skolars in Sunday’s final eliminator.