Superb Luke Hooley treble helps magnificent Batley Bulldogs thrash Halifax Panthers to go second in Championship

Leeds Rhinos star Luke Hooley scored 26 points as Batley Bulldogs thrashed sorry Halifax Panthers to go second in the Championship.
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Hooley, on dual registration terms from the Super League giants, scored three tries, as well as kicking a further 14 points, as the Bulldogs stormed to a comfortable 42-0 victory.

However, as magnificent as the full-back, and the Bulldogs, were, the Panthers produced one of their worst performances of an inconsistent season.

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In what was a crucial game for both teams, with Fax looking to bat in-form London Broncos away from that last play-off spot, which they are just about clinging onto at the moment, Batley were looking to take advantage of Toulouse’s 22-6 defeat away at the Broncos to go outright second in the Championship. And they did it, splendidly.

The Fox's Biscuits StadiumThe Fox's Biscuits Stadium
The Fox's Biscuits Stadium

Both sides are also entering significant periods in the season with the Bulldogs facing Toulouse and Featherstone Rovers next in the league, while the Panthers have to play two of the top four in the next three league games. Both sides also have an 1895 Cup semi final to look forward to.

Indications, after today’s result, may suggest the Bulldogs will be relishing this challenging run of fixtures more.

A penalty for holding down was awarded to Batley inside the first minute and as soon as Hooley opted to kick for the two points from 35 metres, the Bulldogs never relinquished - nor looked like relinquishing - their lead.

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Fax pressed for an instant response but instead gifted the ball straight to Josh Hodson who managed to sprint half the length of the pitch through the middle before being brought down by Ben Crooks.

Crooks himself was then expertly tackled by Johnny Campbell as the visitors edged closer to the Bulldogs’ try line.

More ill-discipline and errors followed, as Fax continued to hand possession back to Batley, more notably when Campbell - in for Elliott Kear in one of two changes Craig Lingard made to the 17 which returned to winning ways against Barrow Raiders last weekend - intercepted another loose pass but, like Hodson, was brought down way before the try line was on the horizon.

Batley’s pressure, however, was rewarded after 15 minutes with the game’s first try when Jimmy Meadows showed lovely hands to find Hooley, who produced an exceptional dummy and darted over the line.

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The former Batley man was seen practising a series of kicks even before the warm-ups, nailing each one with precision. He made no mistake with this one either as he converted his own try.

Samy Kibula was given a deserved rest after 20 minutes after more than a few decent carries before the Batley barrage continued with Dale Manning crashing over to extend Batley’s lead to 12-0 at the half-time hooter.

It is safe to say that Fax were certainly facing an uphill battle going into the second half. Quite literally, in fact, as they aimed to somehow get back into the contest playing up the famous steep Mount Pleasant slope.

However, they started the second 40 exactly in the same fashion as they started the game, by giving away a penalty, this time for offside. Hooley, coolly, made it 14-0.

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Perhaps Fax’s afternoon could be summed up after what happened in the 46th minute as James Saltonstall seemed destined to get on the tree sheet to reduce the deficit at a crucial stage in the game, but he knocked on inches away from touching down.

Kieran Buchanan then did exactly the same at the other end after a neat pass by Meadows.

But after Ben Tibbs was held up on the line moments later, Batley took a supreme stranglehold on the game as Manning and Hooley got their second tries within a fabulous nine-minute spell.

Simon Grix had indicated before the game that it was always “tough” coming away to Batley. He was being proved correct.

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George Senior then finished a lovely Batley move on the far left hand side, with the brilliant Hooley converting it to make it 30-0.

Within a minute, it was 36-0 as Meadows made a great pass inside to find Hodson and Hooley, as always, sent the ball over the sticks.

Kibula looked certain to get over the line for a deserved try but he was thwarted by a tired-looking Fax defence. However, the defence had no answers for Hooley as crashed over in the corner, before converting a difficult kick, as the Bulldogs went up to second in style.

Tries: Hooley (3), Manning (2), Senior, Hodson

Conversions: Hooley (5)

Penalties: Hooley (2)

Halifax: Woodburn-Hall, Walmsley, Tibbs, Crooks, Saltonstall, Jouffret, Wood, Kavanagh, Fairbank, Gee, Calcott, Moore, Larroyer

Interchanges: O’Brien, Tangata, Fleming, McComb

Match referee: Mr Rush