Halifax pegged back by Batley Bulldogs

Paul Mennell
Paul Mennell

Batley Bulldogs 22 Halifax 22

Halifax’s chance of registering their fifth successive victory looked a certainty when they scored three tries in 10 minutes in the opening minutes of the second half.

They tore Batley apart when they started to play down the Mount Pleasant slope and looked certain of victory when Luke Ambler, Tommy Saxton and Ryan Fieldhouse seared over for the tries to open up a 22-8 lead.

But the optimism was dramatically torpedoed as the Bulldogs staged their own revival in the dying minutes to snatch a draw and would have taken all three points had goalkicker Scott Leatherbarrow been able to land the final touchline conversion attempt.

The setback left the Halifax contingent devastated and although coach Karl Harrison was “extremely disappointed” he stressed that two points were better than none.

“Anyone can beat anyone in this great competition” said Harrison “and we shall examine what happened at training this week and try to ensure it doesn’t occur again.”

Halifax had been hit by a long range try from Batley wingman Alex Brown midway through the first half but had replied with a converted try from Keith Holden.

They had repeatedly foiled Batley’s attacking moves but fell behind at half time when Batley scrum half Scott Leatherbarrow landed a penalty goal for holding down to secure an 8-6 half time lead for the Bulldogs.

All that was a distant memory however when the highly confident Halifax unleashed a tremendous attacking session early in the second half. They grabbed three tries in 10 minutes and appeared poised to inflict a momentous rout.

Led by former Batley player Paul Mennell and substitute Jack Spencer they tore Batley apart jumping into the lead with a cracking try from hooker Luke Ambler within three minutes of the re-start.

Mennell had quickly exploited Batley’s poor marking at a play the ball on situation the half way mark and in a flash sent second rower Luke Adamson surging deep into the Batley half.

Quick interchanges with prop Luke Ambler and centre Adam Robinson left the Bulldogs in disarray and allowed Ambler to saunter over for a cracking try which was converted by Scott Murrell.

Five minutes later Batley lost the ball in their first tackle and in a crack Ambler was threatening to race over again. Desperate tackles meant he was thwarted but his teammates quickly moved the ball to the wing where Tommy Saxton touched down for an unconverted try.

Batley made a brief attempt to strike back but the effort broke down and scrum half Mennell was on hand to exploit the situation yet again and send supporting full back Ryan Fieldhouse over for a try converted by Murrell to open up a 22-8 gap.

It looked all over as far as mistaken ridden Batley were concerned but led by determined scrum half Ben Black the Bulldogs suddenly started to find gaps and exploited them successfully as Charlie Martin dashed over for an unconverted try.

At the time it seemed like a small consolation but it boosted Batley’s resolve and eight minutes later hooker Luke Blake made a stupendous break upfield. He was stopped just short of the line but the ball was quickly switched to the wing where danger man Ben Black darted over for a try which Leatherbarrow converted to narrow the gap to just four points.

Batley tried a number of options but all of them were thwarted as the minutes ticked away.

But in the final minute Black’s chip ahead was snapped up 30 metres out by determined wingman Brown who outpaced the chasing defenders to touch down in the corner for a try which levelled the score.

The pressure was suddenly on goalkicker Leatherbarrow but he was unable to land the touchline conversion which would have brought Batley victory.