Batley Bulldogs produced another spirited display in the Middle Eights despite losing 42-14 at home to Salford Red Devils in their final game of a memorable season.
Batley have won friends for their Bulldog spirit throughout the campaign and left the field with applause from both sets of fans ringing in their ears.
John Kear certainly leaves the Bulldogs in a healthy state, while the club’s coffers are boosted by £550,000 following their seventh place finish in the qualifiers.
Keegan Hirst will join Kear at Wakefield Trinity next season and he produced an excellent display in his final game for the club.
Batley made a bright start playing up the slope and twice went close to opening the scoring.
Cain Southernwood’s crossfield kick appeared to have the Salford defence stretched but the ball bounced into touch before Dominic Brambani skipped out of a tackle but was hauled down in front of the posts.
Salford looked nervy as they needed a win to book a place in Saturday’s Million Pound Game but struck a double blow to Batley’s hopes.
Full-back Gareth O’Brien slipped through a gap in the defence and over for a try which he converted before ex-Bulldog Josh Griffin slipped a pass out to Junior Sau, who dived in at the corner and O’Brien converted from the touchline.
Batley responded as Hirst drove them close to the line before the ball was worked out to the right and Wayne Reittie dived over for the 100th try of his career. Brambani’s conversion landed just short.
Weller Hauraki grabbed Salford’s third try in the 24th minute when a long pass put him through a gap to cross and O’Brien converted as the Red Devils led 18-4.
Salford then made the game safe with three further tries in the final 10 minutes of the first half.
Ben Murdoch-Masila fed another ex Batley man Greg Johnson and he held off a tackler to score out wide.
Hauraki sold a dummy and raced through a gap before running behind the posts to give O’Brien a simple goal.
Josh Griffin then gathered Sau’s neat pass to score Salford’s sixth try of the half and O’Brien’s goal put them 34-4 ahead.
Batley came out for the second half in determined mood and had long spells of pressure playing down the slope.
A lovely weighted kick by Patch Walker was gathered by Reittie, who stormed over for his second try at the corner.
Luke Blake was held up over the line following a quick dart from acting half-back but Salford struck again when Robert Lui outpaced the defence to cross wide out.
Batley stormed back down the slope and Alex Rowe was held up surging for the line, while the Bulldogs then forced a drop-out.
Pressure paid off when Southernwood’s lovely kick behind the Devils defence was gathered by Chris Ulugia, who went over for a try which Walker improved.
O’Brien sold a dummy for his second try but Batley had done enough to win the second half 10-8 and were worthy of their lap of honour which followed the final hooter.