Batley Bulldogs signed off their Kingstone Press Championship Shield programme with a 34-18 victory over Sheffield Eagles in what was the first of back to back meetings between the sides.
The Eagles return to Fox’s Biscuits Stadium in Sunday’s Shield semi-final but Batley have the confidence of reaching the final after running in six tries in an impressive all-round effort.
Hooker Alistair Leak had a terrific game as he scored two tries and had a hand in two others as Batley produced a slick display despite poor handling conditions with heavy rain falling.
Sheffield took a fourth minute lead when a Jack Owens kick was gathered by winger Paddy Flynn to score an unconverted converted try wide out.
Batley hit back in style, taking control of the game to score three tries in the space of just eight minutes.
Leak’s neat short pass sent Dany Manning crashing over and with usual half-back pairing Patch Walker and Dominic Brambani both missing, Dave Scott took on the kicking duties and edged Batley ahead with the first of five goals from six attempts.
Scott’s towering kick was spilled by Eagles full-back Ryan Millar, under pressure from James Harrison, and Joe Chandler was on hand to scoop up the loose ball and score, with Scott converting.
A brilliant passing move by the Bulldogs was rounded off when Shaun Ainsough scored wide out but the Bulldogs were then reduced to 12 men when Leak was sin-binned for preventing Sheffield from taking a quick re-start.
The Eagles took full advantage as Liam Johnson offloaded for Mark Mexico to storm over and Owens converted to reduce the arrears to 16-10, which is how it remained until half-time.
Sheffield saw Jonah Cunningham sin-binned for a professional foul immediately after coming off the bench and it was while the Eagles were down to 12 men that Leak crossed for his first try, twisting out of a tackle to plant the ball down.
Duane Straugheir replied with an unconverted try at the other end but Sheffield’s hopes of a comeback were dealt a severe blow when Scott Wheeldon was sent off for an alleged head butt.
Straight after Wheeldon’s dismissal, Johnson produced some neat footwork before sending Menzie Yere over wide out for an unconverted try.
Batley resumed their supremacy as Leak scooted from acting half back and side stepped two defenders on his way to the line for a second try of the afternoon and Scott’s conversion stretched the lead to 28-18.
Leak had a hand in Batley’s final try when his neat offload sent Alex Bretherton barging his way to the line and Scott again tagged on the goal.
It was Batley’s 16th win of the league campaign and they can now concentrate on one last push as they bid to reach the Shield final when the Eagles return to Mount Pleasant for Sunday’s semi-final.