Bulldogs to embrace Rovers cup Challenge

Keegan Hirst is in line to make his 100th appearance for Batley.
Keegan Hirst is in line to make his 100th appearance for Batley.

Batley coach John Kear wants his Bulldogs side to embrace Saturday’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup fifth round tie against Featherstone Rovers.

Batley have lost their last two Championship fixtures — away to Oldham and London — but Kear believes the cup gives the Bulldogs a perfect chance to bounce back.

Kear said: “We will look to embrace the cup and do ourselves justice.

“I’d say Featherstone are the form team as we have let our standards drop over the last two weeks.

“It was to be expected because if had kept up the performance levels of week one to six, we would have won the league.

“We have been over achieving but that is credit to the players.”

Sunday’s 32-8 defeat in the capital saw Batley slip a place to third in the Championship, while Featherstone racked up a 52-6 win away to Workington to move up to fifth.

Featherstone edged out Batley 14-12 in the second match of the season at the Big Fellas Stadium but Kear has a great pedigree in the Challenge Cup and would love to steer Batley into the last 16 in front of the Sky TV cameras.

Kear added: “We are excited about the cup. It is trap door rugby and should be a really enjoyable occasion.

“We have had some good cup runs since I have been at Batley and gone close to some really major upsets, against London and then Widnes last year.

“There is no pressure on this game. There is a pressure valve release and it is all about performing in a one-off situation.

“The cup provides an opportunity. We will give it the respect it deserves and give it our best shot.”

Batley will assess any injury worries before naming their squad to face Rovers later today.

Bulldogs captain Keegan Hirst is in line to make his 100th appearance in Batley colours if he features against Featherstone.

Hirst made his Bulldogs debut as a substitute in a 50-16 Northern Rail Cup home win against London Skolars on February 19 2012.

The match is being televised on Sky Sports 3, with coverage starting at 4.55pm, and Batley are looking forward to being thrown into the national spotlight.

Kear, himself a television pundit, is relishing the chance for the Bulldogs to raise the club’s profile.

Kear said: “It is a big occasion for the fans, the club and the players.

“The club can feel proud of the stadium, which they have improved year on year.

“The club do not just re-invest funds into the playing side, they look to improve the facilities as well.”