Championship Shield: Forwards’ hat-tricks help propel Bulldogs towards a home semi-final

Alistair Leak bagged a hat-trick of tries for Batley at Bradford. PIC: James Hardisty
Alistair Leak bagged a hat-trick of tries for Batley at Bradford. PIC: James Hardisty

HAT-TRICKS FROM forwards James Harrison and Alistair Leak inspired Batley Bulldogs to their first win at Odsal since 1972.

Bulldogs trailed Bradford Bulls 12-0 after as many minutes before running in eight unanswered tries either side of half-time. The 44-18 win edged Bulldogs closer to a home semi-final in the Kingstone Press Championship Shield and boss Matt Diskin reckoned it was an indication of what they are capable of when they get their game together.

Batley try scorer Dominic Brambani. PIC: James Hardisty

Batley try scorer Dominic Brambani. PIC: James Hardisty

“I thought for the first 20 minutes and the last 20 we were scrappy, but in the middle 40 I thought we were really good,” said the former Bulls captain and assistant-coach.

“We turned Bradford around and forced them into their own end and played some really clinical stuff with the ball – we were very good near their line.”

Harrison – in particular – targeted Bulls’ right-side defence and Diskin added: “We knew if we hit the right lines and squared the right numbers up we would get opportunities and we did that really well in good ball – it was encouraging.”

Bulls, who are already doomed to relegation, had won their two previous games and looked on course for another victory in the early exchanges. Hooker Sam Hallas, signed from Leeds Rhinos, opened the scoring in the first minute after Bradford’s kick-off had found touch and then Liam Kirk crashed over and Cory Aston added his second goal.

Batley's William Maher takes on the Bradford defence. PIC: James Hardisty

Batley's William Maher takes on the Bradford defence. PIC: James Hardisty

In between times, Aston – the scrum-half on loan from Leeds – had made a stunning tackle to force the ball out of Jason Crookes’ grasp on the line when the centre seemed a certain scorer.

Batley conceded six penalties in the first 15 minutes and made a succession of handling errors. But after referee Callum Straw placed them on a team warning their discipline improved and Bulls’ went to pieces.

Second-rower Harrison powered over for genuine hat-trick, crossing for three successive tries. They sandwiched a brace of close-range touchdowns by livewire hooker Leak.

The visitors’ final two tries of the opening penalty came after they opted to tap kickable penalties and with Patch Walker landing three conversions the visitors rattled up 26 unanswered points from the 18th to the 37th minutes.

Despite Bradford’s team warning just before half-time referee Straw kept his yellow card in his pocket when they were penalised again four minutes into the second half; Batley again opted for the tap and Brad Day cruised over.

Footwork and a clever dummy carried Dominic Brambani over and then Lee Smith’s pass near his own line found its way to Leak who completed a deserved hat-trick. Walker converted all three, making it 44-12.

Fortunately for Bradford, Batley became sloppy after that and were unable to break the half-century mark, though Wayne Reittie had a touchdown disallowed when Sam Smeaton’s pass was ruled forward.

Bradford completed the scoring in the final minute when Illiess Macani crossed from Cameron Smith’s pass and Aston added the extras.

Bradford Bulls: L Smith, Rickett, Halafihi, Mendeika, Macani, Moore, Aston, Kirk, Hallas, Peltier, C Smith, Bentley, Sironen. Subs Davies, Oledzki, Wilkinson, Pickersgill.

Batley Bulldogs: Scott, Reittie, Smeaton, Crookes, Ainscough, Walker, Brambani, Maher, Leak, Lillycrop, Manning, Harrison, Farrell. Subs Southernwood, Gledhill, Rowe, Day.

Referee: Callum Straw (Wakefield).

Attendance: 2,609.