Batley Bulldogs avoid Challenge Cup banana skin in battling victory over Rochdale

Batley Bulldogs survived a first half scare from Rochdale to progress into the fifth round of the Challenge Cup.
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Tries from George Senior, Luke Cooper, Joe Burton, Nyle Flynn and Alistair Leak helped the Bulldogs to a 30-14 win and avoid a banana skin as Rochdale belied their League 1 status against strong Championship opposition at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium.

It is now four wins on the spin for the Bulldogs in 2024 but Tommy Brierley’s tries at the start and end of the opening 40 gave the Hornets outfit hopes of a memorable cup upset - and a first win over Batley in 11 attempts.

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Brierley’s second, right on the hooter, got the visitors back to within eight points ahead of the second half after the Bulldogs had responded positively from the winger’s early opener.

Fox's Biscuits STadium, BatleyFox's Biscuits STadium, Batley
Fox's Biscuits STadium, Batley

Mark Moxon’s men are through to the quarter finals of the 1895 Cup after two great group 5 victories over Featherstone Rovers and Hunslet, which sandwiched a 48-18 triumph over Workington Town in the previous round of the Challenge Cup.

But they certainly didn’t have it all their own way against a Hornets side which dominated the opening 15 minutes.

A couple of handling errors didn’t help the Bulldogs, neither did Luke Blake’s high shot on Lameck Juma which gave Rochdale some valuable field position. Juma was in the thick of the action and he thought he had gone over from the next set but he was somehow held up by several Batley defenders.

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You could, however, sense that the opening try was coming and the pressure finally told when a Batley knock-on presented another chance. The build-up was scrappy, with two passes bobbling across the turf, before Brierley dazzled his way over.

It was a much-needed wake-up call for the home side, who responded emphatically.

Senior went over for the third game in succession after good work from Josh Woods and Robbie Butterworth as the Bulldogs took full advantage of a set restart ten metres out, with Woods’ conversion edging them in front.

Cooper then charged over after being slipped in by the excellent Ben White, who was celebrating his 100th consecutive appearance in Batley colours.

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Batley had not just woken but had roared into life and scored a superb try through Burton who, fresh from his hat-trick in the 36-0 thrashing at Hunslet last Sunday, magnificently scooped up Leak’s grubber kick to delightfully touch down.

18-4 to the good and the Bulldogs were seemingly in cruise control. But with the clock ticking towards the hooter, Moxon’s men continued on the attack in Rochdale’s final ten, but Woods’ pass was intercepted by Brierley who sprinted the full length of the field to give them a chance going into the second half, although Batley had the advantage of playing down the slope.

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Challenge Cup: Batley Bulldogs v Rochdale Hornets LIVE

The Bulldogs were camped in the Rochdale half at the start of the second half and their persistence was rewarded when White provided another sublime assist, this time for Flynn, who squeezed through a gap to reestablish their 14-point lead.

Undeterred, the Hornets attempted to put a late sting in the tail when Daniel Nixon touched down in the corner. But any thoughts of an extraordinary cup upset were extinguished when Leak scored following great work from Lucas Walshaw and Flynn as the Bulldogs progressed to the fifth round of the Challenge Cup and maintained their winning start to 2024.