After a hectic weekend of Championship rugby the final game of round 10 took place tonight with Batley Bulldogs hosting Widnes Vikings.
In a weekend that had seen shocking results such as Swinton upsetting Toulouse to end their seven-game losing streak and then Barrow’s stunning second-half performance to batter Bradford, there was plenty to expect tonight.
Both teams were well in the play-offs sitting sixth and fourth respectively but a win would cement some serious credentials for either side.
The travelling side were unchanged in their starting 13 but the experienced John Kear called on the experienced Kyle Amor, the veteran prop taking his place on the bench.
TEAM NEWS | Bring on the Bulldogs! 🐶
▪️ Unchanged starting 13
▪️ Jacob Jones set for his debut
▪️ Kyle Amor back in the mix
Watch LIVE on @ViaplaySportsUK 📺 pic.twitter.com/CpDZ4fhtTT
— Widnes Vikings (@WidnesRL) May 8, 2023
As for the home side they once again had their former full-back Luke Hooley on loan from Leeds Rhinos, whilst club captain Keegan Hirst took his place on the bench.
TEAM NEWS | Here’s how the Bulldogs line up for this evenings clash against @WidnesRL under the lights! #COYD #UTD 🐶 pic.twitter.com/ydCCx23ETO
— Batley Bulldogs RLFC (@BatleyRLFC) May 8, 2023
The early scoring came from the home side, in spite of Widnes having had a try of their own ruled out for a forward pass on the 10 minute mark.
More concerning for Widnes though was the fact that their key man Danny Craven departed after less than a minute.
On the 15 minute mark Batley broke down the right flank and big man Lucas Walshaw ran a brilliant support line to capitalise and cross over for the opening score.
Less then ten minutes later Luke Hooley’s boot was called into action again when he slotted a penalty from in front of the posts to make the game 8-0.
Both sides traded sets in what was an even contest and Kear’s Vikings could count themselves unlucky not be on the scoreboard, or even leading, as they had a second try disallowed but this time for a very controversial forward pass.
A frustrating first half for the visitors was summed up when Adam Lawton tried to punch over from short range but knocked on, leaving the Vikings 8-0 down at the half.
The first scoring action of the second-half again came from Luke Hooley’s boot with Batley opting to put points on the board when awarded a penalty 15 minutes into the second 40.
Just two minutes later when Widnes were offered a penalty they understandably chose to run with it, but perhaps in a summary of their night, they knocked on and allowed Batley to regain possession on their own 10 metres.
That failure to capitalise, plus the potential harsh calls over their disallowed tries, was all that really split the two sides who will almost certainly be in the play-off frame at the end of the season.
When they did next gain territory they forced a goal line drop-out but a knock-on upon receiving the ball was the sort of error that would infuriate John Kear, but one that separated the sides on the night.
Widnes must have thought the rugby league Gods were against them when a sure-fire try was called back, a kick crossfield fell to Matty Fozard but the away side were penalised for contract in the air before they could add the points.
That came in the 72nd minute but the Vikings weren’t to be denied two minutes later when Fozard broke free and set up Wigan loanee Zach Eckersley for a try.
Owens missed the kick to potentially set up a grandstand finish but Josh Woods put that all to doubt with his drop goal two minutes from time to secure the win for the home side,
Whilst the win didn’t see the Bulldogs jump up the table they solidified their position in the top six and Craig Lingard would certainly be happy with the performance, unfortunately John Kear would be unable to say the same on a frustrating night for Widnes.