Batley Bulldogs 34 Sheffield Eagles 18: Scott Wheeldon dismissal wrecks Eagles hopes

Sheffield Eagles score at Batley.  Photo: Alex Coleman
Sheffield Eagles score at Batley. Photo: Alex Coleman

Sheffield Eagles’ Championship Shield semi-final dress rehearsal ended in defeat after Mark Aston’s side were beaten 34-18 by Batley Bulldogs at Mount Pleasant.

The sides will meet again in the knockout stages, but despite the game being a dead rubber it provided several flashpoints, which included the sending off of Eagles prop Scott Wheeldon in the second-half.

The dismissal ended any real chance of an Eagles success, despite at one stage moving within four points of their opponents, as Batley finished the game strongly.

Director of rugby Aston rested key man Garry Lo, allowing Paddy Flynn to switch to the wing, whilst Greg Burns, Mark Mexico and Ben Blackmore were recalled.

The changes had an effect on two minutes when Flynn opened the scoring with a try in the corner to give the visitors the perfect start. Jack Owens missed the conversion from the touchline.

Batley moved in front when Dane Manning’s try was converted by Dave Scott.

Two minutes later the Eagles were the architects of their own downfall when full-back Ryan Millar allowed Scott’s high kick to bounce, and Joe Chandler was quickest to the loose ball before crossing the whitewash. Scott converted.

The hosts opened up a healthy lead just before the half-hour as Danny Cowling’s pass allowed Shaun Ainscough to touch down, but Scott failed with the extras.

Eagles were given a way back when Alistair Leak was sin binned for stopping a quick tap, and the visitors used their advantage to great effect when Mexico finished a slick move, with Owens converting to get the Eagles back in touch.

After the break Leak crossed the whitewash in the corner, and Scott converted to increase the lead to 12 points, whilst Eagles’ Jonah Cunningham was sent to the bin for holding down.

The visitors stayed in touch though and Duane Straugheir was rewarded for his persistence when he powered over to score, but Owens missed the extras.

Wheeldon was then tagged by Manning which prompted a scuffle, and on the next play the prop saw red after charging into the same player.

With only 11 players, Eagles scored next as Menzie Yere dived over in the corner, but Owens missed a tough conversion.

Batley’s numerical advantage would prove too much in the final quarter as converted tries by Leak and Alex Bretherton saw the Bulldogs over the line.

Batley: Scott; Reittie, Smeaton, Cowling, Ainscough; Chandler, Davey; Maher, Leak, Gledhill; Manning, Harrison; Farrell. Interchange: Crookes, Bretherton, Rowe, Hill.

Tries: Manning (17), Chandler (19), Ainscough (25), Leak (47, 60), Bretherton (65); goals: Scott 5/6

Eagles: Millar; Flynn, Yere, Whiteley, Blackmore; Owens, Fozard; Wheeldon, Burns, Trout; Johnson, Straugheir; Cooper. Interchange: Cunningham, Milton, Scott, Mexico.

Tries: Flynn (2), Mexico (33), Straugheir (54), Yere (58); goals: Owens 1/4