Batley Bulldogs 20 Sheffield Eagles 8: Aston men suffer first defeat of the season
Sheffield Eagles tasted defeat for the first time this season after a 20-8 loss to Batley Bulldogs at a gusty Mount Pleasant.
The visitors surrendered their 100% start to the campaign after failing to deal with a dogged Batley outfit who adapted much better to the blustery conditions.
In a game blighted by errors, the Eagles couldn’t find the heights shown in the opening two games and rarely threatened up the hill in the second stanza.
Director of rugby Mark Aston gave close season signing Garry Lo his debut in place of Rob Worrincy, whilst Duane Straugheir missed out with Aussie Steve Thorpe returning.
In atrocious conditions the Eagles began brightly kicking down the slope with the hosts having to defend manfully in the opening stages.
The early pressure paid off on nine minutes. Dave Hewitt provided the ammunition for the first try with a delicate kick into the in-goal area, allowing Menzie Yere to ground the loose ball. Michael Knowles failed with a difficult conversion.
Batley fought back and took the lead through some familiar faces. Former Eagles stalwart Dominic Brambani crashed over after a good offload from James Brown, and another ex-Eagles favourite Pat Walker added the extras.
It was Aston’s side who struck next. This time it was debutant Lo quickest to react to another kick into the in-goal area, pouncing for his first try for the club. Knowles missed the extras.
Batley finished the half strongly and took momentum into the second 40, assisted by some sloppy play by Eagles.
After surrendering possession deep inside their own half the Eagles put themselves firmly under the cosh. Brambani’s kick was then spilled by Lo allowing the same player to pick up the loose ball for a simple try. Walker kicked the extras.
The hosts extended their advantage when Alistair Leak somehow squeezed over the line from the play of the ball and Walker kicked the two points.
More indiscipline from the visitors allowed Batley to extend their advantage with Walker slotting a penalty to give the hosts a 12 point advantage.
The Eagles never really threatened again until 12 minutes from the end. After Luke Blake saw yellow Aston’s side sensed an opportunity and came close when Hewitt’s dancing feet saw him stopped just before the line as Batley held on.
The hosts finished the game the strongest as the Eagles struggled to find any forward momentum in the closing stages, on a disappointing afternoon.
Batley: Scott; Reittie, Cowling, Ulugia, Ainscough, Southernwood, Brambani, Hirst, Blake, Brown, Bretherton, Chandler, Walker. Interchange: Lillycrop, Leak, Gledhill, Rowe.
Scorers: Tries: Brambani (16, 46), Leak (57) Goals: Walker 4/4
Eagles: Laulu-Togagae, Lo, Yere, Tyson, Blackmore; Aston, Hewitt; Thorpe, Carlile, Wheeldon; Knowles, James; Minchella. Interchange: Fozard, Stringer, Neal, Mexico.
Scorers: Tries: Yere (9), Lo (29) Goals: Knowles 0/2
Referee: Sam Ansell