Batley Bulldogs Match Preview by Joshua Chapman (@Chapalar)
The Cougars come into Sunday’s game against the Batley Bulldogs in the Play Off Round of the Northern Rail Cup in search of a much needed victory following four consecutive defeats in the Challenge Cup and Kingstone Press Championship.
The downfall of the Cougars over the last two weeks in particular has been the second half collapses at Doncaster and Dewsbury despite showing the rugby that Paul March knows they can play in the first halves of these fixtures. He backed this up following last week’s defeat at the Tetley’s Stadium by saying “We suffered from a lack of desire unlike in the first half when we was tackling for each other even when we were on the back foot and giving a penalty away at the start meant we was fighting for our lives second half and when Jones kicked that ball out into touch on the first set then we went knock on, error, error, error and then Danny Lawton fumbled that ball for their first try of the half and it affected us mentally and physically.”
One plus for the men from Cougar Park last week was the re-signing of Irish international James Haley following the centres return from Australia. After initially arriving from Halifax in December, James left without playing a game for the club for a new challenge in Australia. He returned from down under last week and went straight into the team for the Dewsbury defeat.
At the recent Northern Rail Cup draw which brought this tie about, Paul March had this to say in relation to the home tie with the Bulldogs: “It’s a tough tie, but if you want to progress in this competition you have to win these games and I’m looking forward to it but we’ve got a couple of weeks building up to that now and hopefully we can win both of those games and have build some confidence heading into the tie. We want to keep building week in, week out so when we play the likes of Batley in the cup then anything can happen. Realistically it’s a competition we can do well in, it’s knockout football and it’s about who turns up on the day and Batley did it a few year ago where they got to the final and nicked it in the end so it’s a realistic piece of silverware we could be picking up.”
For the Bulldogs, who moved to third place in the Championship table following last Sundays victory over the Swinton Lions, the news surrounding them has been more about the off field action rather than that on with hooker Danny Whitmore moving on loan to the Oldham Roughyeds and the demolition of the long stand up at the LoveRugbyLeague.com Stadium.
On the field, the Bulldogs have been playing some fantastic rugby league in which they held Halifax to a draw, narrowly lost to Featherstone Rovers and gave Super League side Huddersfield Giants a real scare in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup. However, just this Thursday morning the club were dealt with a real blow as Jacob Fairbank, the dual registration star from the Giants, was moved on for a month’s loan to the Bradford Bulls.
Following the draw last month, Batley Bulldogs coach Jon Kear had this to say about this Sunday’s tie. “We’d have preferred a home draw like any time here would off because we know Keighley are formidable opponents, Ya’know any team that has Marchy as a coach as well as Marchy playing amongst them will be very competitive and give their all so we know it’s going to be really tough and we know it’s a small playing surface down at Keighley and it’s also a very tight playing surface and it’s going to be tough but to win competitions you have to overcome hurdles and Keighley is a substantial hurdle. This tie provides a really good test and we’re going to have to work hard and put in a good performance on the day and if we do that it bodes well for the future. Keighley have the advantage of the small and narrow pitch at Lawkholme Lane like we do at Mount Pleasant when we kick the ball down the slope and make teams run at us and I’m sure Marchy will make the lads at Keighley play the pitch well but to succeed you have to overcome these things and that’s the approach we’ll be taking.”