Batley Bulldogs 24, Bradford Bulls 24

‘WHO let the dogs out?’ blared out over the Tannoy at the end after the part-time Bulldogs of Batley had denied their full-time visitors victory.

The raucous scenes came amid a finale that underlined the undeniable spirit of John Kear’s side and Bradford’s dire game-management in the final quarter.

The Bulls, by Jimmy Lowes’ own admission, should have seen the game out after going 24-12 up in the 50th minute.

Instead, high-flying Batley conjured a highly impressive comeback to level matters thanks to Pat Walker’s penalty goal after the final hooter had sounded.

Lowes, who was involved in a heated exchange with an angry Bulls supporter as he headed to the dressing room afterwards, bemoaned his side’s inability to see out the match.

He also felt the penalty decision which allowed Walker to boot Batley level was harsh, although the massed ranks of Bulls fans behind the posts were adamant his effort had drifted wide.

Nevertheless, the two points were awarded as Batley’s impressive and Bradford’s unbeaten start to the season continued.

A draw was probably about a fair result, with the comeback allowing the Bulldogs to avenge their dramatic late defeat at the hands Bradford at Mount Pleasant almost a year ago.

The Bulls were missing Tom Olbison, Ben Kavanagh, Adrian Purtell and Adam Sidlow through injury, but Paul Clough and Steve Crossley returned to make their first appearances of the season.

Clough started while Crossley began on the bench in their first outings since the Million Pound defeat to Wakefield over five months ago.

Batley, who enjoyed the benefit of going downhill in the first half, began strongly and twice went close to opening the scoring inside the opening exchanges.

Alex Brown went close in the right corner before Chris Ulugia, a current Bulls employee, was held up after good work from former Bradford men Shaun Ainscough and Cain Southernwood, both of whom had fine games on the wing and in the halves respectively.

Ainscough appeared ready and willing to run through bricks walls against his old club while Southernwood provided artistry alongside former Bulls academy player Dominic Brambani.

Keegan Hirst laid the platform up front with a barnstorming opening quarter, which afforded the likes of Southernwood and Brambani the freedom to play.

Lee Gaskell almost weaved his way clear of the Batley defence from the edge of his own 20-metre line before Bradford opened the scoring in the seventh minute.

A high tackle on the impressive Jay Pitts saw Batley penalised and gave the Bulls the field position to stretch the home defence to breaking point.

The ball went through at least five pairs of hands and culminated in Richard Mathers and Kris Welham working it out to Omari Caro, who finished clinically in the right corner for his sixth try of the season.

The response from Batley was to be applauded as they played with the kind of gusto and spirit which so typifies any side coached by the wily Kear.

Second-rower Alex Bretherton was held up over the line and the Bulls then forced Bradford to drop out under their posts before Batley did get off the mark in the 17th minute.

Ulugia, who looked lively all afternoon as the Bulldogs’ left centre, touched down in the left corner after excellent interplay between Southernwood and centre Danny Cowling.

A second home try arrived four minutes later courtesy of a try that would have graced any game at any level.

Southernwood was again the architect, finding Ulugia in space down the left flank with a neat offload.

Ulugia, who made six appearances for Bradford last season before he got injured and was sent to Batley where he remains on loan for the rest of this year, drove at the heart of the Bulls’ defence.

He showed intelligence to find the supporting Southernwood inside with an astute pass and the former Bulls stand-off then displayed even greater composure to find full back Dave Scott crashing over the line from less than 20 metres out.

With Walker converting both tries, Batley were suddenly 12-6 ahead and scenting a famous victory, even at that early stage.

Credit to the Bulls, of course.

They hit back to level the scores in the 31st minute with a try that had more than a touch of good fortune.

Again it came down the right channel as Welham kicked inside where the ball found its way into the path of a Batley defender, who failed to gather possession with disastrous consequences.

As the ball ran loose, Dale Ferguson was on hand to touch down and Danny Addy’s second conversion levelled matters up at 12-12.

With Pitts an ever willing run from loose forward and Mathers also advancing forward to support the attack, the Bulls always looked dangerous when attacking Batley’s line.

Sure enough, they scored again in the 36th minute when the hosts were again penalised for an off-the-ball challenge on Matty Blythe.

From the subsequent penalty, Pitts was on hand again to take Gaskell’s pass 10 metres out and dive over the line which Addy improved to make it 18-12 at the break.

The Bulls had arguably done the hard part by playing the opening 40 minutes uphill but managing to establish a hard-earned lead.

Mitch Clark enjoyed another hard-hitting stint off the bench after replacing Clough midway through the first half and he broke clear shortly after the interval.

The prop had Gaskell in support and found his team-mate but the short pass was deemed forward and no try was awarded, much to Lowes’ disgust.

Gaskell could not hide his frustration as the call from the official seemed harsg but the momentum remained largely with the Bulls and Pitts soon had his second try.

Ferguson expertly engineered the space inside the right channel to create the space to offload to the supporting Pitts, who finished well from close range again.

Addy converted again to make it 24-12 in the 50th minute and five Bradford clear daylight over their hosts.

Clough came back on for his second stint while Alex Mellor also entered the fray before O’Brien went close and Addy was held up.

Oscar Thomas replaced O’Brien, who was making the 100th appearance of his career, but Batley continued to probe and the return of Hirst for his second stint gave them a huge boost.

With 14 minutes remaining, Bradford allowed Southernwood’s high bomb to bounce and skipper Hirst gratefully caught the loose ball to touch down under the posts for a try which Walker converted.

That cut Bradford’s lead to six points and winger Brown then over over in the 76th minute after the ball was worked to him in the right corner, making it 24-22.

Walker missed the touchline conversion but he was not to be denied 35 metres out after Batley prop Alex Rowe was caught late.

This time Walker found the target, despite the disbelieving Bradford supporters thinking otherwise, and the game ended 24-24. Stirring stuff.

Attendance: 2,742