A scintillating hat-trick from winger Greg Johnson helped the Bulldogs to their first win in four matches as they overcame the challenge of the Swinton Lions by 36-6 at the LoveRugbyLeague.com Stadium.
BATLEY BULLDOGS 36-6 SWINTON LIONS
by Mark Ward
Kingstone Press Cider Championship, LoveRugbyLeague.com Stadium, 12 May 2013
John Kear's side returned to winning ways this afternoon as they completed a convincing victory over a Swinton Lions side that made the Bulldogs work hard for the points, particularly in an even first-half battle. The hosts gradually overpowered their lowly visitors however, with winger Greg Johnson leading the way with an impressive hat-trick before an unseemly melee in the closing stages which threatened to bubble out of control.
The Bulldogs welcomed back both Mark Applegarth and John Davies to the second row, and it showed as the hosts bossed the forward battle, allowing George Flanagan the space to cause the Lions all sorts of issues throughout the game. Tom Hemingway also returned to the fold this afternoon after a break from the team, and contributed well from his spell at hooker.
In truth, there was little to choose between the two sides in the first quarter of the game; Flanagan looked dangerous early on, and served intention on 5 minutes with an impressive 40 metre run which set the platform for Byron Smith to be help up on the line. On 14 minutes, it was the turn of Gene Ormsby to break clear for the visitors to set up good field position, but on the next play Ben Black intercepted and hared down the pitch only to be let down by his basic speed as he was caught on halfway. Then Kevin Penny broke clear on a 30 metre dash before Gareth Moore picked up another interception to thwart the visitors who had started in the ascendancy.
The Bulldogs eventually began to assert thir authority on the game however; on 21 minutes it was Johnny Campbell's turn to intercept, and he managed to get 60 metres before being caught by Penny, but the Lions were merely delaying the inevitable as Ayden Faal's strong run created the opportunity for Johnson to score his first try of the afternoon, ably converted by Moore to make it 6-0. The hosts continued to dominate and it was that man Faal again on 31 minutes who completed a fine, flowing move by creating an opening for Keegan Hirst to barge through to score, the extras again provided by Moore.
On the stroke of half-time, Campbell broke clear again and chipped ahead in a race for the line only to be tackled without the ball, preventing a clear try-scoring opportunity. Referee Hewer deemed a penalty to be sufficient punishment, but unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Moore failed to add the two points.
HALF-TIME: BATLEY BULLDOGS 12-0 SWINTON LIONS
Facing down the slope in the second-half, the beleaguered Lions could hardly have made a worse start on 43 minutes - Ritchie Hawkyard making a terrible hash of Moore's kick on the last and Johnson reacted quickest to pick the loose ball up and bundle over the whitewash to score. Once again, Moore's kick was unsuccessful, but the Bulldogs had edged into a 16-0 lead that they improved further on 50 minutes when Faal picked up the ball on the left and dragged three would-be markers over the line with him to score a richly deserved try. Moore's conversion pushed the score on to 22-0.
By now, the Lions looked very ragged and Black took advantage again on 55 minutes as he stepped backed on himself to outfox the Swinton defensive line and score. Again Moore's dependable boot pushed the Bulldogs further clear. Swinton thought they had finally got on the scoresheet on the hour when Martin Ainscough intercepted Black's loose pass and hared 80 metres to touchdown only for the try to be ruled out due to Penny holding back Gareth Potts in pursuit of Ainscough. The Lions finally got their try however on 64 minutes when Josh Barlow barrelled over from close range with Gareth O'Brien adding the extras to make it 28-6.
As the game entered the final ten minutes, the Lions repelled the Bulldogs for five successive sets (during which Flanagan was held up three times on the line) but they were powerless to resist on 72 minutes as Moore and Potts combined to unlock the Swinton defensive line, allowing Johnson to complete his superb hat-trick, again converted by Moore at 34-6.
The dying moments saw the visitors lose their discipline, sparking two melees in centre-field, the second after Ash Lindsay was taken out by David Mills' high shot. Referee Hewer took the sting out of proceedings, putting the first altercation on report and awarding Batley a penalty for the second clash, which Tom Hemingway duly despatched to complete a routine 36-6 victory which pushes the Bulldogs onto the third rung of the league ladder.
BATLEY BULLDOGS: 2 Potts, 5 Campbell, 3 Walton, 20 Faal, 21 G. Johnson, 6 Black, 7 Moore, 8 Smith, 14 Flanagan, 26 Fleming, 16 Davies, 12 Applegarth, 13 Lindsay. Interchange: 15 Hirst, 23 Hemingway, 25 Leary, 27 J. Johnson.
T: G. Johnson 3, Hirst, Faal, Black
G: Moore 5, Hemingway
SWINTON LIONS: 1 Hawkyard, 5 Penny, 17 Shaw, 3 Ainscough, 22 Ormsby, 26 O'Brien, 33 Harvey, 18 Morrison, 14 Hulme, 31 Cooper, 32 Sarsfield, 20 Bridge, 13 Barlow. Interchange: 6 I'Anson, 8 Mills, 10 Holland, 27 Bennion.
SCORING SEQUENCE: 6-0, 12-0, HT, 16-0, 22-0, 28-0, 28-6, 34-6, 36-6
REFEREE: Gareth Hewer
MAN OF THE MATCH: Greg Johnson (Batley Bulldogs) - dangerous throughout and some lethal finishing.