AN Oldham side torn apart by injury wasn't good enough to make it a happy return to the Fox's Biscuits Stadium for Matt Diskin .Bulldogs, bristling with confidence and self-belief, ran in nine tries in a 48-10 win.
Interestingly, all but one were recorded by backs, two of them by half-back Ben White, an Oldham boy. His links with fellow-half Tom Gilmore and full-back Luke Hooley were a feature of Batley’s performance, but they had a massive advantage over the Oldham play-makers because they were operating behind a set of forwards that was always in command.
Having twice given fancied Featherstone a run for their money and having hammered Halifax Panthers away in the Challenge Cup, Batley had every reason to fancy their chances in their first game at their high ground on the hill in more than 12 months.
But their confidence must have soared even more when they discovered Roughyeds were to play without front-line forwards Martyn Reilly, Phil Joy, Liam Kirk and Shaun Pick.
As if that wasn’t bad enough for Diskin’s men, Danny Bridge hurt a knee in the second set of the game, Oldham’s first, and finally limped off after quarter of an hour, never to come back.
Gareth Owen also took a knock in the opening stages and didn’t come out for the second half.
That wasn’t all. Centre Ben Heaton, who had looked strong enough to cause Batley problems early on, suddenly went down off the ball, having sustained an ankle injury, which also caused his permanent withdrawal after 25 minutes.
Oldham, having been given first use of the not inconsiderable slope at Batley, or Mount Pleasant as it used to be called, were 14-6 behind when Heaton departed with an ice pack wrapped round his ankle.
In the second half, backs Ryan Ince and Dan Abram were also limping, but the damage in terms of giving Batley a serious test had already been done.
Injuries meant Diskin’s options from the bench were seriously limited and, as often seems to happen in games like this, a ball that often bounced wickedly on the dry, rock-hard surface always seemed to bounce in Batley’s favour.
Nevertheless, Oldham didn’t help themselves. Handling of the ball was iffy – not for the first time this season. It reminded one at times of Swinton away in the Cup. Then there were penalties, too many conceded.
Stats on penalties (8-4 to Batley) and set restarts (6-2 to Batley) gave an indication as to why the Bulldogs had so much possession and, consequently so much territorial advantage.
When they got it back to 12-6 with a forceful try by Lewis Charnock, off Luke Nelmes, and the resultant Dan Abram conversion, Oldham were back in it.
But Charnock, of all people, fumbled the restart kick on Oldham’s goal line. His reaction suggested he wanted the ground to swallow him up. It was one of those days !
Bulldogs went on to take the game away from the visitors with three tries in the last eight minutes of the first half.
Leading 28-6 at the interval, and looking forward to attacking down the slope in the second half, Batley were home and dry.
Oldham’s only strong period in the first half came half-way through it when they had the luxury of three or four back-to-back sets and were thus able to test Batley’s defensive authority, all leading up to the Charnock try.
A powerful break by Heaton looked full of promise, but Charnock, backing up on the in inside, slipped as he tried to go round Luke Hooley and the opportunity was gone.
Oldham started the second half showing great enterprise when Jack Spencer’s unexpected wide ball unleashed Ryan Ince up the touchline, but home full-back Hooley was up to the challenge.
Props Nelmes and Spencer fought losing battles from start to finish, Spencer especially constantly trundling the ball forward but always conceding weight and size and hitting the proverbial brick wall.
In the second half no one was busier or more energetic than busy-bee Dec Gregory, but Roughyeds didn’t seriously threaten the home line until the last few minutes when Tommy Brierly went over in the corner.
Batley — goals, Gilmore (3), Hooley (3); tries, Tonks, Hooley, Broughton, Logan, White (2), Campbell (2), Hall.
Oldham — goal, Abram; tries, Charnock, Brierley.
BATLEY: Hooley; Campbell, Morton, Logan, Broughton; White, Gilmore; Gledhill, Leak, Everett, Buchanan, Manning, Tonks. Subs: Hall, Brown, Blagborough, Flynn.
OLDHAM: Abram; Bierley, Heaton, Roberts, Ince; Charnock, Hewitt; Nelmes, Owen, Spencer, Langtree, Bridge, Bent. Subs:Dupree, Fletcher, Green, Gregory
Referee: James Vella.