Batley Bulldogs 26 Sheffield Eagles 28: Mark Aston's men earn back-to-back Champiionship Shield final appearances
Sheffield Eagles made it back-to-back Championship Shield final appearances after holding out for a narrow 26-28 success against Batley.
After being on the losing side to Bulldogs three times already this season, the Eagles turned the tables to book their place in the final against Toulouse, after staving off a late fight-back from the hosts at Mount Pleasant.
Eagles, firm underdogs going into the fixture, extended their season by another week as try-machine Garry Lo bagged a brace to help steer Mark Aston’s side back to the south of France.
Aston opted for experience for the crunch clash with skipper Matty James, winger Lo and half-back Simon Brown all recalled to the side, whilst Will Hope and Mark Mexico were both passed fit to take their place on the bench.
The game started in a feisty manner which saw both Ben Blackmore and Shaun Ainscough see yellow after a skirmish.
After the contest settled down it was the hosts who grasped the initiative with Dane Manning’s try converted by ex-Eagle Pat Walker.
But Eagles hit-back when Liam Johnson found Yere who crossed, and Owens added the extras.
An Owens penalty put the Eagles in front, and they extended the lead just before the half-hour when Yere this time turned provider for Blackmore to score, but Owens missed the conversion.
Crucially before the break Lo was then sent to the bin, and Batley took advantage with a James Harrison try, but Walker missed the two. That wasn’t the end of the scoring though with Eagles bagging a try just before the hooter through the quick feet of Kyle Trout, and Owens converted.
Eagles struck again just after the interval when Castleford-bound Lo was played in by compatriot Yere, above left, for the fourth try, and four minutes later the lead was extended to 16 points when Lo again crossed after latching onto Owens’ kick.
Owens kicked what would be a vital penalty after Batley were penalised for dissent, but that sparked what turned into a cavalry charge from the hosts.
Joe Chandler’s converted try brought the Bulldogs back in with a sniff, and then Harrison crossed the whitewash after the Eagles conceded a series of penalties.
A brilliant individual try from former Eagle Dominic Brambani was converted by Walker, as Batley reduced the arrears to just two points.
Aston’s side though held their nerve as Batley lost theirs, with Joel Farrell seeing red at the death following a dangerous challenge.
Batley: Scott; Reittie, Smeaton, Crookes, Ainscough; Walker, Brambani; Gledhill, Leak, Chandler; Manning, Harrison; Farrell. Interchange: Cowling, Bretherton, Rowe, Davey.
Scorers: Tries: Manning (14), Harrison (37, 63), Chandler (60), Brambani (74) Goals: Walker 3/5
Eagles: Millar; Lo, Yere, Whiteley, Blackmore; Brown, Owens; Wheeldon, Fozard, James; Johnson, Straugheir; Minchella. Interchange: Hope, Trout, Scott, Mexico.
Scorers: Tries: Yere (21), Blackmore (28), Trout (39), Lo (43, 47) Goals: Owens 4/8