After seeing off the challenge of Featherstone Rovers in the last round, Batley Bulldogs were rewarded with a home tie against Super Leagues' second placed side the Catalans Dragons. With the exception of that Challenge Cup win, the Bulldogs have not recorded a victory since the end of March, but only a fool ever writes off a side coached by cup king John Kear.
The Dragons, having a superb season and pushing for the minor premiership, were massive favourites for the win at 1/66 whereas you could get a very generous 14/1 on Batley to progress. Batley had a twenty-eight point start on the coupon, the bookies gave them no chance.
Just four minutes in and Fouad Yaha turned defence into attack when an attacking Batley pass, in the Dragons twenty, went to ground. The loose pass was picked up by Justin Horo who passed to Yaha as he tumbled to the ground and Yaha went eighty metres to score under the sticks allowing Pat Richards to add the extras.
Excellent Bulldogs defence frustrated the Dragons, but repeated handling errors meant that Batley spent the majority of the next twenty minutes defending. Their defence was finally broken on twenty-four when Vincent Duport crossed in the left corner after the ball was moved through several pairs of hands before Duport palmed off his tackler to create himself a gap. Richards kicked the goal for 12-0.
It was an easy third try for the Dragons on forty-three when Vincent Duport jinked his way past three defenders to walk over and ground. Pat Richards kicked the extra two and it now looked a long way back for the Bulldogs, playing up the slope in the second half.
Within three minutes Duport turned provider, breaking down the wing before finding Richie Myler in support to scamper over the line. Richards missed the conversion, his first failure of the night.
On fifty-four Dave Taylor got his first trying the game, the Dragons fifth, when he took a long pass and stepped past the defence. Two minutes later and Myler found Tony Gigot to score under the sticks. Richards kicked the extras on both occasions for 34-0 and the Dragons were into the next round.
On sixty-four there was finally something for the home crowd the cheer when the Bulldogs took advantage on a penalty and Alex Brown went over in the corner off a Chris Ulugai pass. Dominic Brambini missed the conversion leaving his side thirty points behind.
Ten minutes from time and Tony Gigot found a gap off a Julian Bousquet pass to get his second of the night, right next to the upright, enabling Richards to kick a simple conversion.
This was a ruthless Catalans performance against a Bulldogs side who showed great defensive tenacity in the first half but who crumbled under pressure in the second. It was the French side who coast into the next round leaving the Bulldogs to concentrate on turning around their league form and trying to secure a place in the middle eights.
Bulldogs: Scott, Reittie, Ulugia, Bretherton, Brown (T), Southernwood, Brambani, Hirst, Davey, Brown, Chandler, Harrison, Blake. Subs: Rowe, Lillycrop, Leak, Peterson.
Dragons: Gigot (2T), Yaha (T), Horo, Duport (2T), Richards (6G), Albert, Myler (T), Taylor (T), Pelissier, Casty, Stewart, Anderson, Baitieri. Subs: Bousquet, Mounis, Bosc, Mason.
Referee: Gareth Hewer.