Brown's late heroics help Batley snatch cup glory

Batley 25 Widnes 24
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The Independent Online

Two late tries from Alex Brown, the second of them two minutes from time, brought Batley their biggest prize for 86 years in the Northern Rail Cup final at Blackpool.

Widnes were on their way to retaining the trophy they won last year when they led by nine points with little more an 10 minutes to play. But then Brown, the former Huddersfield winger, struck for the first time, hitting Jonny Campbell's pass at full bore to open up the possibilities for the Bulldogs.

Gareth Moore kicked the conversion and Batley went close through Jason Walton before Moore hoisted a kick to the wing with time running out. Brown out-jumped Shaun Ainscough and one of the great old clubs of rugby league was celebrating.

Batley have no Super League application, whereas Widnes' name is already in heavy pencil for a 2012 licence, but that did not stop this final being contested with pride and passion.

Batley might not have won a major trophy since the Championship in 1924, but they began this game like seasoned cup final campaigners. Within three minutes, John Gallagher had put through a little grubber kick which forced a defensive fumble and, from the scrum, Paul Handforth launched an angled run at the line. Walton was on his hip in support and the Bulldogs were ahead.

Six minutes later, after the Widnes captain Dave Allen had gone high on Sean Hesketh, the Batley forward exacted speedy revenge by taking Kris Lythe's pass and going over.

Moore added two simple conversions and would have put his side further ahead if he had not been brought back for ball-stealing after setting sail for the Widnes tryline.

The decision to deny him that chance looked a significant turning point when Widnes scored from the penalty through Ben Davies, the highly-rated young prop on loan from Wigan.

Now it was Widnes' turn to apply pressure. Campbell was forced over his dead-ball line and, from the drop-out, Anthony Thackeray dummied his way over, a second goal from Shane Grady tying the scores.

Batley held firm in defence after that and nudged their way back in front by half-time, thanks to a drop-goal and a penalty from Moore. With the game so obviously in the balance and handling getting more difficult all the time, it was not surprising that the second half was littered with handling errors. The Widnes coach, Paul Cullen, had been absent most of the week attending to his sick wife, but he was back at the helm to see his side take sufficient advantage of Batley's mistakes to have won. The first error that counted was when Byron Smith lost the ball in a tackle and Paddy Flynn scored. Then Lythe was penalised for moving off the mark to set up Chris Gerrard's try.

Batley: Campbell; Brown, Toohey, Maun, Greenwood; Handforth, Moore; B Smith (Tootill, 17), Lythe (Govin, 26), Hesketh (Matin, 17), Walton, J Gallagher, Lindsay (T Gallagher, 33).

Widnes: Flynn; Ainscough, Gardner, Grady, Gaskell; Thackeray, Coyle; Haggerty (Davies, 11), Netherton (M Smith, 21), Gannon (Pickersgill, 21), Doran, Allen, Gerrard (Kavanagh, 27).

Referee: R Hicks (Oldham).