By Jacob Kilbride
Halifax RLFC earned their third straight victory after a hard-fought 22-12 win over West Yorkshire rivals Bradford Bulls at the Provident Stadium.
A couple of first-half tries from James Saltonstall and Shane Grady and a score on the hour mark from Ben Johnston gave Fax a 16-0 lead after 61 minutes.
A try from Illies Macani gave the bulls some hope but a second Saltonstall try secured victory for Fax.
The Bulls managed a late consolation try from Ethan Ryan but it proved too little too late for the home side.
Victory for Fax at Odsal secured the Blues and Whites kept their place in the Kingstone Press Championship’s top four and earned Halifax a seventh victory from their last nine games.
The game’s first real chance fell to Bradford after ten minutes when Oscar Thomas’ attempted pass wide to the left to Omari Caro proved just too high for the winger.
Five minutes later, the Bulls thought they had scored the game’s first try as Joe Keyes looked to have gone to the right of the posts only for the referee to rule that the scrum-half had been held up by stern Fax defence.
Bradford continued to apply pressure on the Halifax line but centre Ethan Ryan knocked on on the line.
Halifax responded brilliantly in the next set as a high kick from Scott Murrell into the right corner was caught by Ben Heaton before offloading to Saltonstall who touched down for his eighth try of the season.
Steve Tyrer failed to add the extra two points as he kicked the ball well wide of the posts from a difficult conversion on the right touchline.
Ten minutes later, Halifax doubled their lead after Jonny Campbell was sent to the sin-bin for a push on Johnston, Fax were able to capitalise from the next set as Grady crossed over to the left of the posts.
Tyrer made up for his earlier miss as he comfortably slotted over the conversion to put Fax 10-0 up.
Bradford reacted well to Fax’s second try as they dominated the remaining ten minutes of the half.
But numerous knock ons from the Bulls denied the home side their first try as Leon Pryce and Campbell were culprits with errors late in the half.
Bradford proved the quickest at the restart and they had the half’s first chance as Joe Keyes’ stunning kick found James Bentley who looked set to score, but the forward knocked on on the try line.
The Bulls continued to look like the most dangerous side and, in the 52nd minute, Bradford were given a huge boost as hooker Brandon Moore was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle.
From the next set, Bradford twice went close as Ross Oakes was stopped just short of the line before Caro was held up by several Fax defenders.
After Will Sharp kicked a drop goal wide, Fax did eventually manage to put more points on the board on the hour mark as a beautiful reversed chipped kick from Murrell found the on-rushing Johnston who touched down under no pressure through the sticks.
Tyrer converted his 40th goal of 2017 to put Fax 16-0 ahead.
Bradford kept the contest alive; however, as just three minutes later, Macani latched onto Keyes’ pass to the corner to cross down the right flank.
Thomas converted from the sideline to reduce the deficit to just ten points.
But, the momentum swung back in Halifax’s favour after Murrell’s kick off was misread by Bradford as it bounced dead in-goal.
From the next set, Murrell sent a high kick out to the right and Ed Barber then flicked to ball back to Saltonstall who touched down for his second try of the match.
Tyrer was unable to convert but quickly added a penalty goal soon after to take Fax into a 22-6 lead.
The bulls finished the stronger as Ethan Ryan followed up his own kick to score his ninth of the season.
Thomas converted but Fax had already succeeded in holding on to claim the two points and a third straight win.