By Alex Robinson
Two tries in the final five minutes saw Halifax RLFC come from behind to earn a narrow 18-12 victory over a gutsy Swinton Lions.
Swinton scored the opening tries in both halves, but Fax responded through tries from Chester Butler, Conor McGrath, and a double from Steve Tyrer to keep themselves within just two points of the top four.
With four games in the last eight days at the MBi Shay, the pitch made the game a tricky contest and Swinton were the quickest to adapt to the conditions.
A clever grubber kick through from Jack Hansen bounced kindly for Andrew Thornley who made no mistake to score underneath the posts, as Christopher Hankinson converted.
Halifax looked to respond quickly when Ben Johnston’s blindside pass went underneath Michael Butt’s leg but James Saltonstall couldn’t make his way over the whitewash in the corner.
More good work from Johnston followed as he spotted a gap and kicked through, somehow reclaiming it, then switching the play before some strong Swinton defence stopped McGrath in his tracks in the right corner.
In the next set, Halifax made the pressure count as Scott Murrell’s short ball found Butler to score Fax’s first try of the afternoon. Tyrer dragged his conversion wide of the posts.
Halifax fought to lead at the break when another grubber kick from Murrell bounced fortunately for Grix who he was unable to collect the ball near the try line, meaning Swinton led 6-4 at half-time.
Shortly after the restart, a brilliant break from Butler saw Fax just ten metres away from the line. Murrell showed the dummy and went over but was deemed to have knocked on in the process.
Swinton rode the early pressure and added to their lead ten minutes into the second period.
After Fax conceded a penalty for a high shot, the Lions opted to take the two points which Hankinson duly converted.
A brilliant Hankinson run sliced a hole through the Fax defence as the centre beat several defenders Fax before stopped 20 metres away from the line. Swinton then spread the play fast from right to left and Marcus Webb scored in the corner. Hankinson was unable to convert from a tough wide angle.
After a high shot on Sion Jones, Halifax found themselves with a golden chance to score. Johnston and Dan Fleming went close but good cover defence from Swinton kept them out.
Murrell’s high ball across the field was caught fantastically by Tyrer who spun and grounded the ball to reduce the deficit to two points after consequently converting his own try.
A carbon copy kick from Murrell soon following but Tyrer was unable to produce the same result.
On the opposite flank, McGrath went close once again after good play from Fax but with the try line begging the winger agonisingly knocked on.
A rare mistake from Swinton saw Halifax capitalise to take the lead late on.
With five minutes remaining, Murrell was quick to pounce and beat several defenders before sending McGrath away who acrobatically scored in the corner to put Halifax into the lead for the first time. Tyrer missed the conversion from out wide.
Three minutes were left, when Fax went for the killer try. Several pairs of hands across the field found Johnston, with space to work in, a good pass found Tyrer in acres of space to score his second of the afternoon. Tyrer missed the kick, which set the game up for a tense finale.
Swinton just one score behind in the game, went for the short kick off, Tyrer caught it but was unable to keep the ball. Hansen put a delicate kick through, but Fax escaped resulting in a goal-line drop-out. With one last chance, Swinton marched upfield and won a penalty. The following set and the first tackle they knocked on to the jubilation of Murrell and the Fax fans.
Halifax travel to Tetley’s Stadium to face Dewsbury Rams on Sunday in the rearranged fixture after the postponement of the game scheduled for Easter Monday.
Halifax RLFC: Sharp, McGrath, Tyrer, Butler, Saltonstall; Murrell, Johnston; Douglas, Kaye, Maher; Grix, Grady, Jacob Fairbank
Interchange: Moore, Jones, Fleming, Green
Tries: Butler (28), Tyrer (60, 77), McGrath (75)
Goals: Tyrer (1/4)
Swinton Lions: Fell, Webb, Hankinson, Lloyd, Butt; Billsborough, J Hansen; Bracek, Waterworth, Bennion; Thornley, Nicholson, Nzoungou
Interchange: H Hansen, Austin, Shelford, Hall
Tries: Thornley (4), Webb (51)
Referee: M. Rossleigh
Man of The Match: Will Sharp
Hit Man Award: Chester Butler