By Stephen Ibbetson
Halifax RLFC moved into third place in the Betfred Championship table with a hard fought 32-18 win against Batley Bulldogs at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium.
Fax scored three tries in the opening 13 minutes to put themselves on course for victory, and despite some second-half resistance from the Bulldogs, were largely in control of the game throughout.
Halifax got off to a very positive start going down the slope in the first half and were nearly in after just four minutes, with a last-ditch tackle required to keep Steve Tyrer out after a break from James Woodburn-Hall.
They got on the board two minutes after that though, as Chester Butler celebrated yesterday’s contract extension by breaking through the Batley defence with a great line from Scott Murrell’s pass. Tyrer put the conversion wide but Fax led 4-0.
That was extended soon after, as Ben Johnston weaved past the weak home defence to score under the posts, with Tyrer this time adding the extras.
Just two minutes later, Fax had another try as Batley were heavily punished for a sluggish start. Jason Crookes’ handling error in the in goal area conceded the drop out and from that James Woodburn-Hall sent a great long pass over to James Saltonstall to dive in at the left corner. Tyrer added the tricky conversion to make it 16-0 to the visitors.
Batley began to settle into the game after that, but Fax still had chances and were twice pulled back when in the clear.
First, Saltonstall sprinted down the left, but his pass inside to Johnston was forward with the half-back in the clear. Then, after Shane Grady was held up, Will Maher looked to have scored when he went through a gap but the referee spotted an obstruction.
Fax did eventually get their fourth try though and it was handed to them on a plate, as Lewis Galbraith’s attempted offload went straight into the arms of Ben Heaton on halfway and he sprinted clear to score, with Tyrer again adding the two.
The game then became a feisty affair with two Batley challenges being put on report in quick succession.
It looked like the home side would go into the break scoreless but Fax conceded after the hooter with Joel Farrell crashing over from close range, and Pat Walker’s conversion sent the sides into the sheds at 22-6 in favour of the visitors.
With the infamous slope to their advantage, Batley came out in the second half with vigour. Back-to-back penalties gave them great field position, but they couldn’t take advantage as Fax’s try-line defence held firm under pressure.
The Bulldog did claim the first points of the second period though, going over on the back of a drop out with Pat Walker’s pass releasing Joel Farrell for his second try.
Halifax soon opened the gap back to 18 points with a converted try of their own. Chester Butler made great progress with the ball after being released by Ed Barber, and he managed to get a great offload away to send Heaton clear for his second score.
However Batley wouldn’t go away, and they got their third try as James Harrison beat Saltonstall to a high bomb to score and Walker further reduced the arrears.
Steve Tyrer looked to have scored for Halifax when he forced his way to the line on the back of a drop out, but the referee ruled that there had been a knock on and his effort was ruled out.
He did have his try six minutes from time though, with a determined drive to the line after receiving the pass from Woodburn-Hall, to seal the win for Fax.
The result takes them into the top four in the Betfred Championship table, above both London Broncos and Featherstone Rovers, and just a point behind Toulouse in second.
Batley Bulldogs: I Farrell; Scott, Smeaton, Galbraith, Crookes; Walker, Sowerby; Glehill, Leak, Holland; Harrison, J Farrell, Day.
Interchanges: Ward, Bretherton, Rowe, Butterworth.
Tries: J Farrell (40’, 48’), Harrison (57’)
Goals: Walker (3/3)
Halifax RLFC: Woodburn-Hall; Saltonstall, Tyrer, Barber, Heaton; Murrell, Johnston; Fleming, Kaye, E Morris; Butler, Grady, Jacob Fairbank.
Interchanges: Tangata, Moore, Maher, Green.
Tries: Butler (6’), Johnston (11’), Saltonstall (13’), Heaton (29’, 53’), Tyrer (74’)
Goals: Tyrer (4/6)
Man of the Match: Chester Butler