By Daniel Senior
Halifax RLFC recorded a first home league victory over Featherstone Rovers in ten years, winning 34-20 and moving into third place in the Betfred Championship.
The home side held a 16-8 lead at the break, with two tries from Will Sharp and an outrageous score from Ben Johnston ruling out Misi Taulapapa’s effort.
Further tries from Adam Tangata, Ben Kaye and Kieren Moss ensured Halifax overtook the Rovers in the league standings, putting themselves in a strong position with just three games of the regular season remaining.
Fax, who last lost 36-30 against Leigh Centurions at the beginning of June, have now recorded four successive victories, with fixtures against London Broncos, Toulouse Olympique and Rochdale Hornets to come in a crucial run-in period.
On a scorching afternoon at the MBi Shay Stadium, both teams traded error-free sets of six early in the piece, with neither wishing to give an inch to their opponents.
Featherstone enjoyed the better of the early exchanges, marginally gaining more metres in the tackle, but Fax opened the scoring with an impressive acrobatic effort from Sharp.
Chester Butler had broken the line well in the build-up, but it was quick hands from Simon Grix and James Woodburn-Hall that set up the winger in the corner.
Steve Tyrer converted from a tight angle on the touchline.
The visitors responded well, though, with a try of their own ten minutes later, Misi Taulapapa crossing unopposed after quick hands from the Rovers’ attacking line created space on the outside of James Saltonstall.
Ian Hardman, like Tyrer, made no mistake from the kicking tee to level the scores.
Halifax, however, soon regained control and dominated the remainder of the first forty, despite a penalty from Ian Hardman gaining another two points for the visitors.
First, Halifax made the most of a Featherstone knock-on, as Scott Murrell’s long, looped pass found the vacant Sharp on the wing, who crossed under no pressure to complete a brace.
Tyrer failed to convert on this occasion from an acute angle.
Shortly after, those in attendance witnessed a piece of magic from Ben Johnston and James Saltonstall as Fax registered a third in the first-half.
Johnston, on the last tackle, opted to use the short side and threaded a speculative kick through the retreating Featherstone defence, which was brilliantly claimed by the oncoming Saltonstall, who then offloaded back to Fax’s scrum-half.
Tyrer made no mistake this time, and extended Halifax’s lead to 16-8 at half-time.
Despite a free-flowing, entertaining first-half, the action was much grittier when the action restarted as tempers flared.
Both teams had men sent to the sin bin, with Johnston and Jack Ormondroyd penalised respectively for their parts in a scuffle just five minutes into the half.
Fax coped the better of the two sides, however, and capitalised on Ormondroyd’s absence, Adam Tangata crossing under the sticks to extend the lead.
Again, Tyrer converted from in front, Halifax 22-8 ahead.
Ten more ill-tempered minutes passed and, after a couple of sloppy plays, Josh Hardcastle crossed for the visitors, collecting Anthony Thackeray’s well-timed short ball to break the line.
Hardman converted once more to bring his side back into contention.
Halifax made sure that wouldn’t happen, however, with two back-to-back scores to put the game to bed.
Ben Kaye somehow muscled his way over from dummy-half under pressure from several Rovers defenders, before Kieren Moss chased and touched down a clever Murrell grubber.
Tyrer kicked his fourth and fifth conversions of the afternoon to put the hosts out of sight, although there was a slight blemish as Jacob Fairbank and Will Sharp were both sinbinned for separate incidents after Kaye’s effort.
Gareth Hock also saw yellow for Featherstone.
Shaun Robinson notched a consolation try just seconds before the hooter sounded, which was converted by Hardman, but Halifax had done enough, and held on to record a hard-fought, well-earned victory.
Halifax RLFC: Moss; Saltonstall, Tyrer, Woodburn-Hall, Sharp; Murrell, Johnston; Tangata, Kaye, Maher; Butler, Grady, Grix.
Interchanges: Fleming, Moore, Fairbank, Barber.
Tries: Sharp (9’, 25’), Johnston (30’), Tangata (53’), Kaye (67’), Moss (76’)
Goals: Tyrer (5/6)
Featherstone Rovers: Hardman; Briscoe, Taulapapa, Walton, Robinson; Thackeray, Wildie; Wheeldon, Carlile, Cooper; Ormondroyd, Davies, Hock.
Interchanges: Hardcastle, Knowles, Brooks, Dwyer.
Tries: Taulapapa (19’), Hardcastle (61’), Robinson (80’)
Goals: Hardman (4/4)
Man of the Match: Scott Murrell