By Stephen Ibbetson | Photo by Simon Hall (OMH Photos)
Simon Grix’s first game as Halifax's permanent head coach ended in defeat at the hands of Batley Bulldogs at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium.
The sides went into the break level but Batley enjoyed a strong second half down the infamous slope to take the two Betfred Championship points.
Halifax made four changes from the Summer Bash win over Bradford, including a second debut for Adam Tangata – making his 100th career appearance - and a first game for Jon Luke Kirby on loan from Huddersfield Giants.
Fax started well with Scott Murrell kicks causing early problems, but it was the Bulldogs who scored the opening try of the game when Louis Jouffret’s kick was claimed by Keenen Tomlinson and grounded, with Jouffret adding the extras.
Batley were well up for the clash and Alistair Leak was held up over the line by the Halifax defence as they searched for further points.
The run of play was changed when Murrell produced a superb 40/20 kick to put his side in attack, from which Scott Grix sent a looping pass over to Will Sharp in space to score in the right corner. Steve Tyrer impressively added the conversion from the touchline.
Jouffret missed a penalty goal in front of the posts on the half-hour mark in windy conditions, while Johnny Campbell had a score ruled out for a forward pass in the build-up as the two sides went into the break level.
Batley headed down the slope in the second half, and took full advantage as they retook the lead when Reiss Butterworth, Dane Manning and Dom Brambani combined to send Lewis Galbraith through a gap, with Jouffret adding the extras.
Fax were in further trouble when an error gave the ball back to the Bulldogs and Butterworth kicked ahead, with Tomlinson in space to pick up and score his second try of the afternoon to make it 16-6.
Sam Wood knocked-on from the restart to put Halifax in a strong position, but they couldn’t find a way past the Bulldogs defence with Curtis Davies looking to sneak through on the last but denied by a superb Lewis Bienek tackle.
Batley knocked-on again a few moments later and this time the visitors did go over, with Grix scoring the first try since his return to Fax and Tyrer converting to narrow the gap to four.
However, the next points went the way of Batley as Adam Gledhill crashed through under the posts, and Jouffret’s kick made it 22-12.
Jouffret made a great contribution in defence to deny Sharp as he set off on a break after intercepting a pass close to his own line, before the Frenchman knocked over a penalty with five minutes to go.
Two converted tries would be required but Fax didn’t give up, with Grix again sending a long pass over to Sharp to score his second try of the game. However, Tyrer couldn’t land the conversion from the touchline and Batley held on for the win.
Batley Bulldogs: Scott; Tomlinson, Galbraith, Wood, Campbell; Jouffret, Brambani; Gledhill, Leak, Everett; Manning, Bretherton, Brown.
Interchanges: Ward, Taira, Butterworth, Bienek.
Tries: Tomlinson (9’, 55’), Galbraith (46’), Gledhill (64’)
Goals: Jouffret (4/6)
Halifax RLFC: Grix; Sharp, Tyrer, Butler, Robinson; Murrell, White; Fleming, Moore, Tangata; Larroyer, Cooper, Connor Davies.
Interchanges: Curtis Davies, Fairbank, Kirby, Morris.
Tries: Sharp (24’, 77’), Grix (60’)
Goals: Tyrer (2/3)