Halifax’s rollercoaster push for a top-four Championship finish will go down to the final weekend after a dramatic afternoon of rugby league.
Richard Marshall’s injury-hit side conjured a season’s-best performance to win 28-8 in a crucial contest at Featherstone, only to see rivals Toulouse clinch an unlikely 31-30 win at leaders Hull KR.
The French side host Featherstone next Saturday night, with a home win – and a superior points difference – meaning Fax would need to take a point off KR at the Shay on Sunday to seal a place in the Super 8s Qualifiers.
Fax made a near-flawless start, making metres, kicking well and opening the scoring after eight minutes with a scoot from dummy-half from the excellent Brandon Moore.
The young Cumbrian hooker, who has been one of his side’s form players over the last three weeks, exploded through a gap with barely a hand laid on him.
Steve Tyrer kicked the conversion for a 6-0 lead and that doubled on 16 minutes when a surging run from Ben Heaton got the defence back pedalling, Moore darted out again and picked up Mitch Cahalane with a short ball, the big Australian twisting over from a metre out.
Tyrer was on target again to put Fax 12-0 up after 16 minutes, a lead that last all of five minutes before a huge pass from Anthony Thackeray gave the superb Misi Taulapapa the space to get outside the defence to score.
Young full-back Kyran Johnson put the kick wide and the second quarter settled down into a classic arm wrestle until Thackeray hit Scott Murrell high 40 metres out and Tyrer stepped up to stretch Fax’s lead to 14-4. It stayed that way until two minutes before the break, when Michael Sio sneaked out of dummy-half, found a lazy defender and made enough of a nuisance of himself to draw a penalty, which Tyrer kicked to put Fax 16-4 up at the break.
Rovers emerged predictably energised for the second half, but a couple of close calls aside, this was a game Fax never really looked like losing control of.
And when Heaton finished spectacularly in the corner after a super pass from Ed Barber, even with Tyrer’s missed conversion Fax led 20-4.
From then on, they turned the screw clinically, Tyrer adding another penalty before a loose pass was scooped up by Ben Johnston, who sent Rob Worrincy on an 80 metre dash to the line.
Tyrer added the conversion before Rovers had the last word with a Frankie Mariano try.
Featherstone: Johnson; Taulapapa, Ulugia, Hardcastle, Briscoe; Thackeray, Wildie; Bostock, Carlile, Griffin, Davies, Mariano, Ormondroyd. Subs: Walton, Lockwood, Moore, Baldwinson
Halifax: Sharp; Heaton, Tyrer, Barber, Worrincy; Murrell, Johnston; Douglas, Moore, Boyle, Grady, Cahalane, Grix. Subs: Morris, Sio, Mammone, Kaye
Referee: L. Moore