TWELVE LATE points from substitute Kyle Briggs ensured Featherstone Rovers got their Kingstone Press Championship campaign off to a flying start.
Rovers led 14-0 early on at Halifax, but went 22-16 behind in the second half before Briggs’ nerveless kicking and a freak late try sealed a 32-26 success.
Featherstone were very impressive in the first half, fell away badly in the third quarter, but showed tremendous resolve to come through at the end.
Another hero was Josh Hardcastle, the outside-back who joined Rovers from Featherstone Lions after an impressive pre-season spell as a trialist.
He was drafted into the side when Scott Turner suffered an injury in the final training session and made an instant impact, providing the pass for Luke Briscoe to open the scoring after seven minutes and then grabbing a debut try himself four minutes later.
It was round one, but there won’t be many better tries this year than Rovers’ third.
Steve Tyrer could not take Ben Johnston’s kick under pressure from Hardcastle and Briscoe picked up near his own line, weaved through the defence on a dazzling 70-metre sprint and then off-loaded to send Ash Handley over.
Hardman converted the third try, after 23 minutes, but Fax got back in the game with a stroke of fortune soon afterwards, Jacob Fairbank reacting fastest to touch down after Ben Kaye’s grubber kick on the last rebounded off a post, Tyrer adding the extras.
Hardman landed a penalty to make it 16-6, but Halifax cut the gap with the final play of the half when Rob Worrincy crossed.
Halifax must have been delighted to be only six points adrift at the break – after being on the back foot for much of the half – and they were ecstatic soon afterwards.
Rovers conceded a drop out from the kick-off and Adam Tangata cut through in the resulting set and then Scott Murrell forced his way over, Tyrer converting both to open a six-point lead.
At that stage the game was going away from Rovers, but Hardcastle’s second try restored some order and then – after Halifax’s Mitch Cahalane had been sin-binned for a high tackle on Chris Ulugia – Briggs edged them back in front with two penalty goals.
The lead changed hands again when Tyrer crossed with 14 minutes left, but Briggs levelled with another penalty and then pounced to score the winning try – which he also converted – after Anthony Thackery’s kick bounced off Frankie Mariano’s head.
Rovers coach Jon Sharp admitted the result could have gone either way, but he said: “We executed unbelievably well early on.
“We knew Halifax would have their say, but fortunately we remained composed at the very end, which was pleasing.”
Both teams will await the match review panel’s verdict on a late brawl which was placed on report by referee James Child.
Halifax: Robinson, Saltonstall, Tyrer, Heaton, Worrincy, Murrell, Johnston, Ambler, Kaye, Cahalane, Grady, Grix, Fairbank. Subs Tangata, Boyle, Barber, Mammone.
Featherstone Rovers: Hardman, Handley, Briscoe, Ulugia, Hardcastle, Thackeray, Wildie, Bostock, Carlile, Baldwinson, Davies, Mariano. Tagg. Subs Briggs, Griffin, Walters, Ormondroyd.
Referee: James Child (Batley)