Halifax opened their 2013 campaign with the grittiest of home wins against Mark Aston’s Grand Final-winning Sheffield Eagles.
Karl Harrison’s side edged home 18-10, with newly installed captain and loose forward Scott Murrell masterminding a patient, resilient performance on a gluepot of a pitch.
Harrison’s forwards were in top form, with Wales international Andy Bracek setting the pace against the team that had dumped Fax out of the play offs last September.
Fax led 16-10 at the break, and were the better side for most of the game, but had to wait until the final 10 minutes to clinch victory with a coolly taken Paul Handforth penalty.
The home side had wobbled in the early minutes, the ever-threatening Menzie Yere breaking down the Fax right and the back rower Michael Knowles pouncing on a kick from stand off Pat Walker.
Walker missed the conversion to leave the Eagles leading 4-0, but Fax were in front five minutes later when Ross Divorty stormed over on the left after the visiting defence failed to deal with Anthony Thackeray’s bomb.
Handforth, a constant threat throughout the first half, landed the conversion and then added a try of his own, taking a ricocheting pass and slipping over near the corner flag as Fax opened up a 10-4 advantage.
The elusive Misi Taulapapa levelled for Sheffield on quarter time, and the rest of the half looked like being a closely fought stalemate until Ryan Fieldhouse pounced on a great chip kick from skipper Murrell to score under the posts four minutes before the break.
Handforth converted for 16-10 and Fax led the champions at half time.
The second half began badly, young prop Ian Davies joining the injured Adam Robinson in the dugout and apparently unable to continue.
Fax had a chance to extend their lead on 55 minutes, but Handforth’s penalty attempt drifted wide of the left hand upright.
Sheffield then made one of the few clean breaks of the game, Yere charging clear again but his inside ball ending up on the sodden turf.
The Eagles had a Dominic Brambani try ruled out for a very obvious obstruction with 15 minutes to go, but the crucial moment came nine minutes from the end when Handforth kicked the winning penalty.
Halifax: Fieldhouse; Worrincy, Paterson, Heaton, Sheriffe; Handforth, Thackeray; Ambler, C. Ashall, Bracek, Robinson, Divorty, Murrell. Subs: Tonks, K. Ashall, Davies, Casey
Sheffield: Laulu-Togagae; Morrison, Yere, Armstrong, Taulapapa; Walker, Brambani; Howieson, Henderson, Stringer, Knowles, Green, Szostak. Subs: Davey, Roche, Straugheir, Higgins
Referee: George Stokes