HALIFAX made it two-from-two in the Co-operative Championship as captain Sean Penkywicz’s point-blank, last-play try clinched a hard-earned three points for Karl Harrison’s side.
Penkywicz struck to break an 18-18 deadlock and end the hopes of a Knights side who must have thought they had done enough to secure a share of the spoils.
For Harrison’s visitors, a draw would have been the very least they deserved after dominating for significant periods of time – and making a handful of line breaks – without being clinical enough to finish the game as a contest considerably earlier than they did.
In a sign of things to come, Fax had made the first half chance inside the opening few minutes, Penkywicz darting and then kicking down the left, where the returning Craig Ashall got to the ball first but was unable to get a pass away.
Former Knights winger Wayne Reittie, who was outstanding from start to finish, then went close in the right corner a few seconds later, but the home defence clung on.
The visitors continued to turn the screw with the ball, back rower Adam Robinson consistently making metres down the Fax left, and they finally made it count when Paul Handforth stabbed a kick towards the in-goal, the Knights defence dawdled and Ben Heaton nipped in for the opening try.
Lee Paterson, kicking in place of the injured Steve Tyrer, slotted over the conversion for a 6-0 lead that became 12-0 within two minutes when Anthony Thackeray and Dane Manning sent Heaton powering in for his second score.
Fax were looking supremely comfortable at that point, and it was difficult to explain why Manning was called back after scooping up a loose ball just inside his own half, but they couldn’t add to their tally as the half hour approached.
Instead, and very much against the run of play, it was York who scored next when prop Chris Green twisted over by the side of the posts on a rare visit to the Fax line.
Robinson and Paterson combined brilliantly as half time loomed, but Paul White was wrapped up in a desperate tackle from the former Leeds and Sydney Roosters player Jordan Tansey, who was named at half back but played at full back.
And just before the break, the Knights got a piece of good fortune, Chris Thorman’s kick into the in goal being fielded – and then inexplicably left behind – by Fax substitute Luke Ambler and York hooker Jack Lee pounced for the try.
Thorman kicked the conversion to level at 12-12, but the visitors’ response was reassuringly instant: regaining the ball from the kick off and Thackeray sending Manning through on the right with a perfect short pass.
Paterson kicked Fax 18-12 ahead with the last play of the half, and the visitors were on the front foot from the second half restart, with Penkywicz’s kick and chase forcing Tansey back into in his own in goal.
Thorman’s dab through forced Reittie into the same situation at the other end as a war of attrition developed, both sides focusing on holding the ball and trying to gain field position on the first warm afternoon of the season so far.
Paterson did well to claim another Thorman kick on his own line, leaping high to take the ball at the expense of the drop out.
The pattern continued, Fax winning a repeat set from Handforth’s kick through, but the chance was wasted when Ashall’s pass for Handforth bobbled along the ground and into the hands of Lee.
A fumble from Sean Hesketh put Fax under unneccesary pressure at the other end, which was compounded when Heaton went high on the dangerous James Ford, although he saved what looked like an inevitable try in the process.
Fax survived, Handforth coming up with a ball and all try saver on the left, and when Ashall’s quick tap with 13 minutes to go put White into half a gap, it took a desperate ankle tap to prevent a certain long-range touchdown.
Ryan Fieldhouse was then just denied from close range, but Fax could not find the score they needed to kill the contest.
They had a gilt edged opportunity when Ashall stormed clear and found Manning in support, but the back rower’s pass went loose on the floor.
Fieldhouse stopped Thorman one-on-one at the other end as the gaps started to appear in both defences, before winger Tom Bush had Fieldhouse on red alert again, the Fax number one being forced to take the ball dead in goal.
That proved a bridge too far for the visitors; Alex Benson twisting over after finding himself one-on-one with young substitute Anthony Bowman by the posts.
Thorman levelled at 18-18, prompting Handforth to try a drop goal at the other end which skidded harmlessly under the posts.
With the seconds ticking down to the hooter, Fax carved one last chance, Bowman storming clear from half way to put the visitors back on the attack.
And when it really mattered, they made it pay, Handforth driving to within inches of the whitewash and Penkywicz doing the rest in trademark fashion.
Sheffield are top of the Co-operative Championship after two games following a thumping 40-22 win at Hunslet.
Mark Aston’s side ran in seven tries, with Nev Morrison and Andrew Henderson scoring twice and Quentin Laulu-Togagae, Liam Higgins and Menzie Yere all getting one each.
Gareth Davies went in twice for the Hawks, with Josh Nathaniel and Danny Allen also crossing.
Dewsbury also won their second game from two, securing a 34-16 success at Swinton.
Patrick Walker kicked 14 points, while Steve Crossley, Craig Cook, Ayden Faals, George Flanagan and Matt Nicholson all picked up four-pointers.
Swinton’s tries went to Adam Higson, Alex Hurst and Martin Ainscough.
Keighley ensured there was a clean sweep of away wins as they triumphed 10-8 at Batley.
Jy-Mel Coleman and James Haythornwaite both touched down for the Cougars, who are new to the division under player-coach Jason Demetriou.
Gareth Moore scored all eight of the Bulldogs’ points.
Wigan Warriors came from behind to get back to winning ways and claim a hard-fought 42-30 victory against London Broncos.
Warrington bounced back from their first defeat of the season at Leeds to maintain their unbeaten home record by beating gritty Wakefield 32-30.
The Wildcats turned in a battling performance and would have gone away with a draw had Isaac John been able to convert Vince Mellars’ try six minutes from time.
Richard Agar’s men were ahead until the hour and led 26-22 before Halifax junior Simon Grix’s converted try fired Warrington in front.
A four-try man-of-the-match performance by former Fax forward Danny Tickle helped Hull to a crushing 58-10 win over new boys Widnes at the KC Stadium.
Hull’s biggest win of the season reinforced their play-off credentials and sent a message to the top four they may have extra competition this year in the form of Peter Gentle’s side.
St Helens’ early-season crisis deepened when a 12-8 defeat at improving Bradford on Saturday consigned them to their worst league run for 23 years.