Fax outstanding in defence to claim victory at Batley

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Halifax ended Batley’s winning start to the season with a heroically determined 6-2 win at Mount Pleasant.

In appalling conditions, Richard Marshall’s side only led by the same score at the break, with a 40 minute slog up the old ground’s famous slope to come.

But an outstanding defensive shut out, coupled with some raking tactical kicks from captain Scott Murrell, slowly ground down the resistance of a Bulldogs outfit who had started the day at the top of the table.

With torrential rain being driven across Mount Pleasant by a westerly gale, the opening minutes were predictably conservative.

Fax, playing down the slope, should have taken the lead when Murrell’s kick was spilled by James Craven and Steve Tyrer looked a certain scorer only to trip over Johnny Campbell’s trailing leg.

Opportunities were few and far between for either side, with Luke Ambler’s pass to Andy Bracek, which the loose forward just let slip from his grasp with the defence beaten, was one of the better ones.

But as the half hour approached, Fax became increasingly error prone, with Jacob Fairbank and Tommy Saxton both losing the ball in positions that created close calls for Wayne Reittie on one wing and Campbell on the other.

Eventually, Fax’s generosity told; Campbell’s ‘try’ being chalked off for a forward pass but play being taken back for an offence in back play and Scott Leatherbarrow kicking Batley into a 2-0 lead.

Fax needed a swift response and they got it; Adam Robinson stole the ball from Keegan Hirst straight from the restart, Adam Tangata was taken high and Matt Place cut back against the play, running through a huge hole to score his first try for the club.

Tyrer kicked the conversion for 6-2, but that looked a difficult tally to defend coming up the hill in the second half.

What followed was outstanding from Fax, at least in defence, with a mix of intelligence and muddy-splattered brutality denying the home side even the sniff of a genuine scoring opportunity.

The line breaks that did come came from the visitors, with Richard Moore’s late charge setting up the position for a last-play penalty.

Tyrer’s kick drifted wide, but with the hooter sounding it hardly mattered.

Batley: Craven; Reittie, Faal, Squires, Campbell; Southernwood, Leatherbarrow; Rowe, Leak, Lillycrop, Bretherton, Mitchell, Chandler. Subs: Nicholson, Blake, Hirst, Brown

Halifax: Greenwood; Saxton, Taylor, Tyrer, Saltonstall; Place, Murrell; Cahalane, Kaye, Ambler, Robinson, Manning, Bracek. Subs: Tangata, Moore, Maneely, Fairbank

Referee: Joe Cobb