Whitehaven 6 Halifax 60
HALIFAX stormed into the quarter finals of the Northern Rail Cup with a ruthlessly clinical performance on the Cumbrian coast.
Matt Calland’s side, showing seven changes from the side that flopped in Toulouse on Saturday night, looked far, far sharper than they had in France and, indeed, in the early stages of this fixture a fortnight ago before the powercut intervened.
The players who came into the side after Calland’s training ground cull on Monday evening all justified their inclusion, with BARLA Test captain Ryan Fieldhouse looking razor sharp at full back.
On a boggy playing surface, Fax stood firm early on, and even fell behind to Scott McAvoy’s early try, before hitting their hosts with a five-try second quarter blitz.
In the bad old days, when Fax could not buy a win at the Recre, even a 30-6 half time lead would not have been considered decisive.
But Haven, for all their spirit, lack the matchwinners they used to have, rendering the second period largely academic as Fax piled on the pain and the points.
Whitehaven made a handful of changes to the side that had kicked off the aborted fixture a fortnight ago, presumably with an eye on this weekend’s Championship One date in South Wales.
But with McAvoy coming in at centre and most of the old faces in the 17 somewhere, the home side still had a solid look about it.
Fax made the first inroads, the excellent Jon Goddard – making his first appearance since snapping his Achilles tendon in August – making a half break down the right.
Haven responded in kind, Paul White policing a dangerous kick over the dead ball line at the other end.
The home side took the lead on the quarter hour, referee Warren Turley waving play on after Haven spilled the ball in the middle and Carl Rudd spreading it to the left where McAvoy, always a big talent, beat three defenders to score.
Lewis Palfrey kicked the conversion, but Fax were on terms within a minute, Haven turning the ball over in a good position and the visitors going from right to left where Fieldhouse slipped out a nice offload to Joe Chandler, who put White over in the corner.
Danny Jones kicked the goal off the sideline and was lining up a second successful attempt inside two minutes when Sean Penkywicz’s sharp pass and Lee Paterson’s run and kick set up Rob Worrincy’s 23rd-minute try.
Fax stretched their advantage on the half hour, Frank Watene charging to within an inch of the whitewash and Black slipping an inside ball for Fieldhouse to score by the posts, Jones kicking the conversion for 18-6.
They promptly doubled up again, Fieldhouse racing clear down the middle, Jones taking the ball towards the line and White cutting inside for his second try of the night.
Jones kicked the visitors 24-6 ahead with a little over half an hour gone as Haven struggled to cope with their pace in midfield.
Haven did their best to respond, forcing a drop out from which Craig Calvert went perilously close to scoring.
But a calamitous error by full back Shane Ackerley, who dropped Black’s kick in front of his own posts, got Fax back on the front foot and Black sent Chandler stretching over on the left.
Jones made it 30-6 on the stroke of half time and the visitors left the field with one foot – possibly even one and a bit – already in the quarter finals.
Fax had a chance to stretch their lead within a minute of the restart, but Black was held up over the line with support unmarked outside him.
The pressure built though as referee Warren Turley infuriated the home crowd with a series of contentious calls before a knock on on the left let Haven off the hook.
The try Fax had threatened finally arrived in the 51st minute, Black racing 40 metres to score from Bob Beswick’s short pass, Jones adding the extras.
They should have scored again when Aizue’s burst freed Black, but Fieldhouse could not take the scoring pass.
The drought didn’t last long, Worrincy rounding off nice work from Paterson and Jones to score as the game entered the final quarter, Jones kicking Fax out to 42-6.
Penkywicz then nipped over from close range after Cherryholme and Gannon had been held virtually on the whitewash, Jones inevitably kicking the goal.
Jim Gannon had a try chalked off as Mr Turley became more and more eccentric, but the half century duly arrived when Chandler ploughed over on the right from Jones’ pass.
Penkywicz’s second try then made it 60, rounding off an impressive evening’s work.