Fax steam to Northern Rail Cup triumph

Anthony Thackeray celebrates
Anthony Thackeray celebrates
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Halifax 21 Featherstone Rovers 12

Halifax have won the 2012 Northern Rail Cup after downing hot favourites Featherstone in a titanic tussle at Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road.

Karl Harrison’s side were never behind on the west coast, leading 12-6 at half time and then 15-12 in the closing stages before clinching victory with a Steve Tyrer touchdown.

Fax were superb defensively, with the back rower Dane Manning setting the tone for the team performance with a non-stop individual effort.

They made a close to ideal start, regaining possession with a short kick off and Craig Ashall, who started at hooker in place of Sean Penkywicz, forcing a drop out with a neat kick to the corner.

And when Rovers skipper Stuart Dickens turned the ball over after a clattering tackle from Jim Gannon, Harrison’s side pounced; Paul Handforth grubbering the ball almost along the goalline and Anthony Thackeray scooping the ball up for the try.

Tyrer converted, and could have made it 8-0 on 18 minutes after Rob Worrincy’s storming break from deep drew a penalty that the centre put narrowly wide from 40 metres.

Rovers, who finally managed to get their hands on the ball as Fax allowed errors to creep into an otherwise terrific performance, drew level just before the half hour when the familiar figure of Liam Finn just about got the ball down on the try line on the left.

The former Siddal junior converted his own score, but as the seconds ticked down to half time it was Fax who secured a half time lead when Sam Barlow barged through a two man tackle and galloped 10 metres to the posts.

Tyrer added the extras and Fax were 12-6 ahead at the break.

The second half began ominously, Makali Aizue losing possession and Sam Smeaton forcing his way over close to the corner flag just three minutes in.

Fortunately for Fax, Finn’s conversion drifted narrowly wide for a 12-10 scoreline.

Harrison’s side continued to press down the middle, and they survived a couple scares as Rovers enjoyed two full sets inside the 10 metre area.

Rovers finally drew level with 18 minutes to go, Finn kicking the penalty after Ashall was penalised for a high shot on Andy Kain.

But when Rovers let the kick off go dead to concede a drop out, it was Ashall who was taken high by Finn, leaving Tyrer to step up and kick his side 14-12 up with less than 20 minutes remaining.

It was nip and tuck after that, before Ashall slotted over an improvised drop goal eight minutes from the end after Penkywicz had tried and failed to win a penalty from referee Jamie Leahy.

There was a brief scare when Handforth’s chip and chase attempt gave Featherstone a set of possession on the Fax line, but the defence again stood firm.

And with a couple of minutes left on the clock, Handforth scooped up a pass off his bootlaces, span the ball wide to the left and Thackeray’s kick set up Tyrer for the matchwinner, the centre adding a touchline conversion to seal a tremendous win.