Fax storm back to beat Bulldogs in race for the top four

Craig Ashall celebrates his late matchwinner
Craig Ashall celebrates his late matchwinner

Halifax breathed some much-needed life into their Championship season with a pulsating 29-24 win over top four rivals Batley at the Shay.

Victory, finally secured with two tries in the last five minutes from hooker Craig Ashall and winger Wayne Reittie, lifted Fax up to third, but crucially gives them a five-point gap over the fifth-placed Bulldogs with two games to go.

In a thriller which saw the lead change hands seven times, Karl Harrison’s side had led 19-18 when captain Scott Murrell landed a 69th-minute drop goal.

But a failed touchfinder from Murrell with seven minutes to go opened the door for Batley winger Greg Johnson to touchdown, leaving the home side staring at a 24-19 deficit.

Ashall then stretched over from close-range with three minutes to go, recalled centre Steve Tyrer kicking Fax 25-24 ahead.

And then replacement full back Lee Paterson, who took over from Ryan Fieldhouse after he had collided with referee Dave Merrick, put in a grubber kick for Reittie to snatch his second try of the game against his old employers.

Earlier, Reittie had opened the scoring when he took a Fieldhouse pass to touchdown in the corner after 12 minutes, Tyrer converting and adding a penalty as Fax went 8-0 up.

But the home side’s lack of confidence, after a run of just one win in five starts, was obvious as they struggled to defend their own goal line, Batley taking a 12-8 interval lead with tries from Miles Greenwood and John Davies, both converted by Tom Hemingway.

Fax began the second period strongly, Ashall backing up a Luke Adamson break to score and Tyrer giving them the lead again at 14-12.

Johnson replied almost immediately for Batley, leaving the Bulldogs 16-14 in front, before Ben Heaton finished a storming break from Callum Casey to put Fax 18-16 up.

Batley levelled with a penalty from Gareth Moore, prompting Murrell to take his drop goal.

But that was only the start of the late drama.

Halifax: Fieldhouse; Reittie, Tyrer, Heaton, Sheriffe; Murrell, Handforth; Tonks, C. Ashall, Davies, Manning, Divorty, Adamson. Subs: Ambler, Bracek, Casey, Paterson

Batley: Greenwood; Potts, Walton, Maun, Johnson; Hemingway, Moore; Rowe, Flanagan, Mullally, Walmsley, Davies, Lindsay. Subs: Hirst, Faal, Johnson, Black

Referee: Dave Merrick