Good signs as Fax warm up for Northern Rail Cup final

Tony Tonks
Tony Tonks

Hunslet 22 Halifax 52

Halifax limbered up for next weekend’s Northern Rail Cup final with a systematic dismantling of struggling Hunslet at the South Leeds Stadium.

Victory, which would have put Karl Harrison’s side back on top of the Co-operative Championship if leaders Featherstone had not hung on for a 31-28 win over Batley, was more emphatic than the scoreline suggests, with the Hawks scoring the last two tries of the game to give them a veneer of respectability.

The visitors, who will face Featherstone next week as underdogs after their opponents’ recent run of white-hot form, played with control throughout and, those late lapses aside, showed signs of the defensive bite they will need at Bloomfield Road.

Fax went into the game without full back Ryan Fieldhouse, winger Rob Worrincy and prop Jim Gannon, who were all rested, with Paul White, James Haley and Makali Aizue all coming into the side.

The visitors were on song virtually from the start; virtually because the first points of the game were scored by the Hawks, prop Ryan Benjafield rumbling over after a couple of minutes.

That was a solitary blot on the first half landscape though as Karl Harrison’s side found intensity in defence and a clinical touch with the ball.

White scored the first of Fax’s six tries on six minutes, dodging over from Sean Penkywicz’s flat pass.

Steve Tyrer kicked the first of his five first half conversions and added a second when Tony Tonks rampaged through for his first try for the club just before the quarter hour.

There was a brief lull as the visitors concentrated on laying some foundations in midfield, but the floodgates burst around the half hour, with four tries in nine minutes as Hunslet’s legs finally gave up.

Penkywicz, Anthony Thackeray, Sam Barlow and White all piled over, leaving Harrison’s side in a commanding position at half time.

Hunslet survived all of three minutes of the second half before Thackeray danced through the line for his second of the afternoon, Lee Paterson taking over the kicking duties from Tyrer, who had been replaced by Anthony Bowman at the break.

At 6-40, Hunslet rallied briefly, forcing a drop out and a sensational goalline stop on half back Ben Karalius, who finally wriggled over the line a couple of minutes later from a David March offload.

March kicked the conversion for 12-40, but Thackeray was soon completing his hat trick, darting over at the other end after a beautiful lofted pass from White.

And inside the last 10 minutes Thackeray returned the favour, combining with Craig Ashall to put White over for his third, with Paterson taking Fax past the 50-point barrier.

If Fax’s collective minds drifted towards Blackpool at that point it was understandable and Hunslet took advantage, David March and Luke Haigh scoring in short order to take some gloss of what had been a pretty clinical afternoon’s work.

Hunslet: Stuart Kain; Lee Mapals, Josh Nathaniel, Liam Welham, Lee Brickwood; Luke Helliwell, Ben Karalius; Andy Yates, Luke Haigh, Ryan Benjafield, David Clayton, John Oakes, David March. Subs: Joe McLocklan, Elliott Hodgson, David Tootill, Luke Menzies

Halifax: Paul White; Lee Paterson, Steve Tyrer, James Haley, Wayne Reittie; Paul Handforth, Anthony Thackeray; Tony Tonks, Sean Penkywicz, Sean Hesketh, Dane Manning, Adam Robinson, Craig Ashall. Subs: Anthony Bowman, Callum Casey, Sam Barlow, Makali Aizue

Referee: Dave Merrick