Halifax 20 Featherstone 32: Pay back time and Fax suffer

Fax v Featherstone Rovers at The Shay Stadium
Fax v Featherstone Rovers at The Shay Stadium

THIS time there was no glorious comeback. At least not from Halifax.

Six months on from Ben Black’s sweetly struck drop goal at Warrington that won Fax the 2010 Co-operative Championship Grand Final, Featherstone demonstrated comprehensively that they are potentially every bit as dangerous and dominant this year as last.

Fax v Featherstone Rovers at The Shay Stadium

Fax v Featherstone Rovers at The Shay Stadium

The visitors trailed 20-12 at the break at the Shay, two blistering finishes from Paul White just before half time giving Matt Calland’s side – who were excellent in that first 40 minutes - a solid foundation on which they should have built something a little closer to a victory.

But they had no answers in the second period as Rovers strangled the life out of their opponents and the contest, scoring four unanswered tries to take the three precious league points and leave the champions at the foot of the league ladder.

The bonus point at least lifts the stigma of the being point-less, but that will be scant consolation for Calland and his players.

Powell’s pre match protestations about his injury crisis looked dubious when the teamsheets were handed out, with the starting line up numbered one to 12, with the exception of Greg Worthington at loose forward.

Fax v Featherstone Rovers at The Shay Stadium

Fax v Featherstone Rovers at The Shay Stadium

And with Iain Morrison making a return on the bench, alongside Jonny Hepworth – the former Castleford and Leeds playmaker – Rovers looked strong.

Fax withstood some early pressure and made the first serious break of the game, Ben Black freeing Jon Goddard down the left before his pass to Paul White was picked off by a covering defender.

And they took a seventh-minute lead when Black’s kick was pounced on by captain Sean Penkywicz as Rovers full back Ian Hardman dawdled in the shadow of his own posts.

Danny Jones banged over the conversion for a 6-0 lead that lasted just four minutes.

Fax v Featherstone Rovers at The Shay Stadium

Fax v Featherstone Rovers at The Shay Stadium

Rovers escaped their own half courtesy of a penalty and a couple of tackles later prop Tony Tonks charged through a gaping hole in midfield, leaving Ryan Fieldhouse the thankless - and fruitless – task of trying to stop the charging front rower.

Liam Finn levelled at 6-6 with the boot and the game was even on the scoreboard as well as on the field.

The introduction of Bob Beswick just before quarter time sparked Fax into life again, the hooker surging clear with his first touch of the ball and delivering a peach of a pass to send the supporting Rob Worrincy, who made up plenty of ground to put himself in the frame, galloping clear.

Jones gave Fax a 12-6 lead and they dominated the next 10 minutes before allowing their opponents to level just before the half hour.

Fax v Featherstone Rovers at The Shay Stadium

Fax v Featherstone Rovers at The Shay Stadium

There was plenty to admire about the build up, Finn orchestrating a great move down the right, but some controversy about the try, the ball going loose on the last tackle and referee Ronnie Laughton gifting Rovers another set of possession on the Fax line.

Not that they needed it, prop Stuart Dickens ploughing over on the next play as the home side tried to marshall their defence.

At 12-12 Rovers were back in the game, but the stalemate only lasted a couple of minutes, Ben Black drawing in the Rovers defence before producing a great kick that gave Paul White – who had looked as sharp as a tack from the word go – to skin Bryn Powell and score on the left.

Jones surprisingly missed the conversion, but with their first two penalties of the game under their belt almost immediately, Fax created another try in almost the same spot.

This time the ball went through the hands, Black bringing substitute Miles Greenwood into the line and the full back bulleting a super cut out ball to White, who finished with class and confidence by the flag.

Jones was wide of the mark again, and Fax’s first real self-inflicted wound of the half – a wild pass from Stephen Bannister 20 metres from his own line – promptly put Rovers in the ascendancy, the visitors spending the eight or so minutes leading up to the break pounding the Fax line from point blank range.

Fax were up to the test though and took their 20-12 to the half time dressing room.

They went close to adding to their tally in the third minute of the second half, Jones’ kick just evading a horde of chasers in front of the South Stand.

Rovers forced a drop out in the next set through Andy Kain’s clever kick and scored from the subsequent drop out, Powell touching down after some slick left to right passing.

Finn’s conversion attempt spiralled wide, and he missed again in the 54th minute as Rovers’ weight of second half possession told, Finn hoisting a kick to the left where Tom Saxton’s tap down sent Andy Bostock over in the corner.

Rovers were in front just before the 60 minute mark when Andy Kain scored the simplest of tries from a close-range play the ball.

What followed closely resembled what happened on a couple of occasions when these sides met last season, Rovers piling forward and Fax conceding again, Bostock scoring his second of the night and Finn giving the visitors a 32-20 lead with 17 minutes remaining.

When Fax finally managed to get their hands on the ball, they looked threatening, only a brilliant cover tackle denying Jones 11 minutes from time after the stand off ran a great line on to Black’s pass.

If that try had been scored, things might have been different. Instead, it marked Fax’s last genuine threat.

Their attack became increasingly ragged as the minutes ticked by and they never really looked pulling this game out of the fire in the same way they had at Warrington.