FAX finally showed the kind of form that saw them crowned Co-operative Championship title winners last season as they gave pretenders to the throne Leigh Centurions a real going over at the Sports Village last night.
Matt Calland’s side produced a display combining all the best elements of rugby league, from dogged defence, slick passing and an incredible willingness to work their socks off for each other.
The outcome was a result that finally woke the beast and proved to the rest of the competition that you don’t become a bad team overnight.
Halifax got off to the best possible start when they crossed the Leigh line after barely five minutes.
They had already shown a willingness to graft in the tackle but they also showed some enterprise after Leigh had knocked on in front of the posts just 10 metres out.
Halifax ground out valuable inches then spread the ball wide for Rob Worrincy, hugging the touchline, to speed over.
Danny Jones’s kick fell short but he was soon lining up another shot when he slipped a pass to Bob Beswick, who appeared to drop the ball in the act of scoring, only for the ref in the stand to let it stand, Jones adding a simple kick.
Jones then allowed the kick-off to bounce off his chest and initial strong defence kept the home side out before Martin Ridyard found a gap to reduce the arrears, Mick Nanyn converting.
Earlier in the season that might have put some doubt into Fax’s minds but instead they rallied superbly and extended their advantage yet again when Ben Black fed Beswick into a gap despite the suspicion of a forward pass early in the move, Jones making it 16-6 with a straightforward conversion.
Leigh struggled to make any headway against a determined Fax rearguard and the sheer ferocity of the visitors’ approach not only frustrated Ian Millward’s side but hustled them into errors which meant they were unable to sustain any period of possession.
Fax were now playing with a confidence only hinted at this season and it came as no surprise when Dylan Nash intercepted Jamie Ellis’s intended pass and pounded upfield. He had the fleet-footed Worrincy in support and duly let the prolific winger do the rest, Jones kicking for an almost unbelievable 22-6 lead.
If that wasn’t enough Fax continued to take the game to the table-toppers, rightly earning the acclaim of the travelling supporters.
All the action was in the Leigh half and twice Fax were held up on the line before they expanded the play and great hands saw Jones put Miles Greenwood in. Jones was well wide with the kick this time.
But it barely mattered as shell-shocked Leigh had no answers. Stuart Littler had a try ruled out and Fax heaped even more pressure on them by ending the half with a morale-boosting 32-6 lead, Miles Greenwood breaking and laying on a peach of a pass for Jones falling forward, the stand off gliding in and then adding the kick from in front of the posts.
The question was whether Fax could continue in the same vein after expending so much energy during the first 40 minutes.
And they were forced to continue their super-strength defensive efforts as Leigh, predictably, came out with renewed purpose.
There looked to be no weak links in the chain, however, as a mighty trio combined to haul Ridyard into touch after a high kick into the corner had threatened to cause problems.
But Leigh, who were poor throughout really, continually shot themselves in the foot as the ball repeatedly failed to find hands.
Not that Halifax cared as they gradually came back into it. Leigh created problems for themselves when fouling up in possession on their 10 metre line and Halifax could not believe their luck as Sam Barlow was credited with the touchdown, Jones’s kick hitting the outside of a post.
The blue tide continued to advance and Worrincy was unlucky not to keep hold of an intercepted pass as he would have been firm favourite to win any race to the line.
Leigh were always going to have good patches as Fax took a breather but the defensive efforts never let up with both Ellis and Stuart Littler held up before Leigh coughed up possession.
No matter what Leigh tried they were out-muscled and out-smarted at every turn. It didn’t matter that the second half failed to live up to the free-scoring bonanza of the first because this match became increasingly an exercise in confidence building.
And even that could barely be dented when winger Steve Maden finally found a chink in the Fax armour out wide to plunge over and make the score 36-10 with seven minutes left.
Fax had another scare when Neil Cherryholme looked to have been beaten by the bounce of the ball but he recovered well with Tommy Goulden breathing down his neck.
It was nothing more than a consolation when Leigh finally outran Fax’s defence with Lidyard providing the finish.
Nanyn added the final goal but it mattered not as Fax had completed a hugely-satisfying night’s work.