HALIFAX made a near faultless start to competitive life under new coach Karl Harrison with a crushing Northern Rail Cup victory at Dewsbury.
Harrison had never shied away from the fact this was a fixture he felt his side had to win and his players responded with a comprehensive seven-try rout of Warren Jowitt’s Rams.
On a predictably awful playing surface, Fax, with their former Dewsbury prop Adam Robinson setting a cruel pace up front, made a dream start, dominating the opening quarter and opening up a 10-0 lead.
Dewsbury did struggle briefly, but tries from captain Sean Penkywicz and teenager Anthony Bowman either side of half time put the home side firmly in their place, allowing Fax to cruise home as stylishly as the conditions allowed.
It will be his side’s defensive form that pleased Harrison the most though, with a too-little, far-too-late score from Rams prop Steve Crossley the only black mark against an afternoon of bruising aggression.
There were a string of impressive individual performances too; Robinson taking plenty of plaudits but with eye-catching efforts from 10 or more of his teammates
Dewsbury had made their intentions clear from the start; kicking long early in the tackle count and challenging their visitors to return the ball.
The Rams also had the first attacking chance a couple of minutes in, but full back James Craven was comfortably shovelled into touch as they tried to shift the ball to the left.
Fax gained a foothold they never really relinquished shortly afterwards, Penkywicz’s delicate kick on the left forcing a drop out.
One repeat set became two when half back Paul Handforth did the same on the right, Rams winger Austin Buchanan being carted over the line by a posse of Fax players.
And when Handforth turned the ball back inside close to the posts, loose forward Craig Ashall barged through the gap and forced the ball down.
Steve Tyrer converted for a 6-0 lead and when another Handforth kick saw Craven collared in-goal, the Rams were in something of a stranglehold.
That impression was confirmed when Bowman put boot to ball perfectly for Wayne Reittie to pounce in the left corner and a 10-0 lead after 14 minutes.
A fourth repeat set followed, but Fax finally made something approaching an error when Penkywicz’s pass to the terrific Dane Manning was called forward.
A couple of penalties followed, but the defence held firm despite the Rams finally forcing their way into the contest.
They went closest to scoring through the former Fax back rower Dwayne Barker near to the half hour, but the ball went loose short of the line.
Craven was held up over the whitewash soon after as the penalty and possession count began to weigh against the visitors.
Paul White was forced to concede a drop out, but the Rams’ last-play options were limited to hopeful cross kicks.
And when Fax finally got some quality ball courtesy of back-to-back penalties, Penkywicz delivered the classic counter-punch, using Iain Morrison as a decoy and scampering over from 10 metres out.
Tyrer’s missed conversion limited their lead to 14-0, but even at that stage it looked a long way back for the Rams at half time.
A rare error, Fax conceding a penalty for obstruction, gave the Rams an early platform in the second half, but once Ayden Faal had been held up over the whitewash the visitors relieved the pressure easily enough.
At the other end, Handforth hoisted the ball high over Craven’s head and while the full back caught it, he was unprepared for Bowman’s clattering tackle, the stand off dislodging the ball and pouncing for the try.
Tyrer kicked the goal for 20-0 and Fax had suddenly tipped the balance of this game firmly in their favour.
The visitors were piling in with real ferocity in defence now, throwing four and five men at the ball carrier as the Rams attempted to clear their line.
A mistake inevitably followed, allowing the substitute Anthony Thackeray the chance to force yet another repeat set.
Handforth then sent Jim Gannon, who looks every inch a man intent on proving to Harrison he was wrong to effectively retire him in the autumn, through a yawning gap, only for the try to be ruled out on the advice of the touchjudge.
But the visitors did add to their tally when Robinson twisted over from Penkywicz’s trademark flat pass, Tyrer hitting the post with the conversion to leave the score at 24-0.
A rare Dewsbury break forced Ryan Fieldhouse into an even rarer try saver on Craven, although Penkywicz’s subsequent sin-binning for dissent – apparently at the increasingly eccentric antics of Rams’ big-name signing Nick Fozzard - at least gave the Rams the chance to cross the line, prop Steve Crossley twisting over.
Not that it mattered, Thackeray showcasing his footwork by scoring an outrageous solo try as the visitors underlined their crushing superiority.
Tyrer kicked them 30-6 ahead and when Andy Smith departed to the sin bin for a late challenge on Handforth, Dewsbury were falling to pieces.
Handforth duly pounced on Thackeray’s short kick for his side’s seventh try, Tyrer pushing the score out to 36-6.
Ben Heaton had what looked like another late try scrubbed for a forward pass, but that could hardly take the shine off a thoroughly satisfactory afternoon.