Sean shines in Matt tribute act

Halifax 76

York 38

AS an epitaph to Matt Calland’s action-packed four year tenure as Halifax coach, this could hardly have been more fitting: A truckload of points, truly spectacular tries, occasionally dodgy defence and, in the end, three Co-operative Championship points.

With captain and hooker Sean Penkywicz – a close friend of Calland who had already ‘tweeted’ his apparent displeasure at his mentor’s exit in the hours after the coach’s shock departure on Friday – producing a stunning individual performance, Fax recovered from an early 10-0 deficit to run riot in attack against the relegation-threatened City Knights.

They scored 13 tries - winger Paul White leading the way with a sizzling treble - all but one of which were converted by the impeccably accurate Danny Jones, and could probably have had four or five more at a pinch.

It is doubtful that it was the kind of free-wheeling afternoon the caretaker coach Damian Ball, whose preparation for his first game in charge of a side at senior level was limited to a quick run around on Saturday morning, had envisaged before kick off.

And even more doubtful whether, defensively, it reached the levels of performance that Ball and the club’s football consultant Brian Noble – absent yesterday on BBC duty – would regard as acceptable at the end of a normal week.

But in truth – with a coach gone in mysterious circumstances and that Northern Rail Cup final loss to Leigh still raw in the memory - this game was all about the result and not much else.

Ironically, and perhaps predictably given the upheaval, it was York who had made the early running.

There were only three minutes on the clock when Miles Greenwood appeared to be shoved over as he covered Jon Presley’s grubber kick, but the scrum went York’s way and some simple left to right passing saw Dennis Tuffour slip past White to score in the corner.

Tom Bush’s conversion drifted wide, leaving the visitors leading 4-0, and things got worse in short order, Anthony Thackeray – always such a talent – bursting up the middle and sending Duane Straugheir over under the posts.

This time Bush did the business for a 10-0 lead after nine minutes to leave Fax on the ropes, and when Matt Garside stretched for the line a couple of minutes later, a 16-0 deficit loomed a little too large.

Fortunately, the back rower came up with the tiniest of knock ons as he lunged forward, throwing the home side a potentially game-breaking lifeline.

And they made the most of it, young Anthony Bowman bursting through the defence from Bob Beswick’s pass and sending the supporting Stephen Bannister over to the left of the posts.

Jones kicked the goal to cut the deficit to 10-6 and Fax – and Bowman – then made it back to back scores: the teenager again breaking the line and sending Paul Smith on a diagonal run to the right corner.

Jones booted the extras off the sideline to put Fax 12-10 ahead and although there was a brief blip when Garside pounced on another Presley kick to put York 14-12 up, the home side were now on the front foot.

The introduction of Penkywicz from the bench proved pivotal, the hooker setting up two tries and scoring a third in a devastating eight-minute spell.

Jacob Fairbank got the first, wrestling free to force the ball down from close range after Penkywicz’s flat pass gave him a gap to aim at.

And the same play paid dividends two minutes later, Makali Aizue rampaging through from 10 metres out.

Penkywicz then did it all himself from dummy half, and with Jones converting all three, Fax were in the clear at 30-14.

They scored once more before the break, Rob Worrincy turning the Knights inside out from a tap restart and accelerating away for a brilliant score.

Jones kicked Fax 36-14 up, making the game theirs to lose.

They were over again within four minutes of the restart, Penkywicz scurrying down the shortest of short sides and giving White just enough room to outstrip Tuffour.

Jones’ kick made it 42-14, before two quick tries from York’s Steve Lewis pulled the visitors back to 42-26.

A dazzling run from Penkywicz then set up a walk-in for Ryan Clayton, although Thackeray replied immediately for York.

But once White scored his second, Fax became utterly dominant with Dylan Nash (2) and White crossing for further tries as the ball whistled from right to left.

Bowman then set up Penkywicz for his second before the Knights had the last word, James Ford running away down the middle to score in the final minute.