HALIFAX had top flight Salford on the rack for 40 minutes before slipping off the pace in the second half on a bone-chilling afternoon at the Reds’ new £16million Barton home.
Karl Harrison’s side, making their second pre-season outing after disposing of Keighley 44-6 on Boxing Day, led their Super League hosts - who fielded a full-strength line up, including new import Joel Moon - 16-6 as half time approached.
But two quick tries gave Phil Veivers’ team half time parity and the home side, bossed by Australian stand off Daniel Holdsworth, dominated the second period to run out comfortable victors.
The pluses for Harrison were a significant improvement in Fax’s attacking play - the ball movement in the first half was light years in advance of what they produced against the Cougars - and some strong performances from key individuals.
Up front, captain Sean Penkywicz, relatively quiet at Christmas, looked sharp; and forwards Iain Morrison and Dane Manning lost little in comparison with their opponents.
Behind the scrum, full back Paul White, replaced at half time on Boxing Day after a below-par effort, was arguably his side’s best player before being withdrawn at the interval while the former Salford centre Steve Tyrer made it four tries in two starts with a first-half brace.
The visitors almost scored with their first attack of the game after Paul Handforth’s neat dab into the in-goal had forced Reds winger Danny Williams to concede a drop out.
Fax went right then swung the ball back to the left where Joe Chandler found a gap on the end of a perfect Handforth pass and forced Salford’s former Canterbury full back Luke Patten into a try-saver 10 metres out.
Another drop out followed, Matty Smith making a hash of a Penkywicz grubber kick, and this time Fax did make it pay: White making the extra man and centre Tyrer twisting over for the first try of the game after 10 minutes.
Salford replied four minutes later, crisp passing creating a yawning gap for the classy Patten to slip through on the left, Holdsworth, the Reds’ ‘go to’ player in attack, kicking the conversion from touch for a 6-4 lead.
No sooner had Salford got back in the game then they were behind again; Fax winger Rob Worrincy juggling an intercept on half way and racing away to the posts for Tyrer to convert.
A terrific break by White, instigated by Penkywicz, should have yielded another try, but the full back tried to pick out Worrincy rather than the better-positioned Anthony Thackeray and the defence closed in.
But when the visitors regained possession, Tyrer was on hand to apply a close-range finish as the visitors dominated their top flight opponents.
Tyrer kicked the goal for 16-6 after 22 minutes and even when Salford did break, through the winger Ashley Gibson, White shadowed him to the corner before hauling him into touch.
The home side finally cracked their visitors five minutes before the break, Holdsworth scoring and converting a try that flattered his side immensely.
And when Gibson pounced on a kick from Smith on the next set, Fax found themselves pegged to 16-16 at the break.
Harrison swapped White for the youngster Ben Heaton at half time, and it was Fax who made the first break of the half, Handforth scuttling away down the left flank but the ball ending up over the sideline.
But when Heaton could not take Holdsworth’s towering kick, the former Kiwi international Vinnie Anderson was on hand to put Salford ahead, Holdsworth’s conversion making it 22-16.
Salford added to their tally when their trialist picked off an improvised pass from Handforth on half way and raced away to score, Holdsworth giving the home side some breathing space at 28-16.
The Reds were dominating possession now and finally put something resembling a top class move together on 57 minutes when Holdsworth sent Smith sprinting clear and kicked the goal for a 34-16 advantage.
Gareth Owen twisted over with 12 minutes remaining, Smith converting, before the scrum half scored his second of the game after a kick back inside from Gibson.
Salford: Patten; Gibson, Gleeson, Moon, Williams; Holdsworth, Smith; James, Godwin, Boyle, Ashurst, Anderson, Wild. Subs: trialist, Palea’aesina, Sidlow, Adamson, Neal, McPherson, Sneyd, Nero, Owen
Halifax: White; Reittie, Tyrer, Fieldhouse, Worrincy; Handforth, Thackeray; Morrison, Penkywicz, Robinson, Manning, Chandler, Ashall. Subs: Casey, Barlow, Hesketh, Heaton, Goodman, Bowman
Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven)