Championship round-up: Halifax Panthers keep play-off hopes alive as Batley Bulldogs drop out of top six

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Halifax Panthers gained a much-needed victory at Whitehaven to keep their play-off dreams alive, although Batley Bulldogs’ own top six hopes suffered yet again as their miserable Championship form continued with a defeat at Widnes Vikings.

After two successive league defeats following their 1895 Cup triumph at Wembley, Fax knew the importance of securing two points in Cumbria. A third straight loss would have seen them drop to ninth, three points outside of the play-offs with only three games left. But Simon Grix’s men, despite only leading 6-4 at the break, stormed to a 30-8 victory to remain on the coattails of their fellow promotion challengers.

In a scrappy, and perhaps nervy, first half, James Woodburn-Hall opened the scoring on 18 minutes after spotting a gap in the Haven defence before stretching over. Louis Jouffret made no mistake with the conversion.

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However, the home side, despite their lowly position in the league, responded well and their pressure was rewarded in the 33rd minute when Daniel Spencer-Tonks powered his way over the line from close range. Josh Rourke’s conversion, however, struck the post, to ensure Fax held a slender advantage when the half-time hooter sounded.

Halifax Panthers' Louis Jouffret scored two tries in the 30-8 win at Whitehaven on Sunday. (Photo credit: Simon Hall)Halifax Panthers' Louis Jouffret scored two tries in the 30-8 win at Whitehaven on Sunday. (Photo credit: Simon Hall)
Halifax Panthers' Louis Jouffret scored two tries in the 30-8 win at Whitehaven on Sunday. (Photo credit: Simon Hall)

It took the Panthers just over ten minutes to score their first try of the second half. Jouffret, against his former side, put through a grubber kick which, after hitting a Haven player, he ran on to himself to score, before adding the extras.

It was turning into the Jouffret show, as the half-back, two minutes later, found space to get under the sticks for a quick-fire double. Again, he made no mistake with the boot.

The game was made safe with 13 minutes remaining when Ben Kavanagh, on his 100th Fax appearance crashed over after receiving a short ball from Joe Keyes. Havens’ spirit crushed, Matty Gee went over unopposed as the Panthers went to 30 points, although Oscar Doran’s try was nothing more than a mere consolation.

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While Halifax were getting their play-off push back on track, Batley Bulldogs were continuing to falter as they suffered a fifth successive league defeat at the hands of Widnes Vikings.

After a fabulous seven-match winning run earlier in the season which propelled them to second in the table, this 12-4 loss sees Craig Lingard’s men drop to seventh, currently out of the play-off picture, with Widnes themselves leapfrogging them into sixth position.

Widnes took the lead at the DCBL Stadium after only 15 minutes when Callum Field rolled over the line, with Kieran Dixon adding the two.

You could be forgiven for thinking it could have been a long afternoon for Batley at that point but they defended well and were a threat at the other end. The pressure finally told with on loan Huddersfield Giants star Aidan McGowan going over in the corner to make the score 6-4 at half-time.

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And the game was firmly in the balance right up until the 73rd minutes when Danny Craven splendidly found Jack Owens who darted over to condemn Batley to another Championship defeat.

Of the five straight league defeats they have suffered, four have come against fellow play-off contenders. Their remaining three games sees them take on teams in the bottom half of the table in Whitehaven, York and Newcastle.

In today’s other fixtures, Featherstone Rovers secured the league leaders’ shield thanks to a 16-8 win at Bradford Bulls, while there were also wins for London Broncos, York and Keighley Cougars.