Fax go down fighting as St Helens march on to Wembley in Challenge Cup
Halifax produced a performance rich in commitment and character as they finally bowed out of the Challenge Cup with a 26-2 semi final defeat by St Helens.
On a rain-soaked afternoon in Bolton, the final scoreline told only part of the story for the Championship part-timers, the first lower league side to make the last four since 2006.
Simon Grix’s side held the runaway Super League leaders to a 2-2 stalemate until five minutes before half time and only trailed 14-2 until England full back Jonny Lomax scored his side’s third try after 60 minutes.
Fax showed they had come to play from the off, Scott Grix opting for a short kick off that was recovered by Shaun Robinson.
They made their first error soon after and Saints promptly marched downfield where they chose to kick rather than run an easy penalty.
Half back Danny Richardson’s boot made it 2-0 and with Fax struggling to keep their habitual mistakes out of their game - they made five errors in the first 20 minutes, - it seemed inevitable that Super League’s best attack would punish them.
Incredibly though, the defence held on with dogged determination, and when Fax got a penalty of their own 40 metres out, Steve Tyrer stepped up to level the scores against the club where he started his career.
Saints had a chance when Golden Boot winner Tommy Makinson dived for the corner after 25 minutes, but the excellent Tyrer arrived just in time to force the ball free.
With Fax growing into the game, and Scott Murrell’s kicking game starting to redress the territorial imbalance, a half time stalemate was a real possibility until a penalty at one end, Ben Kaye swinging high on Regan Grace, led to a close-range try from James Roby at the other.
Richardson converted for an 8-2 half time lead, which few would have predicted before kick off.
Saints did stretch their lead early in the second half, Dominique Peyroux scoring a dubious try - the back rower losing the ball either shortly before or shortly after it touched the ground - from a penalty and Richardson kicking them 14-2 ahead.
A try from a fleet-footed Lomax on 60 minutes, converted by Richardson, finally put the game beyond mathematical doubt, although the fact it was still in doubt to any degree after three quarters of the game said everything that needed to be said.
Frenchman Theo Fages completed the scoring from Roby’s intelligent kick 10 minutes from time, Richardson converting, but Fax still finished the contest with plenty of credit.
Halifax: Lomax; Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace; Fages, Richardson; Walmsley, Roby, Thompson, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Peyroux, Paulo. Subs: Amor, Lees, Ainsworth, Bentley
Halifax: Grix; Robinson, Tyrer, Saltonstall, Sharp; Murrell, Johnston; Tangata, Moore, Kavanagh, Butler, Barber, Fairbank. Subs: Kaye, Morris, Fleming, Larroyer
Referee: Chris Kendall