Featherstone Rovers 22 Halifax Panthers 12: How Rovers rallied to edge Fax

They say sequels never live up to expectations but that certainly wasn’t the case at the Millennium Stadium as Featherstone Rovers backed up last week’s cup win over Halifax with a 22-12 comeback victory in the Championship.

By Sebastian Sternik
Sunday, 6th March 2022, 8:16 pm
Frenchman Louis Jouffret opened the tryscoring for Halifax Panthers in their Betfred Championship defeat at Featherstone Rovers. Picture: courtesy Halifax RL.
Frenchman Louis Jouffret opened the tryscoring for Halifax Panthers in their Betfred Championship defeat at Featherstone Rovers. Picture: courtesy Halifax RL.

Halifax threatened to become just the second team since September 2019 to win away at Featherstone after going 12-4 in front.

Rovers though, had other ideas as they put their title credentials on show by scoring three tries in the final 20 minutes to maintain their unbeaten start to the season.

It’s a rare occurrence in rugby league for two clubs to play each other in successive weeks. Nevertheless, it was clear from the outset that both sides had done their homework considering the cagey start.

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Cory Aston, a tryscorers for Halifax at Featherstone. Picture: courtesy Halifax RL.

Following a scoreless opening 20 minutes, Halifax eventually stunned the rowdy crowd into silence as Louis Jouffret powered over the whitewash. The Frenchman grounded the ball in the corner as his side took a 6-0 lead courtesy of a successful Joe Keyes conversion.

This season, the Panthers have made a habit of conceding tries moments after scoring. Simon Grix’s side were clearly intent on avoiding a similar predicament but could manage to keep the hosts at bay for only the next 10 minutes as, inevitably, Brian McDermott’s men found a way through.

Gareth Gale was the man to put Rovers on the scoreboard as he dived over in the corner after receiving a looping pass from Matty Wildie. Craig Hall was unable to convert meaning Halifax became the first team this season to lead Featherstone at the halfway point.

Shortly after the restart, Halifax extended their advantage to eight points as Cory Aston powered over the try line. The former Rovers player was on the end of a quick off-load before crashing over to the right of the posts. Keyes made it 12-4 with a second successful kick.

Things went from bad to worse for the hosts just 60 seconds later as Wildie was sent to the sin bin for a late hit on Ben Kavanagh. But, despite the man advantage, Halifax failed to add more points on the scoreboard.

Instead, it was Featherstone who found their second wind and began to make in roads, starting with a fortunate effort for Morgan Smith.

With Rovers parked on the Halifax tryline, Smith produced a quick grubber kick into the goalline area. The bounce of the ball appeared to take Jouffret by surprise as the Frenchman failed to clear the danger, allowing Smith to jump on the loose ball and move the hosts within four points.

Halifax needed the momentum to swing and they almost came up with a moment of magic as Jouffret broke down the left. However, just as the Panthers seemed destined to score, the full-back pulled up with a hamstring injury which forced him to give the ball to Walmsley. The player was outnumbered down the wing and the move eventually came to nothing.

That was as good as things got for a Panthers side which looked gassed with 10 minutes till to play.

Featherstone could sense the tide turning and they took full advantage as Hall crossed the whitewash and converted his own try to put his men ahead for the first time.

The 34-year-old wasn’t done there as he added eight more points in the final five minutes to seal a dramatic victory in front of a bumper crowd.

Featherstone Rovers: Brandon Pickersgill, Luke Briscoe, Joey Leilua, Craig Hall, Gareth Gale, Morgan Smith, Ryley Jacks, Adam Cuthbertson, Matty Wildie, James Lockwood, John Davies, Ben Hellewell, Jack Bussey. Subs: Connor Jones, Luke Cooper, Kyle Trout, Brett Ferres

Halifax Panthers: Louis Jouffret, Lachlan Walmsley, Joe Arundel, Zac McComb, James Saltonstall, Coty Aston, Joe Keyes, Will Calcott, Brandon Moore, Dan Murray, Ben Kavanagh, Ed Barber, Jacob Fairbank. Subs: Kyle Wood, Titus Gwaze, Adam Tangata, Kevin Larroyer.

Venue: Millennium Stadium.

Half-time: 4-6.

Match official: Jack Smith.

Man of the match: Craig Hall.

Attendance: 3,728.