Halifax 26-18 Sheffield: Maizen double helps Panthers to nervy opening day win

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Halifax Panthers resisted a second half resurgence from Sheffield Eagles to open their 2023 Championship campaign with a nervy 26-18 victory.

First half tries from James Saltonstall, Lachlan Walmsley and debutant Jake Maizen set Fax on their way, although they were pegged back by Aaron Murphy’s effort just before the half-time hooter.

Two second half tries from Uili Liu gave the Eagles further hope but Italian international Maizen made it a memorable debut by going over in the dying seconds to seal the win.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In a year where the club are celebrating their 150th anniversary, with plenty of exciting off-the-field events promised throughout 2023 by lifelong fan-turned new chairman Dave Grayson, head coach Simon Grix has firmly insisted “it is just another year”.

Jake Maizen goes over for Halifax against Sheffield Eagles.Jake Maizen goes over for Halifax against Sheffield Eagles.
Jake Maizen goes over for Halifax against Sheffield Eagles.

Along with Maizen, Grix handed full debuts to Tom Inman and Will Maher, both named as substitutes, and the head coach will have been pleased with how his side started.

Barely four minutes were on the clock by the time Louis Joufret and James Woodburn-Hall had combined from an Eagles error to allow Saltonstall to score Fax’s first try of the season. Joe Keyes added the extras.

Another Sheffield mistake saw a flashpoint in which nearly all 26 players were involved before an enticing grubber-kick from Keyes was kicked into the North Stand by Murphy to deny Ben Kavanagh a certain try.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The second try eventually arrived on 21 minutes when the excellent Maizen, who joined from Queensland Cup side Sunshine Coast Falcons in Australia, found Walmsley, who produced a spectacular finish in the far corner.

Adam Tangata in action against Sheffield EaglesAdam Tangata in action against Sheffield Eagles
Adam Tangata in action against Sheffield Eagles

Perhaps it was no surprise to see the winger’s name on the try-sheet having gone over in both fixtures against Sheffield last season.

Things went from bad to worse for the visitors after substitute Brandon Douglas was sin-binned for saying too much to the match official. And the Panthers made them pay.

Within seconds of Douglas trudging over the sideline, Matty Gee raced through for a seemingly third try of the afternoon but the referee had already blown for an infringement.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

However, the advantage remained with the home side and Keyes and Woodburn-Hall worked the ball to the left-hand-side before Miazen rushed over for a deserved debut try. Keyes made no mistake for the additional two points.

Maizen and Walmsley were enjoying themselves down the left flank - the signs are there it could be a partnership for Fax fans to get excited about this season.

The home side smelt blood but, out of the blue, it was the visitors who scored next to reduce the deficit just before the break when Murphy ran over unopposed. Jack Hansen made the conversion.

If Fax fans thought Murphy’s try would jolt the home players into a response, it had the opposite effect.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Although Keyes successfully kicked a penalty at the start of the second period, Mark Aston’s men gave themselves further hope when Liu bundled over from close range. Hansen converted again to make it a one-score game.

The match was turning into a scrappy affair with both sides making a series of errors - one of which was successfully punished by Keyes, who remained cool to nervously edge Fax into an eight-point advantage with a penalty.

However, the Eagles refused to be flustered and Liu went over again from close range to bring them right back into the contest. Hansen, again, was successful with his kick.

With the clock ticking down, the visitors sensed a dramatic comeback. They got close. Perhaps too close to Fax’s tryline for Grix’s liking.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But, after a splendid interception from Saltonstall, the Panthers exploded into life and went from one end of the pitch to the other in a blink of an eye.

And although Walmlsey was brought down ten metres out, Maizen went over to ensure Fax started the season with a win.

Halifax: Woodburn-Hall, Walmsley, Maizen, McComb, Saltonstall, Jouffret, Keyes, Tangata, Kavanagh, Gee, Calcott, Moore, Murray

Substitutes: Inman, Fairbank, Maher, Larroyer

Tries: Saltonstall, Walmsley, Maizen (2)

Conversions: Keyes (3)

Penalties: Keyes (2)

Sheffield: Bass, Jones-Bishop, Welham, Oakes, Dawson-Jones, Aston, Hansen, Kirk, Halafihi, Dickinson, Murphy, Farrell, Gwaze

Substitutes: Douglas, Wood, Broadbent, Liu

Tries: Murphy, Liu (2)

Conversions: Hansen (3)


Attendance: 2,101

Match official: Liam Rush