Halifax impress against York, but fall short of end-of-season win
Halifax finished a troubled Championship season on a losing note as high-flying York left the Shay with the points after a hard-fought 14-8 success.
Simon Grix’s side led 8-0 after 51 minutes and had their visitors on the ropes when Fax captain Scott Murrell threw a pass that was intercepted by the Knights’ former Fax player Connor Robinson, who raced 90 metres to score.
Robinson converted his own try to cut the deficit to 8-6 and eight minutes later on-loan Hull KR half back Liam Harris put winger Matthew Chilton over in the corner to turn a simmering contest on its head, giving York a match-winning lead.
On paper, the game had been a dead-rubber, with York immovable in third place after a stunning first season in the Championship and Halifax unable to improve on their disappointing eighth.
But with the Knights aiming to maintain their momentum ahead of next weekend’s daunting play-off trip to Toulouse, and Fax still smarting from an embarrassingly one-sided walloping at Bootham Crescent earlier in the year, there was always the potential for a full-blooded contest.
The home side, who recalled Ed Barber at centre after a one-week suspension, were also intent on honouring a number of departing players, notable Ben Johnston, who is widely expected to join York, former Leeds and Featherstone hooker Ben Kaye and veteran winger Will Sharp, who enjoyed a guard of honour as the teams emerged from the tunnel.
Fax bossed the early exchanges, penning York in their own half and forcing a succession of penalties.
Eventually, the pressure told and full back James Woodburn-Hall’s inch-perfect grubber kick was pounced on by Sharp in the right corner to put the home side 4-0 up.
Steve Tyrer’s kick drifted wide and while Fax kept their visitors largely under control, they needed to be on their game in defence, Harris being held up over the line by a combination of Tyrer and Liam Cooper.
The home side got the try their performance deserved though with seconds to go to the break, Woodburn-Hall doing the damage with a break in midfield and Murrell kicking wide for Barber, who soared above the defence to score.
Tyrer’s kick again drifted wide, but at 8-0 the home side were probably in more command of the contest than the scoreline suggested.
That trend continued into the early minutes of the second half and Fax were threatening another score when Murrell threw the ball that Robinson picked off to change the course of the contest.
Fax went close to lodging an immediate reply when Ben Kavanagh and Tyrer were both denied within seconds of each other, but once Chilton touched down the home side struggled to find a way back into a game they had dominated for so long.
Their woes were compounded in the final minutes when hooker Brandon Moore was red carded for saying something that offended referee Tom Grant.
Halifax: Woodburn-Hall; McGrath, Tyrer, Barber, Sharp; Murrell, Johnston; Fairbank, Kaye, Hirst, Cooper, Kavanagh, Larroyer. Subs: Moore, Fleming, Morris, Saltonstall
York: Marsh; Oakes, Bass, Hey, Chilton; Harris, Robinson; Baldwinson, Jubb, Stock, Salter, Scott, Spears. Subs: Dixon, Horne, Teanby, Kelly
Referee: T. Grant