Halifax Panthers 16 Featherstone Rovers 29: Panthers make Rovers dig deep for fourth-round Challenge Cup win

A stellar second-half display from the Halifax Panthers wasn’t enough to seal a place in the fifth round of the Challenge Cup as Featherstone Rovers ran out 29-16 winners at The Shay.

By Sebastian Sternik
Sunday, 27th February 2022, 7:14 pm
Lachlan Walmsley scored a sensational interception try to set home fans' hearts racing in the fourth-round Challenge Cup tie against Featherstone Rovers at The Shay. Picture: Halifax Panthers RL.
Lachlan Walmsley scored a sensational interception try to set home fans' hearts racing in the fourth-round Challenge Cup tie against Featherstone Rovers at The Shay. Picture: Halifax Panthers RL.

Brian McDermott’s side looked to be cruising after taking a 16-0 first-half lead but a Panthers resurgence after the break forced Featherstone to dig deep in what proved to be an enthralling contest.

Halifax got off to a positive start but, despite enjoying three consecutive sets, the Panthers were simply unable to find a breakthrough.

After holding out defensively, Rovers quickly showed their offensive abilities as the visitors powered over the whitewash with their first chance of the match. Featherstone made the most of a numbers advantage down the left wing as Brandon Pickersgill released Gareth Gale who touched down in the corner.

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With 20 minutes on the clock, Featherstone were in again courtesy of Connor Jones. The visitors had been held up moments earlier, but made no mistake with their second attempt as Jones forced his way over under the posts. Craig Hall’s first successful conversion gave McDermott’s side a 10-0 advantage.

Halifax struggled to come up with a response and were punished just seconds before the half-time hooter. Pickersgill was once again the creator as his pass allowed Luke Briscoe to score in the corner. Hall’s conversion gave Rovers a 16-0 lead at the break.

Simon Grix clearly had inspiring words at half-time considering his men came back onto the field with a newly-found aggression.

Their fresh attitude paid dividends on the scoreboard as Louis Jouffret finally gave the home fans something to cheer about. The Panthers try stemmed from some immaculate build-up play as Titus Gwaze, Cory Aston and Ed Barber exchanged a flurry of passes before releasing Jouffret. The Frenchman powered over 35 meters before scoring.

Joe Keyes added two more points with a successful conversion and, as the momentum began to shift, Featherstone began to make easy errors.

Just 10 minutes later, Halifax were on the board again. Cory Aston received the ball deep in his own half and penetrated a gap in Featherstone’s defence to run over 70 metres before being brought down.

The Panthers reorganised quickly and made the most of the opportunity as Keyes played a long kick into the corner. Briscoe and Lachlan Walmsley both jumped for the ball but, in the end, it was the Halifax man who prevailed and scored.

Having been outdone, Briscoe was determined to atone for his mistake and he did just that three minutes later. Featherstone moved the ball out wide with Pickersgill’s pass allowing Briscoe to touch down in the corner. Hall’s touchline conversion made 22-10 for the visitors.

With 10 minutes remaining, Halifax needed something special in order to force a grand stand finish and that was exactly what Walmsley produced.

With Featherstone deep in Halifax territory, Morgan Smith attempted to find Joey Leilua with a short pass but, instead of finding his team-mate, it was Walmsley who snatched the ball and raced 95 metres to score a sensational effort. Keyes’ conversion made it a six-point game.

Featherstone were keen to kill the game off and it took Smith two attempts to deliver the match-winning drop goal.

If that wasn’t enough, Rovers still had time to add one final try on the scoresheet as Pickersgill sealed the 16-29 victory.

Halifax Panthers: Louis Jouffret, Lachlan Walmsley, Ed Barber, Joe Arundel, James Saltonstall, Cory Aston, Joe Keyes, Kevin Larroyer, Kyle Wood, Dan Murray, Ben Kavanagh, Matt Garside, Jacob Fairbank. Subs: Brandon Moore, Titus Gwaze, Elliot Morris, Adam Tangata

Featherstone Rovers: Brandon Pickersgill, Luke Briscoe, Joey Leilua, Craig Hall, Gareth Gale, Morgan Smith, Dane Chisholm, Luke Cooper, Connor Jones, James Lockwood, Junior Moors, John Davies, Jack Bussey. Subs: Matty Wildie, Callum Field, Adam Cuthbertson, Ben Hellewell.

Half-Time: 0-16.

Venue: The Shay, Halifax.

Attendance: 1,625.

MOTM: Titus Gwaze.

Match official: Marcus Griffiths.