Halifax Panthers 24 Whitehaven 20: Hosts hold off second-half fightback to advance in Championship play-offs

Halifax Panthers sealed their place in the Championship play-off semi-final following their pulsating 24-20 victory over Whitehaven.

Sunday, 26th September 2021, 9:48 pm
Updated Sunday, 26th September 2021, 9:50 pm
VICTORY: For Halifax Panthers coach Simon Grix. Picture: Ed Sykes/SWpix.com

The hosts scored all four of their tries in the first half as they dominated the opening 40 minutes. Whitehaven fought back after the interval but Gary Charlton’s side fell agonisingly short of what would have been a monumental comeback at the Shay.

Scott Grix - who announced he would be retiring at the end of the season - showed his class and experience when he produced a superb 40/20 kick in the opening five minutes of the game.

With one Grix boot, the Panthers suddenly found themselves on the edge of Whitehaven’s tryline.

The visitors did well to defend the first couple of attacks but they were unable to stop Conor McGrath from eventually getting over.

A looping pass from the returning Liam Harris allowed a totally unopposed McGrath to open the scoring in the right corner.

A wild Shay atmosphere urged the Panthers on and just three minutes after the opener, the hosts found another breakthrough. This time it was Whitehaven who were their own worst enemy as a loose pass in their own 30 metres gifted possession back to Halifax.

The home side converted the opportunity into points as Adam Tangata released Matt Garside through the middle. A James Woodburn-Hall conversion moved Fax 10-0 ahead.

It took a while for the visitors to find their feet but they eventually found a breakthrough of their own. As Haven edged towards the tryline, James Newton tried his luck from dummy half. The ball dropped loose after the tackle which allowed Liam Cooper to scoop it up and cross the whitewash.

Louis Jouffret’s successful kick made it a four-point game. The match seemed to be finely poised ahead of the second-half but just five minutes before the interval, Halifax ran riot.

Two quick fire tries from Woodburn-Hall and Garside – both converted by Harris – moved the hosts 22-6 ahead.

That added cushion proved to be crucial one. The visitors were intent on cutting the deficit and they did just that in the 47 th minute when Andrew Bulman touched down in the corner.

Just eight minutes later, Whitehaven found yet another breakthrough. On this occasion it was Ryan King who stamped his name onto the scoresheet after over powering the Halifax defence and touching down on the left side.

Whitehaven failed to convert both those efforts meaning they were still behind by eight points.

Halifax stopped the rot but struggled to find a try of their own in the second half. Nevertheless, they were able to add a couple of extra points when Connor Robinson successfully converted a penalty goal.

The Panthers now had a ten-point cushion and looked on track for a memorable play-off victory.

But despite the scoreline, Whitehaven never surrendered and pushed to the end. Their efforts were rewarded in the 78th minute when Bulman crossed for his second of the game.

Jouffret quickly bagged his second conversion of the match to make it a four-point game with just a minute left on the clock.

The visitors made one last push for glory but their last-ditch kick and chase came to nothing. Halifax are now through to the semi-finals of these Championship play-offs where they’ll take on Featherstone Rovers next Saturday.

Halifax Panthers: Woodburn-Hall, Saltonstall, Worthington, McComb, McGrath, Grix, Harris, Tangata, Moore, Murray, Garside, Kavanagh, Fairbank. Subs: Davies, Kevin Larroyer, Elliot Morris, Connor Robinson

Whitehaven: Walmsley, Bulman, Taylor, Dixon, Mossop, Jouffret, Williams, Thornley, Newton, Graham, King, Cooper, Wilkinson. Subs: Aiye, Bradley, Dawson, Walker

Referee: Chris Kendall (RFL)