Halifax Panthers fight back to down Sheffield Eagles

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Inspired Cory Aston and hat-trick hero Joe Arundel were the stars of the show as they led HalifaxPanthers to a scintillating comeback win against the Sheffield Eagles.

The Panthers, who took a major step towards a possible third-placed finish last weekend by knocking off Batley Bulldogs, almost threw away all their hard work after falling 20-10 behind in South Yorkshire.

However, a courageous comeback after the restart helped Simon Grix’s side to a 32-26 victory – their 16th win in 18 Championship games.

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Most importantly, the result keeps Fax on track for a home play-off tie at the end of the regular season.

Joe ArundelJoe Arundel
Joe Arundel

Despite a 14-point gap in the standings between Halifax and Sheffield, it was the Eagles who got off to the better start at the Olympic Legacy Park.

The Panthers were punished for a couple of early errors, mainly James Saltonstall dropping Anthony Thackeray’s last tackle bomb. The Eagles made most of the opportunity as Kris Welham crashed over in the fifth minute.

Halifax showed just why they are play-off contenders after hitting back on the quarter-of-an-hour mark. Zack McComb was the architect of the effort as he powered down the right flank before unleashing Lachlan Walmsley with a clever kick inside. The Scotland international then touched down to level the scores.

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Just a few minutes later, Fax took the lead after Cory Aston picked out Joe Arundel, who penetrated a wide gap in Sheffield’s defence before touching down unopposed. A successful conversion from Joe Keyes moved the visitors 10-4 ahead.

The Panthers appeared to be building momentum, but all it took was one lapse of concentration for their authority to crumble.

Just two minutes after Arundel’s effort, Fax made two costly mistakes which led to an immediate effort from Tom Holmes.

Seconds later, Sheffield went back-to-back as Walmsley failed to deal with Holmes’ kick, which ultimately ended up in the hands of Thackeray. The Eagles man got over the whitewash while Josh Guzdek completed his first successful conversion to put his men 14-10 in-front.

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Errors continued to hamper any hope of progress for the Panthers and subsequently, the visitors were punished with another Sheffield try just before half-time. This time, it was Holmes who dived over on the right for his second of the match.

Fax needed a solid start after the restart and Aston’s 40/20 certainly provided the platform for an early score. Zack McComb took full advantage as he crossed in the corner following Aston’s lofted pass.

The Panthers were now four points behind, but that deficit was wiped out in the 53rd minute as Arundel capitalised on yet another assist from Aston.

Keyes’ conversion moved the Panthers 22-20 ahead – a lead they wouldn’t go on to relinquish. Arundel completed his hat-trick in the 67th minute as the link with Aston once again proved devastating.

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The Panthers then put further daylight between themselves and Sheffield as Keyes dummied his way over to complete a memorable comeback victory.

Brendon Douglas scored a late effort for Sheffield, but it was too late for the visitors to mount a comeback of their own.

Halifax Panthers: James Saltonstall, Zack McComb, Joe Arundel, Greg Worthington, Lachlan Walmsley, Cory Aston, Will Calcott, Brandon Moore, Dan Murray, Ben Kavanagh, Ed Barber, Adam Tangata. Subs: Kyle Wood, Jacob Fairbank, Kevin Larroyer, Elliott Morris.

Sheffield Eagles: Josh Guzdek, Ben Jones-Bishop, Kris Welham, Connor Bower, Matthew Chrimes, Anthony Thackeray, Tom Holmes, Brandon Douglas, Vila Halafihi, Tyler Dickinson, Mickey Wood, Joel Farrell, Evan Hodgson. Subs: Ryan Johnson, Kadeem Williams, Blake Broadbent, Liam Kirk.

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Halifax Tries: Walmsley (15), Arundel (22, 53, 67), McComb (42), Keyes (70)

Halifax Goals: Keyes 4/6

Sheffield Tries: Welham (5), Holmes (25, 38), Thackeray (28), Douglas (75)

Sheffield Goals: Guzdek 3/5