A weakened Halifax side slipped out of the Challenge Cup in the fourth round with a 27-6 loss to League 1 Oldham at the Shay.
Fax rested a clutch of senior players ahead of this weekend’s important Championship game in Toulouse, with captain Scott Murrell, back rowers Simon Grix and Shane Grady and loose forward Jacob Fairbank among those watching from the stands.
And the gamble backfired as Scott Naylor’s side, with five ex-Fax players in their side and a couple more who were born in the town, ground out a simple but effective victory, even surviving the second half sin binning of Joe Martin to book a fifth round date with Super League outfit Hull KR.
Oldham looked more direct from the start and opened the scoring on 10 minutes when back rower Danny Langtree strolled over as Fax’s left edge found themselves out numbered.
Paul Crook converted for a 6-0 lead but was off target just before the half hour when a fortunate ricochet and some sharp hands put Halifax-born winger Ben West over by the corner flag.
Trailing 10-0, Fax, who were best served by young props Brandon Douglas and Sion Jones, almost came up with a crucial score just before the break.
A misplaced Joe Martin kick was hacked on by Ed Barber and Ben Heaton raced away for what would have been a certain try, only to be adjudged offside.
The subsequent penalty was converted by Crook and Fax went to the break trailing by two clear scores.
Oldham added another penalty early in the second half to take the scores to 14-0 and with Fax apparently toothless in attack, despite a raft of ruck penalties going their way, it was a lead that looked rock solid.
They wavered when Martin was sin binned after a team warning, paving the way for Brandon Moore to slip Ben Heaton in for Fax’s first try after 55 minutes.
Steve Tyrer converted to cut the deficit to 14-6, but the 12-men struck back almost immediately when Matthew Reid touched down, Crook’s conversion making it 20-6 with 20 minutes remaining.
Dave Hewitt added a drop goal and Crook a late converted try as Oldham closed out a worryingly comfortable success.
Halifax: Woodburn-Hall; Saltonstall, Heaton, Tyrer, McGrath; Brook, Johnston; Morris, Kaye, Fleming, Calcott, Butler, Barber. Subs: Douglas, Jones, Moore, Davies
Oldham: Martin; Eccleston, Reid, McComb, West; Crook, Hewitt; Spencer, Wilkinson, Neal, Bridge, Langtree, Bent. Subs: Briscoe, Hughes, Rasool, Nelmes