Fax cannot recover from slow start as Rovers win Championship opener

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Featherstone Rovers won the battle of the Championship’s top part-time teams, beating Halifax 20-4 at Post Office Road.

In a tense final quarter dogfight, with Rovers leading just 8-4, a moment of magic from half back Martin Ridyard, the former Leigh player swapping passes with Connor Farrell before backing up to score, finally broke the resolve of a determined Halifax outfit.

Ridyard added the conversion for a 14-4 lead, with a late score from Anthony Thackeray, converted by Ridyard, giving Rovers a convincing win.

Halifax, who struggled to match their defensive steel with a cutting edge in attack, will wonder what might have been if they had started the game with more intensity.

Instead, the opening quarter was something of a nightmare for the visitors, with Rovers piling on the pressure down the slope and Fax unable to escape their own 10 metres at times.

The home side’s intensity produced two early tries, Luke Briscoe scoring from Ian Hardman’s pass and Misi Taulapapa slipping Shaun Robinson over in the other corner.

The only positive at that stage was that Ridyard had missed both conversions, leaving Fax trailing 8-0 after 11 minutes.

The onslaught continued, but the visitors stood firm, although it was the 18th-minute, courtesy of a breakout from Jy Hitchcox, that they secured any possession inside the Rovers’ half.

Gradually, despite the loss of half back Ben Johnston, they worked their way back into the contest, and, finally, they cracked their hosts just before the break.

Scott Murrell slipped in a short kick and Ben Heaton, who come close with a leaping effort a few minutes earlier, beat Robinson to the ball for the try.

Steve Tyrer’s conversion hit the post and bounced away, but, after the battering they had taken, Fax had plenty of reasons to be optimistic at 8-4 at the break.

Fax were indebted to some more defensive brilliance to deny Hardman in the early minutes of the second half, but while they finally gained some possession and position, they failed to create even a half chance after the break as Ridyard finally decided the contest.

Featherstone: Hardman; Briscoe, Hardcastle, Taulapapa, Robinson; Ridyard, Holmes; Cooper, Carlile, Wheeldon, Farrell, Davies, Moore. Subs: Thackeray, Hock, Mariano, Clark

Halifax: Sharp; Heaton, Woodburn-Hall, Tyrer, Hitchcox; Murrell, Johnston; Maher, Kaye, Morris, Barber, Grix, Fairbank. Subs: Fleming, Douglas, Moore, Foster

Referee: G. Hewer