Fax close on top four place after beating Toulouse at the Shay

editorial image

Halifax are a final-day victory against Rochdale away from sealing a place in the Super 8s Qualifiers after a nerve-jangling 19-14 win over second-placed Toulouse at the Shay.

Richard Marshall’s side, who knew a loss would put them out of contention, controlled most of an intense, physical contest without managing to open a decisive gap and were trailing 14-13 with 10 minutes to go after a Mark Kheirallah penalty nudged the French side in front for the first time.

But the home side responded with a try from back rower Shane Grady with seven minutes to go, coolly converted by Steve Tyrer, and then withstood a late onslaught - aided by some contentious refereeing decisions - which saw the game finish with Toulouse within a metre of the try line.

Providing Fax can find a way to beat Hornets next weekend, they are guaranteed a top four finish, with Featherstone and Leigh the teams now most likely to miss out.

The home side got off to a flyer, going close through half back Ben Johnston and centre Chester Butler, before a sixth-minute kick from captain Scott Murrell saw Tyrer outjump the defence to score in the corner.

Tyrer converted, but the lead was short lived when Toulouse scored an alarmingly easy try, back rower Batian Canet strolling through a huge gap from Johnathan Ford’s pass, the exceptional Kheirallah converting for 6-6 after 12 minutes.

Johnston threatened again though after Adam Tangata broke free and hooker Ben Kaye was on hand to dive over from close range, Tyrer’s kick giving Fax the lead again at 12-6.

But it needed a miracle tackle from Kaye, somehow getting his body underneath Clement Boyer when it seemed easier for the Frenchman to score the try, to preserve that lead going into the final 10 minutes.

Fax had chances to add to their tally, Johnston almost threading Ed Barber through and Tyrer missing a penalty a couple of minutes from half time, but it stayed 12-6 until the break.

The opening minutes of the second half were strewn with errors, from both sides, and with 20 minutes remaining Fax skipper Scott Murrell opted to edge the lead out to seven points at 13-6.

But an error from the kick off allowed Joseph Bretherton to touchdown, Kheirallah adding the conversion and then a penalty almost immediately after Adam Tangata was caught offside as he collected a kick.

Trailing 14-13, Fax needed a spark and it came from Johnston, who slipped Grady into a gap and the rangy forward did the rest, standing tall in Kheirallah’s tackle and forcing the ball down on the line one handed.

Toulouse threw everything into the final seven minutes, with two penalties, both involving Ford, teeing up a grandstand finish, but the home side held on.

Halifax: Moss; Saltonstall, Tyrer, Butler, Sharp; Murrell, Johnston; Tangata, Kaye, Fleming, Barber, Grady, Fairbank. Subs: Grix, Moore, Morris, Maher

Toulouse: Kheirallah; Centrone, Marguerite, Ader, Maurel; Ford, Barthau; Bretherton, Marion, Puech, Canet, Mika, Boyer. Subs: Hepi, Rapira, Bouzinac, Seguier

Referee: G. Dolan