Fax move level with Bulls on league ladder as Murrell seals derby success

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Halifax moved level with derby rivals Bradford in the race for the Championship play offs with a second-half shut out sealing a 21-14 win at Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road.

The victory, sealed by captain Scott Murrell’s late drop goal, was the fourth straight success for caretaker coach Simon Grix, who is expected to be officially confirmed as Richard Marshall’s permanent replacement next week.

Fax had trailed 14-12 at the break, but finally broke open a tense second half on 65 minutes when Jacob Fairbank’s cut out pass put full back Quentin Laulu-Togagae into space and the Samoan coolly sent Elliot Morris romping under the posts.

Centre Steve Tyrer, who produced a brilliant try saving tackle on Bulls front rower Steve Crossley, kicked the conversion to put his side back in front at 18-14, before adding a penalty with 12 minutes to go after QLT was grounded just short of the line.

Bradford, who had dominated spells of an end-to-end game, twice regained possession with short restart kicks, but Murrell’s one-pointer levelled the season’s ledger at 1-1 ahead of the Challenge Cup quarter final at Odsal in two weeks’ time.

Fax had gone behind inside the opening five minutes, with back to back penalties carrying the Bulls from one end of the field to the other and Ethan Ryan’s pass giving David Foggin-Johnston the chance to stand Will Sharp up on his way to the corner.

Elliot Minchella’s conversion went wide and Grix’s side were level four minutes later, Scott Murrell’s towering kick being batted back by Liam Cooper, who started the game ahead of Kevin Larroyer, and Ben Kavanagh cleaning up for the try by the posts.

Tyrer converted to put 6-4 up, but another penalty and another piece of questionable defence on the flank allowing Dalton Grant to score in the other corner, Minchella on target to put the Bulls 10-4 in front after 16 minutes.

Fax, who had Scott Grix making his second debut at half back after a 15-season absence, were lacking field position, but when they found it, they made it count; great hands from Murrell putting QLT over the line and Tyrer restoring their lead at 12-10.

With half time looming, Fax twice conceded penalties in kickable positions and, just as he had done at the Shay on Good Friday, Minchella accepted both, booting the Bulls back into the lead at 14-12.

It stayed that way until the break, although only after Sharp’s try, from QLT’s long ball, was rather controversially ruled out for a knock on.

The early stages of the second period were nip and tuck, but with 15 minutes to go it was Fax who struck the telling blows.

Halifax: Laulu-Togagae; Sharp, Butler, Tyrer, Robinson; Murrell, Grix; Kavanagh, Kaye, Morris, Barber, Cooper, Fairbank. Subs: Moore, Fleming, Larroyer, Davies

Bradford: Ryan; Grant, Webster, Oakes, Foggin-Johnston; Milnes, Lilley; Kirk, Hallas, Crossley, Storton, Minchella, Wood. Subs: Farrell, Wildie, Green, Roche

Referee: T. Grant

Attendance: 7,912