Halifax emerged from a tumultuous week with a surprise Championship win at in-form Sheffield Eagles as Chester Butler’s late touchdown sealed a 32-24 success for caretaker coach Simon Grix.
Fax, thrashed 56-4 in Toulouse on Easter Monday, had parted company with coach Richard Marshall on Friday evening, leaving his assistant Grix in temporary charge.
Halifax-born Grix, who began his career with his hometown club as a 16 year old before spending a decade in Super League with Warrington, only had a single hour-long training session with his new charges but elicited a promising response at Olympic Legacy Park.
The visitors, who had the hugely talented Butler playing his first game of the season after a succession of injury setbacks, were perhaps unfortunate to trail 20-18 at the break.
But they grabbed a 24-20 lead early in the second half with Butler’s first try of the game, the Wales international cleaning up after Eagles winger Ryan Millar had spilled a kick from veteran playmaker Scott Murrell and Steve Tyrer kicking the conversion.
The rest of the half was nip-and-tuck, with a Tyrer penalty and a breakaway chip-and-chase score from Eagles speedster Ben Blackmore, which was crucially not converted by Pat Walker, leaving the scores poised at 26-24 going into the final quarter.
Fax resisted everything Sheffield could throw at them, with Butler slicing through for the decisive score a minute from the end.
Earlier, Fax had opened the scoring through back rower Ed Barber, with Butler providing the assist and Tyrer kicking the conversion, and almost had a second when winger Shaun Robinson was pulled back for offside.
Sheffield levelled at 6-6 when Aaron Brown intercepted Murrell’s pass, Walker converting and then adding a penalty to make it 8-6.
A close range James Davey try, converted by Walker, opened up a 14-6 lead, but Murrell’s point-blank effort, which Tyrer converted, narrowed the deficit to 14-12 just past the half hour.
James Woodburn-Hall and Millar than traded converted touchdowns to keep the game in the balance at the interval, but it was the visitors who went on to rediscover their winning touch in the second half.
Sheffield: Guzdek; Millar, Glover, Dixon, Blackmore; Walker, Thackeray; Moran, Burns, James, Farrell, Davies, Brown. Subs: Esslemont, Knowles, Mason, Davey
Halifax: Laulu-Togagae; Robinson, Tyrer, Butler, Sharp; Murrell, Woodburn-Hall; Morris, Moore, Kavanagh, Larroyer, Barber, Fairbank. Subs: Fleming, Curtis Davies, Connor Davies, Chapman-Smith
Referee: B. Pearson