Halifax coach Simon Grix saluted his part-time Challenge Cup heroes after they secured the club’s first semi final since 1988 with a 20-16 win over Bradford at Odsal.
James Woodburn-Hall’s late solo try secured Grix’s fifth win in six games as head coach, teeing up a date with Super League big guns St Helens in the last four.
The visitors trailed 6-0 at the break, but an eight-point try from Steve Tyrer put Fax in front before Woodburn-Hall added some polish to a solid team performance with an assist for Scott Grix before running in the winner with six minutes to go.
With a Halifax-born coach and seven Halifax-born players in the matchday 17, that sparked predictably raucous celebrations.
“It means a lot to me personally and to the players,” said Grix, whose next assignment is an 1895 Cup game against Sheffield at Keighley on Wednesday (8.0) followed by Sunday’s Championship showdown at Leigh (3.0).
“Rugby league has probably slid down the pecking order locally in terms of grassroots, so this is massive.
“It’s been a long time since there’s been a Championship team at the semi final, but we’ve earned this and we deserve it.
“It’s unbelievable, really, considering how the game went.
“We were down to 16 pretty much straight away with Ed Barber going off with a nasty head knock.
“We lost Adam Tangata for 10 minutes after a tackle that probably wasn’t that bad, but when you slow it down in front of a crowd of people you’re always going to get that outcome.
“We did well to come through that period and coming in at 6-0 I was more than happy, because we hadn’t played anywhere near our best.
“They didn’t really break us down all game; there were a couple of comical tries from our errors, to be honest.
“The character again showed; we were really gutsy against a team with quite a few full time players.
“It went pretty wild in the dressing room afterwards and the semi final is going to be a brilliant day.
“Let’s be right, we’re not going with any expectations of winning but we’ll go and give a good account of ourselves and enjoy the occasion.
“You need excitement around sport and this certainly brings a bit to our club.
“We will be everyone’s underdogs that day.”
Woodburn-Hall’s intervention was a significant turnaround for a player who turned out for Hunslet on dual-registration last weekend and was, possibly, only on the teamsheet because of the unavailability of hooker Ben Kaye, who got married on Saturday.
“Woody would certainly have come into the 19 even if we’d had Benny Kaye, but I’m not saying he would definitely have played,” said Grix.
“He went to Hunslet last week and did what I asked him to do.
“He’s a bit hot and cold sometimes; I want him like he was today, when he’s hot, all the time but he’s got to develop that consistency.
“We tried to move Bradford around a bit, then speed the game up in the middle.
“Woody came on at 13 and got his nose through the line a couple of times and we’re really pleased with what he’s done today.
“I wanted him to run the ball, that’s his strength along with that ability to play just about anywhere.”