Ambler tees up Thursday night date with Keighley

Luke Ambler
Luke Ambler

Halifax 26 Batley 20

Halifax sealed third-place in the Co-operative Championship with a compelling come-from-behind home win over Batley.

A solo score from dual-registered Leeds prop Luke Ambler three minutes from time snatched a crucial victory for his hometown club and booked a Thursday night play-off date with sixth-placed Keighley at the Shay.

Boss Karl Harrison sprang a surprise before a ball was kicked, including playmaker Paul Handforth - who spent the bulk of the week in hospital with severe tonsilitis - among the substitutes.

There was nothing to choose between the teams in the opening 15 minutes, until Anthony Thackeray sent Ambler stretching over to the right of the posts with a sweet short pass.

Steve Tyrer converted for a 6-0 lead, before Batley eventually equalised 10 minutes later with a controversial try from Alex Walmsley, who appeared to be held close to the line before breaking free to score.

Gareth Moore added the goal to level the scores and the Bulldogs were suddenly dominant, Ben Black – Fax’s 2010 Grand Final hero – almost inevitably scoring on the half hour.

Moore converted again, and then added a penalty in the 34th-minute as Fax found themselves under the cosh.

Things might have been a lot worse before the break had it not been for a couple of crucial last ditch stops from full back Ryan Fieldhouse, but they quickly went downhill after it.

The astonishing Walmsley, who must be a nailed-on certainty to be in Super League next season on this form, evaded a couple of clumsy tacklers on half way and then raced downfield, rounding Fieldhouse on his way to the line.

Moore put Batley 20-6 up with the kick and they might have been out of sight if Jason Walton had not lost the ball in the act of scoring five minutes later.

That proved a turning point; Thackeray’s kick forced a drop out at the other end and Makali Aizue rampaged over the top of Ash Lindsay and then through a couple of defenders on the goalline to score a crucial try.

Tyrer converted and Fax grew in both confidence and quality from then on.

Batley had them under pressure once, but a freakish drop out from Tyrer, which bounced once and went straight into touch, got Fax back on the front foot.

They made the most of their reprieve, Fieldhouse running across and then round the defence to score in the corner.

Tyrer landed the goal from the sideline to cut the deficit to 20-18 and the scores were level 11 minutes from the end when Handforth’s half break forced a penalty for obstruction, Tyrer obliging with the boot.

And that set the stage for Ambler to win the game.

Halifax: Fieldhouse; Worrincy, Paterson, Tyrer, White; Penkywicz, Thackeray; Ambler, Ashall, Aizue, Heaton, Robinson, Gannon. Subs: Casey, Tonks, Barlow, Handforth

Batley: Campbell; Potts, Walton, Maun, Brown; Black, Moore; Smith, Mennell, Green, Bretherton, Applegarth, Lindsay. Subs: Wildie, Hirst, A. Walmsley, L. Walmsley

Referee: Matthew Thomason (Warrington)

Attendance: 2,344