Fax complete warm up schedule with Batley stalemate

Scott Murrell
Scott Murrell

Halifax will go into their televised Championship opener against Sheffield next Thursday on the back of an 18-18 draw at Batley.

On a freezing night, Karl Harrison’s side posted a good-in-parts performance against a near-full strength Bulldogs line up, leading 6-0, 12-6 and 18-12 without ever managing to really shed the shackles of the home defence.

The plus points were an improved defensive effort, a solid comeback for the prop Tony Tonks and strong performances from winger Rikki Sheriffe and prop Luke Ambler.

The downs were some continued uncertainty with the ball, especially on Fax’s left side, and the lack of an eventual victory.

The Mount Pleasant pitch was commendably clear of snow, the banks of it piled high around the ground testament to Batley’s efforts to get the game on in the first place.

It was the visitors who drew first blood, Ryan Fieldhouse taking a one-handed off load from Ambler to touchdown by the posts, Steve Tyrer kicking the conversion.

It was nip and tuck after that, both sides playing solidly in less than ideal conditions.

Batley were level just before the quarter hour, Ben Black producing some trademark footwork near the line and wriggling his way through a posse of defenders to score.

His half back partner Tom Hemingway, who had a brief, inglorious loan spell at the Shay under Matt Calland’s reign, booted the goal to level at 6-6.

Fax went ahead again five minutes later, Craig Ashall dabbing the ball along the deck and Paul Handforth pouncing for the try.

Tyrer was again on target for a 12-6 lead, heralding a 20 minute stalemate that only ever looked like being broken when Batley wingman Ben Blackmore was shovelled into touch five metres short of the line.

Playing up the slope in the second half, Fax conceded after less than two minutes, replacement hooker Paul Mennell slipping over from a close range play the ball and Hemingway levelling at 12-12.

The visitors regained the lead midway through the half, Murrell firing the ball wide and Handforth providing a perfect ball for Lee Paterson to score, Tyrer landing the goal from the sideline.

That lead lasted until the 71st minute, when Black just found enough room to scramble over for his second.

Mennell obliged with the conversion that squared things up once more and that was how it stayed until the final whistle.

Batley: Greenwood; Johnson, Bretherton, Faal, Blackmore; Black, Hemingway; Smith, Whitmore, Potter, Scott, Davies, Applegarth. Subs: Campbell, Potts, Walton, Dawson, Rowe, Mennell, Leary, Walmsley, Fairbank.

Halifax: Fieldhouse; Sheriffe, Tyrer, Heaton, Worrincy; Handforth, Thackeray; Ambler, C. Ashall, Bracek, Casey, Divorty, Murrell. Subs: K. Ashall, Paterson, Robinson, Barlow, Tonks, Davies