Fax keep unbeaten record, but let victory slip from their grasp

Dane Manning
Dane Manning

Halifax remain unbeaten in the Championship after a compelling 18-18 draw at third-placed Batley.

But Karl Harrison’s side will feel they should have claimed all three points after seeing an 18-8 lead whittled away in a pulsating last eight minutes.

First, a Ben Black interception, after a Steve Tyrer error, created a try for winger Gareth Potts.

Then, with seconds remaining, an Andy Bracek knock on gave Batley the position for Johnny Campbell to score in the corner.

That gave half back Tom Hemingway the chance the snatch a draw with a sideline conversion, although Fax’s players, gathered in the shadow of the posts, were adamant the ball had gone wide.

Fax started superbly, Scott Murrell launching a monstrous kick from his own 30 that rolled up the hill and into touch a yard short of the Batley line.

And the visitors made the most of the position, Murrell feeding Tyrer and the centre fending off the cover to score in the corner.

Tyrer missed the conversion, but the visitors continued to dominate until a dropped ball from Rikki Sheriffe, the winger spilling Paul Mennell’s kick, paved the way for Mennell to force his way from point blank range under the posts.

Hemingway kicked the conversion for a 6-4 lead but that lasted just a few minutes.

Jason Walton went in high on Murrell and Fax opted for the two points, Tyrer banging the ball over via the goalpost to tie things up at 6-6.

The next 20 minutes were a toe-to-toe scrap between two top three teams, neither willing to give an inch.

Batley had more possession, and eventually notched another penalty just before the break to go 8-6 up, but Fax went close several times, notably when Rob Worrincy made a searing break upfield and Sheriffe was just beaten to Tyrer’s kick ahead.

The arm wrestle persisted in the second half, with the 60 minute mark coming and going without any addition to the score.

Batley were arguably on top at that stage, but Paul Handforth’s anticipated switch to hooker had the desired effect for the visitors, the former Bulldogs skipper selling an outrageous dummy and strolling over by the corner flag.

Tyrer found his form with the boot to land a tremendous conversion and put Fax 12-8 ahead, but that lead would have lasted only moments if Ryan Fieldhouse had not popped up to intercept what would have been a scoring pass from Byron Smith to Hemingway.

The visitors made the most of the let off; Handforth hoisting the bomb, Miles Greenwood spilling it and Adam Robinson sending Ben Heaton over for a try on the right.

Tyrer kicked the conversion and Fax looked to have the three points wrapped up.

Then came the late drama.

Batley: Greenwood; Potts, Walton, Bretherton, Campbell; Black, Hemingway; Smith, Mennell, Rowe, Applegarth, Davies, Lindsay. Subs: Flanagan, Hirst, Fleming, Maun

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

Referee: George Stokes

Attendance: 948