Featherstone Rovers put themselves in the driving seat for a top four Championship finish with a superb 24-20 win at Halifax that almost certainly ended their hosts’ chances.
Jon Sharp’s side, winners at Batley last weekend, recovered from a 14-12 interval deficit to dominate the second half at the Shay with a near error free performance.
Richard Marshall’s Halifax, the success story of last season’s Super 8s Qualifiers, piled forward in the closing stages but were left to rue a raft of unforced errors that invited their visitors into the game at crucial stage.
Both sides had half chances early on, Rovers’ Steve Snitch and Jack Ormondroyd being held on the line and Halifax’s Jacob Fairbank only denied by a difficult bounce.
With defences holding firm, Halifax opted to open the scoring in the 19th minute, Steve Tyrer kicking a penalty after Fairbank and Rovers’ Ian Hardman had been sin binned after a scuffle at the ruck.
But it was Rovers who took control with two tries in five minutes, both scored after Halifax turned the ball over trying to escape their own territory.
Hooker Andy Ellis got the first with a trademark twist over from dummy half, with Leeds winger Ashton Golding grabbing the second on the right and Kyle Briggs adding a single conversion for a 10-2 advantage.
The home side cut the deficit when hooker Connor Robinson claimed Scott Murrell’s grubber kick and Tyrer cut the deficit to 10-8 with the conversion.
Rovers moved 12-8 up just before half time when they opted to kick a penalty, but when Golding lost the ball from the restart, the home side punished them, Simon Grix slipping Ben Johnston over.
Tyrer converted for a 14-12 interval lead, which Rovers cancelled out with a Briggs penalty five minutes into the second half.
The visitors then retook the lead when Misi Taulapapa wriggled over on the left, although Briggs’ missed conversion left them only 18-14 ahead.
Halifax hit back when Australian forward Mitch Cahalane crashed over under the posts, Scott Murrell’s conversion putting them 20-18 up.
But a dropped ball from Will Sharp, the former Rovers winger, gave Featherstone another attacking chance and the former Halifax half back Anthony Thackeray took advantage, Briggs’ goal making it 24-20.
Halifax threw everything at their visitors in the last 10 minutes, but never really looked like snatching a win they would have scarcely deserved.
Halifax: Johnston; Sharp, Heaton, Tyrer, Saltonstall; G. Moore, Murrell; Cahalane, Robinson, Tangata, Grix, Sarsfield, Fairbank. Subs: Ambler, R. Moore, B. Moore, Boyle
Featherstone: Hardman; Golding, Channing, Tagg, Taulapapa; Briggs, Thackeray; Bostock, Ellis, Baldwinson, Snitch, Davies, Ormondroyd. Subs: Griffin, Spears, Cooper, Mullally
Referee: James Child