Fax see lead slip away against league leaders

Ryan Fieldhouse scored back to back tries
Ryan Fieldhouse scored back to back tries

Halifax lost further ground to Championship leaders Leigh after a rollercoaster 36-28 defeat at the Shay.

The Centurions, who went into the game unbeaten and four points clear of their hosts, trailed 24-0 just before half time and had their former Halifax forward Sam Barlow sent off 10 minutes into the second half in bizarre circumstances.

But with half backs Ryan Brierley and Martyn Ridyard a constant threat, they rampaged into a matchwinning 36-24 lead with second half touchdowns from Tommy Goulden, Brierley (2) and centre Tom Armstrong.

Fax - who had every right to question the legality of at least two of those touchdowns after referee Chris Leatherbarrow teetered on the brink of losing control of a crazy contest that was never anything less than compelling - came back at the death with a try from centre Ben Heaton, but when Steve Tyrer’s conversion attempt drifted wide so did their chances of snatching victory.

The home side, who now sit fourth on the league ladder, were brilliant in the opening half hour, dominating in defence and offering an ever present danger in attack as boss Karl Harrison’s new half back pairing of Scott Murrell and Paul Mennell combined superbly.

Forward Andy Bracek opened the scoring after smart approach play from Murrell and Mennell, with Tyrer converting for a 6-0 lead.

Back rower Ross Divorty crossed almost immediately afterwards, the back rower scoring a remarkable chip and chase effort on a ‘free play’ after Leigh had lost possession.

Tyrer doubled the lead to 12-0 and when full back Ryan Fieldhouse stormed over, the centre kicked the home side into an 18-0 lead.

Murrell then put a second try for Fieldhouse on a plate as Fax moved 24-0 clear, a score that prompted Barlow - who had only just come onto the field - to spark a brawl that resulted in him and former teammate Andy Bracek being sin binned.

Mennell’s solo break soon after could have yielded another try, but instead both sides were down to 11 men after Fax prop Tony Tonks took exception to a tackle from Leigh prop Jamie Acton.

Those decisions changed the nature of the game, which Fax had controlled completely until that point, and Barlow gave his side some hope when he emerged from a crowd of players to score on the stroke of half time after Fieldhouse had spilled Brierley’s high kick.

Ridyard converted for 24-6 and when Goulden touched down two minutes into the second half, the game was already back in the balance.

Back rower Matt Sarsfield scored after what appeared to be a Leigh knock on with around half an hour remaining, Barlow being red carded in circumstances almost as odd as the try itself.

The former Siddal junior was already in the dug out after being replaced only to be recalled and sent off for what was later revealed to be a punch on Fax winger Gareth Potts.

The try stood nevertheless, Ridyard making it 24-18 before Brierley scored from a pass that appeared to travel significantly forward.

That levelled the scores at 24-24, before Armstrong and Brierley maintained Leigh’s attacking momemtum to complete a remarkable comeback.

Halifax: Fieldhouse; Saxton, Tyrer, Heaton, Potts; Murrell, Mennell; Ambler, Kaye, Bracek, Manning, Divorty, Adamson. Subs: Holden, Tonks, Davies, Casey

Leigh: McNally; Higson, Pitman, Armstrong, Kay; Ridyard, Brierley; Spencer, Penkywicz, Wilkes, Sarsfield, Goulden, Hopkins. Subs: Beswick, Acton, Barlow, Emmitt

Referee: Chris Leatherbarrow

Attendance: 2,282