Halifax 4 Featherstone 24
Halifax surrendered their place at the summit of the Co-operative Championship after being comprehensively beaten on home soil by Daryl Powell’s reigning champions.
Rovers, who outscored their hosts by four tries to one, now lead the pack by two points with six games of the regular season remaining.
The visitors, who led 12-4 at the break, were solid in attack but exceptional in defence, where their line speed and ability to slow down their opponents on the ground - albeit at the expense of a steady stream of penalties - left Fax looking disjointed and frustrated.
The Post Office Road side started strongly, commanding the opening exchanges after Fax twice failed to find sufficient depth with clearing kicks, and took a third-minute lead through the familiar figure of Liam Finn, who slipped over to the left of the posts and converted for a 6-0 lead.
Fax slowly managed to turn the tide and looked to have scored a try of their own on 14 minutes, when Sam Barlow capitalised on an error from Rovers full back Ian Hardman to touchdown an Anthony Thackeray cross kick, only for the touchdown to be ruled out for offside by the video referee.
Another video decision, this time against Adam Robinson on the left, kept Rovers 6-0 ahead and they doubled that advantage on the half hour on a rare foray downfield, Matty Dale twisting over and Finn converting.
At 12-0, the next try looked crucial and it went Fax’s way, the returning Wayne Reittie, who had already gone close once, sliding over in the left corner after captain Sean Penkywicz had scooted away from a rare quick the play the ball.
Lee Paterson’s conversion drifted wide, but at least Fax had a foothold in the game going into half time.
And they started the second half brightly; Paul Handforth’s kick forcing a drop out.
But a poor last tackle kick from Thackeray coupled with a penalty near half way put Rovers on the front foot and the excellent Andy Ellis, the hooker who dominated the championship with Barrow in 2009, burrowed over next to the posts, Finn kicking the visitors 18-4 ahead.
Even with almost half a game to go, that looked like a decisive scoreline and Rovers, who were increasingly heavily penalised by referee Matthew Thomason as the night went on but somehow escaped having anyone sin-binned, duly closed the contest out in clinical fashion.
Greg Worthington’s late score was largely academic as Fax finished on the wrong end of a harsh sporting lesson.
Halifax: Fieldhouse; Worrincy, Tyrer, Paterson, Reittie; Handforth, Thackeray; Hesketh, Penkywicz, Ambler, Manning, Robinson, Barlow. Subs: Bowman, Aizue, Ashall, Gannon
Featherstone: Hardman; Briscoe, Smeaton, Worthington, Saxton; Kain, Finn; Lockwood, Kaye, Dickens, Grayshon, Spears, Dale. Subs: Ellis, Bostock, Haley, Maloney