Fax so close to glory at Featherstone

Andy Bracek played 70 minutes at loose forward
Andy Bracek played 70 minutes at loose forward

Halifax went within a whisker of turning over Championship favourites Featherstone at Post Office Road, Rovers needing three tries in the final 15 minutes to snatch a 28-20 victory.

Karl Harrison’s side, who claimed a precious bonus point, trailed 12-0 early on but battled back to lead 20-12 as the clock ticked into the final quarter before Rovers made a late grab for the points.

Defeat was cruel on the visitors, who will nevertheless take plenty of positives from one of their most difficult away fixtures of the year.

Rovers had looked sharper from the off, shifting the ball to their left early in the tackle count to try and position the dangerous centre Greg Worthington outside Fax skipper Scott Murrell.

It worked too, with Worthington slipping his winger Jamal Chisholm over in the corner after just four minutes.

Half back Gareth Moore converted for a 6-0 lead, which doubled on the quarter hour when Fax hooker Ben Kaye was sin binned for holding down Rovers’ other centre Ben Hellewell and the ball was whipped left where Worthington powered through some indifferent tackling to score.

Again, Moore put the ball between the posts from the sideline and the visitors’ challenge was faltering badly.

The spark for their revival came from young half back Ben Johnston, who split the Rovers defence and then left full back James Mendeika sat on his backside for a brilliant solo score.

Steve Tyrer converted to leave the score poised at 12-6, although the home side should have extended their lead when Moore exchanged passes with Flanagan, but put what would have been the scoring ball down with the line in sight.

And Fax made their hosts pay, with a chaotic build up ending with Scott Murrell and Johnston combining to put Kaye over against the club that let him go.

Tyrer added the extras and Fax were level at the break, but ahead immediately after it.

Again, it was Johnston who did the damage, taking Simon Brown’s pass and putting Ross Divorty over by the posts, Tyrer kicking Fax 18-12 ahead.

Gareth Potts almost scored from Murrell’s kick as Fax forced back to back drop outs, and they finally extended their lead to 12-20 when Tyrer landed a 30 metre penalty after Murrell was held down.

The visitors were the dominant team at that stage, but in the end a single error - a cut out pass from Luke Adamson that was called forward - gave Rovers the toe hold they needed.

A minute later, the classy Andy Ellis put Will Sharp over in the corner, and although Moore’s kick drifted wide to leave Fax leading 20-16, the momentum had swung.

Back to back penalties ferried Rovers back downfield and with 11 minutes to go back rower Jamie Cording wrestled his way over, Moore giving Rovers the lead at 22-20.

Fax threw everything into regaining the lead, but it proved beyond them, Mendeika’s last-gasp try - from a loose ball that seemed to roll forward for an age - giving the home side a mastery on the scoreboard they hardly merited.

Rovers: Mendeika; Sharp, Hellewell, Worthington, Chisholm; Bussey, Moore; Crossley, Ellis, Hirst, Lockwood, Spears, Cording. Subs: Flanagan, Dale, Bostock, James

Halifax: Potts; Reittie, Tyrer, Cowling, Heaton; Murrell, Johnston; Tonks, Kaye, Ambler, Manning, Adamson, Bracek. Subs: Brown, Mennell, Davies, Divorty

Referee: Matthew Thomason