Fit-again Johnston spices up Fax attack at Barrow

Ben Johnston
Ben Johnston

Barrow Raiders 18

Halifax 32

Ben Johnston was the spark behind Halifax’s win over basement club Barrow but their visit to Cumbria was not the stroll in the sun that the Championship table might have suggested.

Four tries in an 18-minute burst either side of the interval gave Halifax the comfortable platform to hold off a spirited challenge for the improving Raiders and coach Karl Harrison was quick to admit that his team were not at their best after a hectic schedule.

Twice they trailed to a Barrow side who have only a surprise victory at Sheffield to show for their efforts this season but once scrum-half Johnston strolled through a bewildered home defence two minutes before half time to put Halifax in front there was no turning back.

Things did not start too well for the visitors and they fell behind after 12 minutes when Barrow’s Halifax-born former Siddal full-back Niall Evalds – a sudden dual signing from Salford – skipped through for the first try of his hat-trick but they were behind for just five minutes before Danny Cowling went over in the corner and Steve Tyrer’s goal levelled things up.

Four minutes later Evalds second try restored Barrow’s advantage but once again Halifax didn’t waste any time getting back on he scoresheet – another Cowling try cutting the gap to 12-10, Tyrer’s goal attempt hitting the post.

Johnston’s try under the posts stunned the home side, but not quite as much as the next touchdown. It came in the 42nd minute when full-back Ryan Fireldhouse latched on to a Ross Divorty pass and the home defence were left stroking at thin air.

Johnston then supplied Fieldhouse with his second try after 54 minutes and with Barrow still wondering what had hit them substitute Paul Mennell got in on the act. Tyrer’s goals stretched the lead to 32-12 and the contest was as good as over. Even so, Halifax still managed to create – and squander – a number of chances to stretch their lead and it was Barrow who had the final say, new boy Evalds going over to complete his hat-trick. Ryan Shaw’s goal left the home side just two points short of a bonus point that even Karl Harrison would not have denied them.

“Credit to them, they never gave up,” said the Halifax coach.