Frustrated Fax miss out against Rovers

Mitch Cahalane touches down
Mitch Cahalane touches down

Halifax suffered a second successive home defeat, this time against Featherstone Rovers, eventually going down 24-12 in a contest they will feel they could, and arguably should, have won.

Fax, who lost their former Rovers hooker Ben Kaye in the warm up and then full back Miles Greenwood in the first half with a suspected double fracture of his lower leg, were the dominant side for long spells, but struggled to turn that superiority into points.

They had a glut of chances, particularly in a tense second half, but were undone by a combination of their own fumbles, a dogged Rovers’ defence and - in the case of Jacob Fairbank - the quicksand-like Shay playing surface.

They finally cut the gap to 18-12 with six minutes to go and had the possession and territory they needed to win the game, but once that had been squandered, Rovers finally sealed victory with a try from Joe Arundel, one of four Wakefield players drafted in on dual registration.

Rovers looked the sharper side in the opening minutes, although their opening try owed everything to an error by Greenwood that the full back would have been furious with.

Gareth Moore’s kick was high, but Greenwood had it in his hands before it slipped free, paving the way for Rovers to spread the ball to the opposite corner where Paul Sykes, such a classy player at this level, slipped between Steve Tyrer and Tommy Saxton to score.

Worse was to follow as Greenwood departed on a stretcher after an innocuous incident in the in goal, bringing half back Ben Johnston - who was only there at all because Kaye was injured - into play at full back.

Fax looked understandably shell shocked at that point and Rovers profited, Tom Johnstone, one of their Wakefield contingent, rising above Saltonstall to claim Moore’s kick.

The conversion was missed, but at 10-0 Fax had it all to do.

And once they regained their composure, they set about their task well, with Murrell, Johnston and Fairbank all breaking the line without managing to find an end product.

The visitors finally cracked when Tyrer claimed Murrell’s cross kick, the centre adding a conversion from touch for 10-6.

And Fax might have been in front at half time, Ben Heaton being stopped just short and Richard Moore juggling, and ultimately spilling, a clever early kick from Murrell with the line open seconds before half time.

Fairbank looked a certain scorer early in the second half, his long break only ending as he stumbled in the sand in front of the South Stand, and Tyrer was then denied as a huge overlap on the right went begging.

The sin binning of the inspirational Scott Murrell, for an allegedly late challenge on Rovers’ hooker Sam Irwin, let Rovers off the hook and the ever-dangerous Andy Ellis poached a close range try that put the visitors 16-6 ahead.

Another contentious decision from referee George Stokes, penalising Saltonstall in possession, allowed Sykes to extend that to 18-6, a deficit that was finally reduced when Johnston’s break set up Mitch Cahalane’s try.

Tyrer converted, and Fax had the chances to claim a draw, but Arundel’s late try summed up an afternoon when everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

Halifax: Greenwood; Saxton, Heaton, Tyrer, Saltonstall; Place, Murrell; Cahalane, Maneely, Ambler, Robinson, Manning, Bracek. Subs: Tangata, Moore, Johnston, Fairbank

Featherstone: Sharp; Hitchcox, Arundel, Sykes, Johnstone; Godinet, Moore; Baldwinson, Irwin, Wood, Cording, Foster, Spears. Subs: Ellis, Bostock, Trout, Ormondroyd

Referee: George Stokes