A STUNNING last play try from winger Paul White saw Halifax make it a hat trick of Co-operative Championship wins against a doggedly determined Hunslet side.
The scores were locked at 18-18 when White, who had looked sharp all night, stormed onto a Miles Greenwood offload after slick handling from Ben Black and Bob Beswick had put the full back into space.
Defeat was cruel on the Hawks, who had led twice in the second half – at 14-10 and then 18-16 – as they looked to break a five-game losing streak.
But for Fax, who again showed genuine composure and patience, victory was the perfect fillip ahead of next week’s Northern Rail Cup semi final at Featherstone.
Predictably, it was the home side who threatened first, hooker Bob Beswick being held up close to the line inside the first four minutes.
A drop out quickly followed as the Hawks lost possession early in the count, but Lee Paterson’s fifth tackle fumble saw the chance go begging.
Fax had a great opportunity when Black fired a great ball to the charging Steve Bannister, but the back rower could not hang on with the line in sight.
They didn’t have to wait long though, direct midfield running from wingers White and Rob Worrincy getting Hunslet back pedalling and Black turning a simple ball inside for young loose forward Jacob Fairbank to bundle over from close range.
Stand off Danny Jones kicked the conversion for a 6-0 lead and although Hunslet threatened briefly through a quick-stepping Danny Ratcliffe over on the left, the home side continued to dominate both possession and position as the first quarter came to a close.
And they almost added to their tally when Dylan Nash’s breakout teed up a Beswick break in midfield, but the hooker’s final round-the-man pass to Greenwood was called forward.
The Hawks gradually gained a foothold as the half hour approached, culminating in a three set barrage sparked by Makali Aizue’s error as he tried to drive the ball out.
A month ago, Fax might have conceded after their visitors won a penalty then forced a drop out, but not now as the defence stood rock solid until the veteran winger Waine Pryce lost possession on the left hand touchline.
Ironically, Hunslet’s try finally arrived with Fax pressing at the other end of the field soon after, stand off Danny Grimshaw picking Black’s misplaced kick out of the air and covering the 70 metres to the line just about quick enough to see off the chasing Worrincy and White.
Ratcliffe kicked the conversion, but Hunslet’s parity only lasted a matter of minutes.
Black’s high ball was taken successfully close to the sideline by Dennis Tuffour, but Nash’s driving tackle induced a panic offload and the ball bounced up nicely for Black to apply the finish by the corner flag.
Jones missed the conversion to leave the score at 10-6 going into half time.
Fax notably upped the ante in the opening sets of the second period, although an early half chance went begging when Gil Dudson’s speculative offload found the ground rather than Greenwood.
And instead it was the visitors who got the first points of the second 40, Paul March showing all his experience to plunder a close range touchdown after Fax had been penalised for ball stealing in the middle of the park.
Ratcliffe scuffed the conversion to leave the scores tied at 10-10 but the visitors took a spectacular and deserved lead almost immediately, Grimshaw bursting past Black and firing a long ball out to Tuffour, who touched down in the corner.
Ratcliffe missed again, leaving Hunslet with a 14-10 cushion after 47 minutes.
The Hawks became notably more combative as they attempted to preserve their advantage, throwing men into the tackle to slow Fax’s progress down the middle.
Fax forced a drop out in the 57th minute, Richie Barnett knocking Black’s kick over the dead ball line, but Nash’s second tackle offload, which looked a marginal call at best, only found a Hunslet defender.
Fax continued to pile on the pressure and they finally got their reward when Nash and Black combined on the right to send Worrincy over in the corner to level the scores.
Jones’ kick drifted agonisingly wide, setting up a grandstand finish at 14-14.
Black’s kick forced a drop out as the final 10 minutes approached, a set that culminated with the half back’s grubber kick being tapped dead to give Fax another set of possession.
Jones then put the ball on the boot, leaving Hunslet to defend a third barrage from point blank range.
They just about managed it, dodging a frantic left to right shift that ended with Nash putting the ball on the floor to take the heat off the visiting defence.
But when the Hawks were caught offside, Jones stepped up from 40 metres to send the ball between the posts and give the home side the lead again at 16-14.
That was far from the end of the drama though, and when David March broke the line 40 minutes out, Ratcliffe loomed in support and applied a crossfield finish despite Worrincy’s despairing last ditch tackle.
David March missed the kick to leave Hunslet leading 18-16, only for another penalty straight from the restart to allow Jones to level the scores with another fine kick.
At that stage, a draw seemed certain, but when Beswick and Black worked Fax’s trademark one-two to set Greenwood free, White pushed up in support, took the ball on the 20 metre line and flew away to the posts, Jones adding the academic conversion.