London Skolars 12
HALIFAX flirted with Northern Rail Cup disaster in north London before an 83rd-minute winner from Wayne Reittie finally saw them through to the last eight.
The winger, who had been strong all game on a miserable afternoon, pounced on a Paul Handforth kick on the final play of the match to finally save the visitors’ blushes.
In many ways it was harsh on the Skolars, who had defended doggedly in the mud of the New River Stadium, but it still reflected the superiority of Karl Harrison’s side, last-second losers against Featherstone a week earlier, who had three scores disallowed and were held up over the line on a handful of occasions.
The Skolars, who had failed to score a point in the two home games between the sides since 2004, had made the early running and spent the first seven minutes camped on the Fax line.
They came close to scoring, full back James Anthony scrambling over the line only to be held up by some committed defence.
At the other end, loose forward Craig Ashall stormed clear and kicked ahead, but home winger John Paxton just about got back to deny the onrushing Reittie.
Paul Handforth then sent Adam Robinson clear down the left just after the quarter hour, but the back rower’s pass to Reittie sailed high, wide and over the sideline.
If either of those chances had been taken, it might have been a different game entirely, but instead the mistakes continued to come as quarter time ticked past, with the Londoners massively improved on past form.
Fax were still forcing the pace, Sean Penkywicz wriggling clear down the right, but again the crucial pass – this time intended for Rob Worrincy – found the ground rather than the player.
And, against all expectations, it was the Skolars who broke the deadlock close to the half hour when Austen Aggrey somehow got the ball down through a posse of defenders and Dylan Skee kicked the conversion for a 6-0 lead.
Fax made it over the line shortly afterwards, but Tyrer’s ball to Reittie was hopelessly forward.
They looked to have a better case when replacement prop Luke Ambler crashed over, the referee - who was standing next to Ambler - giving the try before changing his mind on the intervention of the touch judge.
The visitors continued to pile on the pressure, but the story of the half was just about summed up when Handforth forced a repeat set with a neat kick, the Skolars dropped out and the ball bounced over Reittie’s head into touch.
The second half began ominously, with Penkywicz’s touchfinder sailing out on the full, and the Skolars went closest to scoring with a kick to Fax’s left that Reittie managed to defuse.
Fax, for all their fumblings, clearly had far greater potential with the ball and they finally cracked the home defence on 47 minutes, Ryan Fieldhouse skating over on the left and Tyrer kicking the goal off the sideline to level at 6-6.
That parity lasted a matter of moments, Ben Heaton being sin-binned for a late challenge on Skee and the half back stepping up to boot the penalty.
Fax compounded their error by sending the kick off out on the full and the Skolars took immediate advantage when Ade Adebisi somehow fought his way over in the corner.
Skee missed the goal to leave Fax 12-6 down, but they looked to have levelled when Fieldhouse slid over just before the 60 minute mark, only to be penalised for a double movement.
Sean Hesketh then rumbled over, but could not ground the ball and the body language of the two teams told a tale: Skolars, jubilant. Fax, desperate.
The visitors established an attacking foothold with around 10 minutes remaining, but Fieldhouse’s knock on let the Londoners, who were now tiring visibly, off the hook.
Skee went for a drop goal that skidded hopelessly along the ground and the visitors finally gave themselves a fighting chance of a comeback with nine minutes to go when substitute Anthony Bowman’s chip kick was pounced on by Tyrer.
The centre’s conversion attempt drifted agonisingly wide to leave the Skolars clinging to a 12-10 advantage, paving the way for a dramatic finish.
With the home side virtually out on their feet, Fax saw Lee Paterson and Tyrer over the whitewash but unable to ground the ball and Worrincy have a try scrubbed out for offside.
Just as it looked like the Skolars would hang on though, Handforth dabbed the ball along the deck and Reittie pounced for the matchwinner, Tyrer kicking the academic conversion.