Late brace of tries snatches crucial win for Fax against Featherstone

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Halifax kept themselves in the race for a top four Championship finish with two tries in the final five minutes snatching a 24-18 win over rivals Featherstone Rovers at Bloomfield Road.

Richard Marshall’s side were in complete control at the break when they led 14-0, but Rovers turned the contest on its head in the opening 18 minutes of the second half, scoring three tries to go 18-14 ahead.

But Ben Johnston struck five minutes from time, after some magic from QLT, to restore their advantage and then Scott Murrell pounced in the final seconds to seal the win.

Both sides made errors in some quickfire opening exchanges, but it was Fax who took the lead on eight minutes, hooker Ben Kaye poking a short kick out of dummy half and Murrell collecting the ball by the posts to touchdown.

Steve Tyrer kicked the conversion for a 6-0 lead and with Featherstone consistently undermining their own efforts with a steady flow of penalties, it was no real surprise when Fax added to their tally.

Johnston shifted the ball to the left and QLT found Tyrer with a short pass that gave him enough room to round Josh Hardcastle on his way to the corner.

The centre added a brilliant conversion for a 12-0 lead and when Tyrer added a penalty around the half hour mark, the score pushed out to 14-0.

It stayed that way until the break, although it was Fax who carried more threat with the ball as the half drew to a close.

The second half started with Dan Fleming sparking a melee by slapping Mitch Clark, the upshot being both players in the sin bin and a Rovers penalty.

Fax might have been well clear when Shane Grady romped clear, only for Ian Hardman to haul down the supporting Johnston.

Rovers finally got on the board when Gareth Hock rumbled over, Hardman kicking the conversion, and with 25 minutes remaining the game was back in the melting pot when Anthony Thackeray danced over, Hardman’s conversion leaving Fax clinging to a 14-12 lead.

And when Matty Wildie stepped out of Tangata’s tackle to touchdown, Hardman kicked Rovers 18-14 ahead with 22 minutes remaining.

Fax worked their way back into contention, despite losing Tyrer to the sin bin for a trip with 13 minutes remaining, and might have at least been level when QLT ghosted through, only to be called back for a forward pass.

But when QLT slipped through a gap brilliantly with five minutes to go, Johnston drifted up on the inside to take the scoring pass, Shane Grady kicking the crucial conversion.

Murrell sealed things in the final minute with a scrappy close range kick and chase that sealed a crucial victory.

Halifax: Laulu-Togaga’e; Saltonstall, Tyrer, Barber, Sharp; Murrell, Johnston; Fairbank, Kaye, Tangata, Grady, Butler, Grix. Subs: Moore, Morris, Fleming, Maher

Featherstone: Hardman; Robinson, Newman, Hardcastle, Briscoe; Holmes, Thackeray; Wheeldon, Carlile, Knowles, Lockwood, Davies, Moore. Subs: Wildie, Hock, Brooks, Clark