Halifax Panthers booked their place in the Betfred Challenge Cup 4th Round with a 32-4 victory over Whitehaven in their first match back at the Shay in 2024.
The damage was done in the first quarter as a Joe Keyes inspired Panthers side flew out of the blocks with 20 points in as many minutes to race into a early lead they would never relinquish. Haven, however, showed they never go away as they restricted Fax to no points until the final 10 minutes as the game became scrappy thanks in no small part to the weather and heavy field.
Ex Halifax players Jake Maizen and Ryan King were in the Haven side, possibly with points to prove against their former teammates. But it was Captain Keyes who set the tone as he supported a Ben Crooks break on the inside to score his first four pointer and the first try of 2024 at the Shay.
Louis Jouffret converted from the tee and soon after he was converting his own score after he dummied and powered his way over from close range, 12-0 up after less than 10 minutes. Ben Crooks turned from provider to scorer as the running game of Greg Eden set him free down the left flank. He slowed down in anticipation of Keyes supporting on the inside but decided to take on the Whitehaven’s PNG fullback Edene Gebbie and beat him on the outside for a tremendous solo effort. Jouffret was wide with his conversion.
Keyes was then at the double as dummied his way over to put the Panthers 22-0 up with Jouffret successful once more from the boot.
Whitehaven pulled a score back against the run of play, Keyes making another break in midfield but a potential scoring pass to Tom Inman didn’t find the mark before falling into the hands of Gebbie, who’s half break was stopped by the Panthers defence but on the next tackle Curtis Teare broke away to give Haven a glimmer of hope but still 22-4 down at the break.
Even with the introduction of Gareth Widdop at half time to make his long awaited home debut, the game turned into a bit of a damp squib as both sides coughed up possession and gave away penalties aplenty. Ryan King playing Pantomime villain to the Shay crowd getting sinbinned for dissent against referee Cameron Worsley.
Fax made the game safe as Eden, also making his home debut, broke away from dummy half and once more found Crooks to grab his 4th try of the season. Jouffret just about converted from wide out before a classic try created in Halifax.
Widdop with a cheeky, defy kick to the corner found James Saltonstall, who somehow managed to ground the ball before he went out of play. Jouffret’s tired conversion attempt fell short but it hardly mattered, the Panthers safely through to the 4th Round with a home tie against London amateurs Hammersmith Hills Hoists.
Woodburn-Hall, Saltonstall, McComb, Crooks, Eden, Jouffret, Keyes, Tangata, O’Brien, Calcott, Kavanagh, Gee, C Davies
Subs: Inman, Fairbank, Lannon, Widdop
Tries: Keyes (3,19), Jouffret (6), Crooks (12,75), Saltonstall (78)
Goals: Jouffret 4/6
Gebbie, O Doran, Maizen, Romeo, Teare, Carter, Doran, Ainley, Phillips, Graham, McCarron, Corkill, King
Subs: Aiye, Hanneghan, Lawther, Newton
Try: Teare (29)
Sin Bin: King (67)