Halifax Panthers recorded a memorable 6-10 victory away to London Broncos, our first in 20 years, to book their first trip to Wembley Stadium in 35 years to reach the final of the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup Final.
In the week that it was announced that Panthers Coach Simon Grix would be leaving the club at the end of the 2023 season, his players may well have took that as extra motivation to have a day underneath the famous Wembley arch as they showed the guts and character that has avoided them at times this season.
Even on a 4G pitch at Rosslyn Park, the pouring rain meant that points were at a premium in a ‘classic cup semi final tie’. Fax dominated possession and territory in the first half but the Broncos would not buckle. It was London who had the first crucial opportunity to put points on the board but whether it was the wet and windy or the tension of a cup final place on the line, Oli Leyland sliced the kick wide from 15m out in front of the posts meaning the rarest of half time scoreline – 0-0.
It was the Panthers who took opportunities to score next through two Louis Jouffret penalty goals, judging the blustery and wet conditions perfectly to put Fax 0-4 up going into the final 20 minutes. London had their big names on in Corey Norman and Dean Whare and they looked to be pushing London back into the game but heroic Fax defence kept showing up to keep them out.
Just when it looked like the Broncos might strike after forcing a goal line drop out, who else but Panthers top try scorer Lachlan Walmsley, as he plucked a London pass out of the air to race away 90 metres down field to score a memorable try, sending the players, staff and hardy fans braving the elements into raptures. Jouffret converted for a 0-10 lead, putting Fax on the brink with 15 agonising minutes to go.
The tie had one last bit of drama as Marcus Stock powered his way over the line in the 78th minute to bring the Broncos right back into it with Oli Leyland’s quick conversion meaning the game still wasn’t settled at 6-10 with 2 minutes remaining.
Fax couldn’t kill the game off and London kept challenging right until the final hooter with the Broncos in possession. London captain Will Lovell kicked through looking for a miracle play but when Halifax native Ben Kavanagh dived on the ball to end the game and send his side’s and indeed his town’s first visit to Wembley for a Rugby League Cup final since 1988.
Walker, Ulberg, Raiwalui, Bassett, Macani, O Leyland, Norman, Bienek, Davis, Stock, Lovell, Gannon, Parata
Subs: B Leyland, Williams, Davies, Whare
Tries: Stock (78)
Goals: O Leyland 1/1
Pickersgill, Walmsley, Maizen, McComb, Saltonstall, Jouffret, Woodburn-Hall, Calcott, O’Brien, Murray, Kavanagh, Gee, Fairbank
Subs: Moore, Lannon, Tangata, Larroyer
Tries: Walmsley (64)
Goals: Jouffret 1/1
Penalties: Jouffret 2/2