Halifax Panthers recorded arguably their most important win of the 2024 Betfred Championship season so far on the final day of June. Fax came from 0-14 down against Whitehaven midway through the first half to score 36 unanswered points either side of the break, recording a vital 2 league points to bring them level with a bunch of teams pushing for the playoffs and avoiding the bottom of the table.

With the Shay Stadium unavailable because of the ongoing pitch treatment, the Panthers found a ‘home from home’ with a touch of deja vu in the surroundings of the previous week’s game versus Wakefield Trinity at the DIY Kitchens Stadium.

Those thinking Fax had got used to their surroundings from last week’s game or that Haven would still be ‘on the bus’ from an early setoff from Cumbria for the 1pm kick off would be emphatically proved wrong as Jonty Gorley’s men were utterly dominant in the first 30 minutes.

Thanks to poor discipline with ball in hand and the wrath of the referee, the Panthers simply couldn’t get a foothold in the game with Haven taking full advantage.

Halfback Lachlan Hanneghan the star with 2 tries, the first off a neat grubber through from ex Fax man Ryan King before a second through soft goal line defence. Ryan Carter converted both as well as adding a penalty to give Whitehaven a much deserved 0-14 lead which could and should have been more but for the wrong bounce of the ball and loose footing on the greasy Belle Vue surface.

Things looked like they were going from bad to worse as Ben Kavanagh was sinbinned for a late shot on Hanneghan, but not for the first time in 2024 and indeed not for the first time against Cumbrian opposition, Fax rallied and looked the better side going into the break and got the vital score just before the hooter.

And what a score it was! Captain Joe Keyes has shown some classy captain’s knocks in recent weeks and was at it again as he started and finished a superb team move. His inside ball put James Woodburn-Hall through the gap to break up field and the man playing his 150th Fax appearance got a ‘flat’ ball to Matty Gee. Not known for his football skills, the second rower grubbered the ball through for Keyes to collect, outpace the full back and finish in the corner.

Louis Jouffret’s brilliant touchline conversion brought Fax right back into the game at 6-14 at the break having looked dead and buried 10 minutes earlier.

Another recent trademark of this 2024 Panthers team is their Second Half performances and this was no different as Fax flew out of the blocks to score 5 tries in 17 Second Half minutes to blow a tiring Haven side off the park.

Ben Tibbs showed great centre play to collect a lofted Jouffret pass, step inside and power his way over the line. Then it became the Charlie Graham show. After an impressive score last week on the same ground, Graham picked up where he left off and scored a quick fire brace, the second reminiscent of last week’s effort having no right to finish but showing enough strength and guile to put the ball down.

Matty Gee turned from provider to scorer as he finished off Woodburn-Hall’s break on the right to score underneath the sticks. Jouffret kicked 3 from 4 before deciding to get in on the act, after Keyes made yet another dummy and break in midfield he found his halfback partner to┬áround his ex team-mate Jake Maizen to score and convert his own try to put Fax 34-14 up and make it game over with 15 minutes left.

There was a brief rally from Haven but the dominance they showed in the first half had gone and it was left to Ed Barber to put the icing on the cake of a great fightback, threading his way through a gap to go over from a Jouffret pass.

Haven would post a consolation with Rio Corkill scoring on the final hooter but the afternoon belonged to the Panthers, the victory bringing them level on points with Haven in the table.

Still plenty to work on for Liam Finn and the players but another come from behind victory to increase morale and confidence going into a crunch fixture away to Sheffield Eagles on Friday night.

Halifax Panthers
Woodburn-Hall, McComb, Barber, Tibbs, Graham, Jouffret, Keyes, Tangata, O’Brien, Fairbank, Kavanagh, Gee, Lannon
Subs: Widdop, Boyer, Larroyer, Davies (18th Man – Hursey)

Tries: Keyes (31), Tibbs (45), Graham (49, 53), Gee (57), Jouffret (62), Barber (78)
Goals: Jouffret 5/7
Sin Bin: Kavanagh (27)

Whitehaven RLFC
Maizen, Romeo, Evans, Teare, Boafo, Carter, Hanneghan, Graham, Newton, Ainley, McCarron, Corkill, King
Subs: Doran, Castle, High, Worthington (18th Man – N/A)

Tries: Hanneghan (13, 23), Corkill (79)
Goals: Carter 2/3
Penalty: Carter 1/1

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