Joe Keyes marked his 150th career game with a 20 point haul including two tries to help Halifax Panthers to a 36-16 victory away at bottom club Newcastle Thunder.
The damage was done in the first 60 minutes as Fax eventually wore down a spirited Thunder side to lead 12-0 at half time and 30-0 at the hour mark. Newcastle Coach Chris Thorman would have been pleased however with his side’s efforts and a 3 try blitz in 15 minutes gave some respectability to the score line before Keyes had the final say with both hands and boot, converting his own try just before the final hooter.

Fax head coach Simon Grix rung the changes to his side, both forced and rotational. Brandon Pickersgill came into the fullback position with James Woodburn-Hall moving into the halves as Louis Jouffret dropped out, rested after his France National Team commitments the weekend previous.

Kyle Wood came into nine giving captain Brandon Moore the weekend off while Zack McComb came in for James Saltonstall, a groin injury picked up against the Bulls still not fully healed, but the most pleasing change was the long awaited return of Kevin Larroyer onto the bench for his first appearance since February.

The changes meant that the Panthers were a little disjointed in attack for the first 15 minutes although the Thunder defence showed their desperation when they did try to breach their line. Eventually the dam would burst and Joe Keyes strolled over in the corner after the overlap had been created. The Irish International was wide from the tee as the game became scrappy with both sides making errors in front of a rather subdued crowd at Kingston Park.

On the 35 minute mark though, Lachlan Walmsley came up with a now trademark interception, superbly picking out a lofted pass from his ex Whitehaven teammate Nikau Williams to romp away 90 metres to score under the posts. Keyes converted for a 10-0 lead and he could have scored another try right on the hooter if he wasn’t pulled back by the Thunder defence supporting a Ben Kavanagh break. As the hooter had gone, Keyes kicked the penalty to give Fax a comfortable 12-0 lead at the break.

Although the lead was comfortable in terms of the pattern of play, the first score of the second half would be vital. It went to the Panthers twice as Woodburn-Hall stepped through the defence to score by the posts before Zack McComb finished in the corner after great centre play by Ben Tibbs. Keyes converted both scores and with the score line 24-0 after 5 minutes of the second half, the game was all but won.

Any doubt was removed 10 minutes later as another trademark score for the Panthers settled the issue, this time Tom Inman charging his way over from dummy half yet again to score. Keyes conversion made it 30-0 and a potential big score seemed to be incoming.

However, Newcastle had other ideas. Whether Fax had stepped off the gas or the Thunder found a second wind, the home side scored three tries in 15 minutes, even with a man in the sin bin as Brad Gallagher was shown a yellow card for foul play. Denive Balmforth stepped through a gap straight from dummy half, Alex Clegg dived over in the corner and Jay Chapelhow walked through a huge gap on the try line on the last tackle. Williams converted twice for 30-1616 before Keyes crowned a brilliant personal game on Coronation weekend with a try and conversion to bring his personal points tally to 20 and a final score of Newcastle Thunder 16-36 Halifax Panthers

Newcastle Thunder
Donaghy, Boafo, Staveley, Foster, Clegg, Williams, Miller, J Chapelhow, Davies, Moore, Gallagher, Tuliatu, Bailey
Subs: Clark, T Chapelhow, Okoro, Balmforth
Tries: Balmforth (60), Clegg (70), J Chapelhow (74)
Goals: Williams 2/3

Halifax Panthers

Pickersgill, Walmsley, Maizen, Tibbs, McComb, Woodburn-Hall, Keyes, Calcott, Wood, Murray, Kavanagh, Gee, Fairbank
Subs: Inman, Lannon, Tangata, Larroyer
Tries: Keyes (17,78) Walmsley (34), Woodburn-Hall (45), McComb (48), Inman (57)
Goals: Keyes 5/6
Penalty: Keyes 1/1

Man of the Match: Zack McComb

#FAX150 #MatchReport

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