Halifax Panthers suffered a huge blow to their defence of the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup with a disappointing 24-20 defeat to Oldham at Boundary Park in their first competitive game of 2024. Despite a debut double of spectacular tries from Greg Eden, Fax were architects of their own downfall thanks to momentum killing, individual errors leading to multiple Oldham points.
The game as a whole was nip and tuck and back and forth with Oldham’s big name signings looking to make an impact for their big name new coach in Sean Long. With Fax looking dangerous with ball in hand, the ball made its way left with Joe Keyes looking to have handed Eden a try scoring pass however Mo Agoro plucked the ball and raced 90m downfield to score.
Jamie Ellis was wide with the conversion but slotted over a penalty from bang in front to give the Roughyeds a 6-0 lead.
Eden thought he’d struck back straight away as Oldham looked to play advantage from a Fax knock on, threw the ball wide on the blind side with the ex Cas winger intercepting from close range but referee Mike Smailles ruled that no advantage had been taken.
Eden wouldn’t be denied soon after as neat build up play from Keyes and James Woodburn-Hall released the winger to open his account for the Panthers with a typical acrobatic aplomb. Keyes pushed his conversion attempt wide from the touchline but Fax were back in the game at 6-4.
Ellis’ and Danny Craven’s kicking game were keeping Fax at arms length but it was the game breaking score which came from great hands, Agoro going in at the corner right on the half time hooter after clinical passing from the Oldham backline. Ellis was successful from the tee wide out this time to give Oldham a much needed two score buffer at the break.
The first score of the second half would be crucial and it went the way of the home side. Ben Crooks dropping a Keyes pass cold then not killing the play allowing Ben O’Keefe to pick up the loose ball and race away for a try. Ellis converted to give the Roughyeds an 18-4 lead but Fax still had 35 minutes to salvage the game but they knew they had to score next.
Many times in the last couple of years when Fax were in trouble the Fax No.2 would come up with an acrobatic score to get the Panthers back into the game. The name on the shirt might be different in 2024 but the theme continues as Eden came up with another sensational score to give Fax hope.
Keyes frustratingly was wide from the conversion but at 18-8 with over 30 minutes left Fax were still in with a shout. That shout got louder as Woodburn-Hall stepped through a huge gap in the home defence to score, Louis Jouffret slotted over the conversion and at 18-14 it was game well and truly on.
But individual errors continued to cost the Panthers dearly. Ben Kavanagh and Tom Inman came up with uncharacteristic handling errors and more costly Joe Keyes kicked out on the full on the last tackle, giving the Roughyeds the chance to claim the match winning score on the resulting set. Jordan Turner powering through some soft Fax right edge defence from close out to score. Ellis was spot on from the touchline to give Oldham an unassailable 24-14 lead.
Fax had a glimmer of hope as Ben Crooks went over for a try on the left but was pulled back for obstruction, Ben Tibbs did get a score back from a great running line off a Jouffret pass which the Frenchman converted from bang in front but it was too little too late from the Panthers as the Roughyeds held on to claim the spoils in a famous victory against the holders of the 1895 Cup 24-20.
Astley, Agoro, O’Keefe, Turner, Johnson, Craven, Ellis, Kopczak, Wildie, J Chapelhow, Wardle, Lawton, Taylor
Subs: Aldridge, Farnworth, T Chapelhow, Moran
18th Man: Paga
Tries: Agoro (11, 39), O’Keefe (45), Turner (57)
Goals: Ellis 3/4
Penalty: Ellis 1/1
Woodburn-Hall, Eden, Crooks, Tibbs, McComb, Jouffret, Keyes, Murray, O’Brien, Lannon, Kavanagh, Gee, Fairbank
Subs: Inman, Tangata, Larroyer, C Davies
18th Man: O Davies
Tries: Eden (34, 48), Woodburn-Hall (53), Tibbs (77)
Goals: Keyes 0/2, Jouffret 2/2