Halifax Panthers claimed their first competitive win of 2024 with a nine try 12-52 victory at Rochdale Hornets in their 2nd and, barring a few freak results, final game in their defence of the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup.
Fax raced into a 0-28 lead just after half-time at the Crown Oil Arena but after a mini fightback from the Hornets, who scored back to back tries to make it 12-28, the Panthers would cut loose in the last 10 minutes inspired by a cameo off the bench from headline signing Gareth Widdop.
Learning from the disappointment of the previous week’s result at Oldham, Fax struck early. Showing a willingness to throw the ball about and attack wide, the ball made its way through several pairs of hands to find James Woodburn-Hall, who scored his 2nd try in as many matches. Jouffret judged the blustery Spotland breeze perfectly to kick the first of his 8 conversions of the afternoon to give Fax a 0-6 lead after just 3 minutes.
Ben Crooks then claimed a quick-fire double of four pointers both results of lovely interplay from Joe Keyes, Louis Jouffret and Ben Kavanagh. Jouffret could only convert one of the scores but was on target yet again as Kavanagh’s cut-out ball was claimed by Greg Eden who raced away for his 3rd try in his opening 2 appearances for the club.
With Kevin Larroyer getting a great reception from the healthy travelling support upon leaving the bench to make his 100th appearance for the club, Fax went into the sheds at the break with a 0-22 lead that was fully deserved and they didn’t look like losing.
The Panthers increased their lead just after the restart with Ben Tibbs (who had originally made way for James Saltonstall for the game until his wife gave birth to a baby girl overnight) scoring his 2nd try in as many games with a near carbon copy of his try against Oldham, a perfect line onto a flat Jouffret pass to storm over the whitewash.
As Jouffret stroked over the conversion, the much anticipated arrival of Gareth Widdop was made as the England World Cup Finalist and NRL Grand Final Winner came off the bench to make his debut for his hometown club.
But the Hornets didn’t read the script as they scored 2 back-to-back tries through Ben Killan and Dan Nixon, both converted by Martyn Ridyard to give the Hornets the slightest chance of a comeback at 12-28.
The Panthers found the script again as they scored 5 tries in the final 10 minutes.
Widdop, operating at half-back with Jouffret moving to fullback and Woodburn-Hall at Centre, delivered a perfectly timed ball to put Matty Gee through a gap in the Hornets defence. Gee was brought down but his second row partner scored on the very next tackle thanks to an equally impressive Joe Keyes, who put Kavanagh through the gap for a well deserved score.
Scorer then turned provider as Kavanagh, again put through a gap by Keyes, found Tom Inman on his inside to score. Widdop found Gee once more but this time the back rower powered his way over the line to score before yet again he was put through a gap, yet again by Widdop, but this time Gee handed the ball onto Jouffret who raced under the posts.
As he did for the previous 4 tries, Jouffret converted as the full time hooter sounded. A much improved performance going into next week’s Challenge Cup game against Whitehaven back at the Shay. Rochdale Hornets 12-52 Halifax Panthers.
NcNally, Nixon, Forber, Hartley, Brierley, Ridyard, Else, Baker, Roden, Nelmes, Ratcliffe, Meadows, Boardman
Subs: Wilkinson, Andrade, Killan, Forster
Tries: Killan (56), Nixon (59)
Goals: Ridyard 2/2
Woodburn-Hall, Eden, Crooks, Tibbs, McComb, Jouffret, Keyes, Tangata, O’Brien, Lannon, Kavanagh, Gee, C Davies
Subs: Inman, Fairbank, Larroyer, Widdop
Tries: Woodburn-Hall (3), Crooks (9,18), Eden (29), Tibbs (47), Kavanagh (68), Inman (75), Gee (77), Jouffret (79)
Goals: Jouffret 8/9