Halifax Panthers returned to winning ways in the Betfred Championship with a nine try demolition of rock bottom Newcastle Thunder. Simon Grix made multiple changes from the side nilled at Batley the previous week, including Brandon Pickersgill being included at full back for his first start at The Shay in Panthers colours. 
There was a late forced change to the starting line up for the home side, as James Woodburn-Hall – scheduled to be playing in the halves alongside Louis Jouffret, went down with back spasms, meaning Tom Inman would come into the thirteen at ten minutes notice. 
The youngster showed no signs of being unprepared though as he put in a man of the match performance to stake his claim for a place in the team moving forward. 
The early exchanges showed no signs of a game that would develop into a comfortable Fax win, as the visitors worked hard to keep the Panthers to just a 4-0 score line for the first half hour of play. 
The Panthers opened the scoring on nine minutes, Inman and Jouffret linking up well to put Ben Crooks into space on the outside, the centre powering over for his first try in Fax colours. Jouffret off target with the conversion but he would soon have his eye in, kicking 
seven from nine on the day. 
An arm wrestle contest emerged as both sides struggled to assert themselves in attack as errors lead to broken sets. But the Panthers would eventually get it together, and extended their lead.
Crooks turned from scorer to provider with a world class assist, catching a pass before flicking the ball around his back to Lachlan Walmsley on the wing. Seemingly with nowhere to go, he ducked out of a challenge before stepping back inside to go over for his 29th league try of the season. 
The Panthers would go back to back just 3 minutes later courtesy of another top level assist, this time coming from James Saltonstall. Jouffret’s last tackle kick saw Gideon Boafo stand off long enough for Saltonstall to claim the ball. With three men on his back and looking like he might be caught in possession on the powerplay, the Fax winger managed to squeeze out a perfect offload for the supporting Matty Gee to cruise over under the sticks. 
Jouffret would convert from bang in front for a 16-0 lead on the brink of half time. But the first half scoring wasn’t finished there. After Thunder put the kick off out on the full to set up favourable field position, Matty Gee powered over from close range for his second of the afternoon. Jouffret again added the extras to put the home side up by 22 at the break. 
The visitors would eventually hit back just after the break, and the threat of a comeback was well and truly on as two converted scores from Jay Chapelhow cut the lead to just 12. But Fax would put the foot firmly back on the pedal with two tries in four minutes to leave no doubt about the result. Following a good break up field from Pickersgill, the ball was worked left for Lachlan Walmsley to acrobatically dive over in the corner with precision before Dan Murray collected a spilled kick to dive over for his first try of 2023. 
And when Brad Gallagher was sin binned for a professional foul on Pickersgill, holding back the Fax full back as he chased a Walmsley kick inside, the Panthers smelled blood. Zack McComb finished off a nice flowing move on the right after good work from Saltonstall, before Ben Kavanagh sliced through off a short ball at the line from Inman to put the game well and truly beyond Newcastle. 
Captain Brandon Moore burrowed his way over from dummy half on 77 minutes to give Jouffret a routine conversion to bring up the fifty point mark, and send the Panthers into the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup semi finals on a high. Final score Halifax Panthers 50 – 12 Newcastle Thunder
Halifax Panthers
Pickersgill, Walmsley, Crooks, McComb, Saltonstall, Jouffret, Inman, Calcott, O’Brien, Murray, Kavanagh, Gee, Fairbank
Subs: Moore, Lannon, Fleming, Larroyer
Tries: Crooks (9), Walmsley (32,53), Gee (35,39), Murray (57), McComb (68), Kavanagh (71), Moore (77)
Goals: Jouffret 7/9
Newcastle Thunder
Donaghy, Young, Walker, Clegg, Boafo, Miller, Bailey, J Chapelhow, Davies, E Chapelhow, Tuliatu, Gallagher, Clark
Subs: Balmforth, Staveley, Walton, Simons
Tries: J Chapelhow (43,49)
Goals: Miller 2/2
Sin Bin: Gallagher (61)
#FAX150 #MatchReport

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