Halifax Panthers came from behind from a 12-16 half time deficit to inflict a 48-20 defeat on the Barrow Raiders at an emotionally charged Shay Stadium, Jarrod Sammut’s red card right on half time proving crucial. There was a pre-match minutes silence for ex Fax players Terry Halshaw and Ben Heaton, the latter passing away at the tender age of 33 earlier in the week.
It was Barrow who reacted best to the emotions in the ground, after Sammut collected Louis Jouffret’s kick off out on the full, which gave the Raiders field position to score the first try of the game in the shape of Ellis Gillam. Too strong for the Fax defence to handle, Ryan Shaw converted for a 0-6 lead and he was on target with the boot on the 10 minute mark, this time converting his own try after Lachlan Walmsley’s rush out of defence was capitalised by the Barrow attack leaving Shaw with a simple score. 0-12 after 10 minutes but Walmsley would have the last laugh.
Things went bad to worse first for Fax as James Saltonstall was sinbinned for a push on Shane Toal as he was about to touch the ball down after a neat Ryan Johnston kick over the top. Saltonstall took one for the team but it just delayed the inevitable as Barrow made it 0-16 after just 14 minutes. Andrew Bulman crossing in the corner Saltonstall had just departed.
A nightmare homecoming for the Panthers looked to be on the cards but the much needed character that the side has displayed these past few years really came to the fore. Ryan Lannon came on from the bench and gave Fax some much needed go-forward in attack, creating the pressure for Walmsley to strike in the corner after good work from Kavanagh and Tibbs. Jouffret converted from the touchline to bring it back to 6-16.
The 33rd minute saw a touching tribute to Ben Heaton from the Shay crowd with a poignant minutes applause and fireworks, with Adam O’Brien paying the perfect tribute to scoot over from dummy half for his first try in his hometown colours, Jouffret converting for 12-16 and it was game well and truly on.
The pivotal moment of the match happened just 10 seconds from half time. Sammut, unhappy at the awarding of a penalty against his side for a late hit on Woodburn-Hall, spoke out of turn to referee Cameron Worsley and was given his marching orders as the half time hooter sounded. Barrow held a slender 12-16 lead but without their Captain and maverick talisman, the second half was too much for them.
Fax cut loose after the break, doing a professional job in seeing off a 12 man side to avenge the defeat in West Cumbria a few months ago. It started with a bit of deja vu, the kick off went out on the full but this time from Barrow. Ryan Broadbent had come out early to spend 5 minutes practicing his kick offs but got this one all wrong as it sailed well past the touchline to give Lachlan Walmsley the position from the resulting penalty to acrobatically score in the corner to level the scores 16-16.
But it wasn’t for long. Ben Kavanagh’s two quickfire scores on the left flank gave Fax a lead they never looked like surrendering. Dan Fleming had a sweet moment as he walked through a huge gap from a Kyle Wood short pass to score his first try back in Fax colours, the hometown boy loving it just as much as his teammates and the crowd. Jouffret’s boot making it 32-16.
The Summer Monsoon came to Halifax and the points came raining down at The Shay. Walmsley completed his hattrick in typical style, before James Woodburn-Hall slid over after tremendous build up play. Then to finish the game there were two interception tries, the first going to Barrow with Johnston picking off a Jouffret pass to race away to get the try his effort deserved, merely a consolation at that point.
But then came the inevitable, just as predictable as rain in British Summertime is a Lachlan Walmsley interception try. After initially spilling the ball, the Flying Scotsman managed to keep hold to race away up the touchline with 2 minutes to go to score his fourth try of the afternoon and his 29th of the 2023 Betfred Championship campaign. Jouffret added the extras to make the final score Halifax Panthers 48-20 Barrow Raiders.
Woodburn-Hall, Walmsley, Tibbs, Crooks, Saltonstall, Jouffret, Wood, Calcott, O’Brien, Murray, Kavanagh, Gee, Fairbank
Subs: Inman, Fleming, Lannon, Tangata
Tries: Walmsley (24, 41, 65, 76), O’Brien (34), Kavanagh (46, 55), Fleming (61), Woodburn-Hall (69)
Goals: Jouffret 6/9
Sin Bin: Saltonstall (12)
Broadbent, Shaw, Carter, Toal, Bulman, Sammut, Johnston, Gillam, Wood, Evans, Langtree, Emslie, Iaria
Subs: Mossop, Archer, Burke, Brooks
Tries: Gillam (2), Shaw (9), Bulman (14), Johnston (73)
Goals: Shaw 2/4
Sent Off: Sammut (39)
Man of the Match: Lachlan Walmsley
Match Sponsors: PIB Insurance Brokers