Halifax Panthers got their 2024 Betfred Championship campaign off to the best possible start with a hard fought 10-24 victory over the Dewsbury Rams at the FLAIR Stadium. In a bruising, attritional affair, both sides saw yellow cards but it was Fax who eventually saw their proven Championship pedigree overcome the side Panthers Coach Liam Finn led to the 2023 League One Title.

It was the home side who struck first though as Calum Turner’s cross field kick was claimed by Perry Whiteley, who rose above James Saltonstall to score the first try of the afternoon.

Fax managed to hit back 10 minutes later when Louis Jouffret found a gap between two Rams defenders to squeeze his way over from close range. His conversion gave Fax the slender 4-6 half time advantage as the first half was full of big hits in defence and rusty execution in attack mixed with ill-discipline from both sides.

The ill-discipline carried on into the second half with referee Kevin Moore starting to act, sending Jacob Fairbank to the sin-bin for kicking out in the tackle. Dewsbury made the man advantage count almost instantly as Jacob Hookem scooted over from dummy half to regain the lead for the home side, Turner’s conversion stretching the lead out to 10-6.

With Fairbank just about to return to the field, Referee Moore then evened up the yellow cards with Jackson Walker sent to the side line for 10 minutes for a high shot on James Woodburn-Hall.

With Fax back up to 13, they made the man advantage count almost straight away in identical fashion, Joe Keyes going over from dummy half close to the posts giving Jouffret an easy conversion to take back the lead for the Panthers 10-12.

The next score would be vital as the game went into the final quarter and it went the way of the Panthers as they went for the old adage of: if it worked once, why not try it again!

This time it was Jouffret who had moved to hooker to accommodate substitute Gareth Widdop, scooting over from dummy half for his 2nd try of the afternoon. His conversion giving Fax a crucial two score lead of 10-18 with 15 minutes to go.

The Rams thought they’d found a way back into the game with less than 10 minutes to go, Whiteley scoring his 2nd but the referee disallowed the four pointer for obstruction in the lead up.

The game was already won for the Panthers but there was a final flourish right on the final hooter with Joe Keyes brilliantly teasing the Rams defence to send Woodburn-Hall over the line unopposed. Widdop landed his first points for his hometown club with the conversion from wide out to give Liam Finn a winning return to his old stomping ground and the Panthers an opening day 10-24 victory.

Dewsbury Rams
O’Connor, Whiteley, Greensmith, Walker, Carr, Hookem, Turner, Beckett, Davies, Bibby, Garside, Dawson, Collinson
Subs: Rush, Billington, Walker, Hird (18th Man: Restall)

Tries: Whiteley (13), Hookem (50)
Goal: Turner 1/2
Sin Bin: Walker (55)

Halifax Panthers
Woodburn-Hall, Eden, Tibbs, McComb, Saltonstall, Jouffret, Keyes, Tangata, Inman, Larroyer, Kavanagh, Gee, C Davies
Subs: Widdop, Fairbank, Lannon, O Davies (18th Man: Smith)

Tries: Jouffret (21, 62) Keyes (57), Woodburn-Hall (79)
Goals: Jouffret 3/3, Widdop 1/1
Sin Bin: Fairbank (45)

#BWO #MatchReport

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