It was the tie which neither side wanted as Featherstone Rovers were drawn out of the hat to play a third round fixture against fellow Championship side, the Halifax Panthers.
An all-conquering Featherstone are currently sat atop the Championship while Halifax are seventh and tucked in nicely as part of the chasing pack. The two sides met a month ago in the league, Featherstone securing a 46-22 win which made them clear favourites to win this afternoon’s game which was broadcast live on The Sportsman on YouTube.
A place in the fourth round awaited.
It was a ferocious opening. On eight minutes a kick from Thomas Lacans was collected and scored by a diving Josh Hardcastle. Craig Hall made no mistake of splitting the uprights with his conversion to give the flat cappers a 6-0 lead.
On fourteen Halifax scored out of nowhere as Matty Gee took the pass from Louis Jouffret and bust between two tacklers to drop over the line. Joe Keyes was unable to add a simple conversion from close to the sticks.
Halifax were their own worst enemy when they gave away a penalty while in possession for dissent on seventeen but the defence managed to hold strong and keep Rovers out.
Halifax wee in front on twenty after a sensational break down the touchline by Lachlan Walmsley as he went in from forty metres out. Keyes was again wide with the conversion, the Panthers had left four points in the locker.
Three minutes later it looked like Gadwin Springer was in for the third Panthers try of the afternoon but a great tackle from Craig Hall dislodged the ball in the act of scoring, a real try saver.
On the half hour it was Featherstone´s turn to knock on over the line as they bombed a clear chance to regain the lead. This was turning into a real arm-wrestle between two dedicated sides.
Featherstone conceded a penalty after the half time hooter and Jouffret took over the kicking duties, sliding his kick over for a 10-6 half time lead for the visitors and few could argue that they weren´t worthy of their lead.
We were all square again on forty-four, Lacans stepping off both feet to go in from ten metres out and score by the posts. Hall added the conversion to edge his side into the lead for the second time in the game.
A Halifax penalty for an obstruction on forty-nine gifted Jouffret another two-point penalty and again the sides were all tied up at 12-12.
There were fifty-four on the clock when Luke Briscoe spilled a high kick to the corner. Halifax took full advantage with Tom Inman finding his way over. Jouffret was on target for a third time in the game and the visitors had a six-point lead.
It was all square again on sixty-two when Gadwin Springer took a Lacans pass and drove over the line to score by the left upright. Hall was on target for 18-18 with just over fifteen minutes remaining.
An awful attempted drop goal attempt from Hall barely got above the surface of the pitch as he tried to snatch a one point lead on seventy-one.
Seven minutes from time, and after absorbing minutes of Featherstone pressure, Jouffret dropped his shoulder and evaded the tackle to go over from fifteen out after taking the ball at first receiver. Jouffret was unable to add the extras, the lead just four points.
Hardcastle was red-carded by the referee for an off the ball push, Featherstone now in real trouble with four minutes remaining.
Jouffret spilled the ball with a minute left on the clock, but his defence muscled up and saw the clock through to full time.
Against all the odds this was a fabulous win for the Halifax Panthers as they showed that Sean Long´s Featherstone are not infallible in 2023, in the Challenge Cup at least. At times it was a scrappy game with plenty of penalties, played out like the local derby that it was. Halifax had slightly more composure than their hosts and sealed a shock win to make it into the fourth round hat.
Featherstone Rovers: Hall (3G), Briscoe, Leilua, Hardcastle (T, SO on 76), Gale, Lacans (T), Wildie, Springer (T), Jones, Cozza, Day, Bussey, Taylor. Subs: Davies, Yei, Fleming, Moors. 18th Man: Pickersgill.
Halifax Panthers: Woodburn-Hall, Walmsley (T), Maizen, McComb, Saltonstall, Jouffret (T, 3G), Keyes, Maher, Moore, Murray, Kavanagh, Gee (T), Fairbank. Subs: Inman (T), Doro, Tangata, Calcott. 18th Man: Tibbs.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 6-4, 6-8, 6-10 : HT :10-10, 12-10, 12-12, 12-16, 12-18, 16-18, 18-18, 18-22, (SO) : FT.
Lead Exchanges: Featherstone – Halifax – Square – Featherstone – Square – Halifax – Square – Halifax.
Referee: Liam Moore.