Featherstone Rovers 42 Halifax Panthers 10: Featherstone roll on to promotion decider in France

JUST as Super League's top two sides will do battle in next week’s Grand Final, fittingly so will the Championship’s leading duo in the Million Pound Game.

Saturday, 2nd October 2021, 10:17 pm
Featherstone Rovers' Craig Kopczak celebrates scoring in the 1895 Cup final win over York City Knights at Wembley earlier this season. He scored again in the Championship semi-final win over Halifax. (ALLAN MCKENZIE/SWPIX)

Second-placed Featherstone Rovers confirmed their spot in the all-important promotion decider alongside leaders Toulouse Olympique XIII by comfortably easing past Halifax Panthers tonight.

James Webster’s side, whose only league defeat this term was against Toulouse, were simply too dominant with their impressive pack laying the groundwork for Nu Brown and Dane Chisholm to eventually take control.

They will travel to France for next Sunday’s crunch game looking to at last earn promotion to Super League having fallen against Toronto Wolfpack in the Million Pound Game two years ago.

Unbeaten Toulouse, who swept past Batley Bulldogs 51-12 at Stade Ernest Wallon in the other semi-final earlier in the day, will be narrow favourites to gain the cherished spot among the elite but it should be some contest given the quality of both sides.

Featherstone, who defeated tonight's opponents 54-22 just four weeks previously, quickly got off the mark with Hull KR-bound Frankie Halton’s sixth minute converted try.

It did not leave Halifax downhearted, though.

They responded soon after when Tom Holmes was harshly sin-binned for a marginally late shove on Matt Garside.

Halifax immediately took advantage of the man advantage with a flowing move down the right that saw Connor McGrath dive over in the corner.

The hosts, though, managed to avoid conceding any more points while Holmes was off the field and, indeed, Craig Hall slotted a penalty to waste some of the time and stretch his side to 8-4.

As soon as Featherstone were back up to 13, they struck with their second try, Craig Kopczak barging over from close range for Hall to add his third goal.

With the likes of former Wakefield Trinity prop Kopczak, ex-England second-row Brett Ferres and ever-willing captain James Lockwood all charging forward, as well as the excellent Halton, it was no surprise Rovers’ pack generally had them on top.

That said, they were fortunate not to concede again when prop Dan Murray charged down Brown’s kick, picked up the loose ball and advanced 30m before the relieved Featherstone player dragged him down just short.

Halifax also had a try disallowed when Scott Grix - the 37-year-old playing, as it turned out, the final game of his excellent career - touched down off Liam Harris’ clever grubber but was deemed offside.

At the other end, Brown showed his threat by dummying over but ‘Fax did well to deny the Samoa international, holding him up over the goalline.

There was no stopping Ferres, though, when he charged over from 10m out after being supplied by replacement half Chisholm in the 52nd minute.

Coming down the slope, Webster’s side did not need any encouragement.

Nevertheless, Fax’s misplaced short restart immediately gifted them another chance and Josh Hardcastle - one of seven survivors from the Million Pound Game two years ago - duly latched on to Brown’s smart grubber.

A third try in quick succession arrived when Grix struggled in the rain to deal with a kick and Connor Jones mopped up.

Centre Kris Welham, who was so forceful in attack all night, picked up a deserved try.

Harris did get on to Grix’s kick to earn ‘Fax a consolation in the 67th minute but Halton made a scintillating break for Jones to race in for his second, Championship Player of the Year Hall finishing with seven goals.

The home side did see Luke Cooper yellow carded for a late hit in the latter stages (Halifax’s Ben Tibbs was also sin-binned for kicking the ball out of a player’s hands) but it is hard to imagine him or Holmes will face any further disciplinary action which could threaten their availability next week.

Featherstone Rovers: Walker; Gale, Hardcastle, Welham, Hall; Brown, Holmes; Kopczak, Jones, Lockwood, Ferres, Halton, Field. Substitutes: Chisholm, Davies, Cooper, Bussey.

Halifax Panthers: Woodburn-Hall; Saltonstall, McComb, Worthington, McGrath; Harris, Grix; Tangata, Moore, Murray, Garside, Kavanagh, Fairbank. Substitutes: Robinson, Larroyer, Morris, Tibbs.

Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham)