Rovers win thrilling opening clash at Halifax with late Briggs try

Josh Hardcastle scored two tries on his competitive debut for Featherstone Rovers. Picture: Jonathan Buck
Josh Hardcastle scored two tries on his competitive debut for Featherstone Rovers. Picture: Jonathan Buck

Substitute Kyle Briggs scored the winning try four minutes from time as Featherstone came out on top 32-26 a gripping opening Kingstone Press Championship game at Halifax on Sunday.

Trailing 26-24 with seven minutes left, Rovers levelled with a penalty goal from Briggs who converted his own try three minutes later after pouncing on a loose ball from Anthony Thackeray’s high kick.

It was a dramatic finish to a see-saw game in which winger Josh Hardcastle was also a vital contributor for Rovers.

Hardcastle, who scored two tries as a trialist in Featherstone’s 38-14 pre-season win at Halifax on Boxing Day, grabbed another double on his competitive first-team debut.

Rovers were hit by late withdrawals and were without Scott Turner, Jay Walton, Richard Moore, Michael Knowles, James Duckworth and Misi Taulapapa.

Their line-up included Leeds Rhinos’ dual-registered players Ash Handley, Jordan Baldwinson, Josh Walters and Jack Ormondroyd.

Featherstone led 14-0 after 22 minutes and 16-10 at half-time but Halifax stormed back in the second-half.

Rovers were quickly out of the blocks in an impressive start.

They took a seventh minute lead when Luke Briscoe dived over in the corner from Hardcastle’s pass after superb pass by Matty Wildie in the build-up.

Three minutes later, Hardcastle went over to double Featherstone’s lead, with Ian Hardman off target with both conversions.

They shot further ahead 22nd minute when Luke Briscoe scooped up a loose ball and raced 85 yards before putting in Handley over beneath the posts for a try that Hardman goaled to make it 14-0.

Halifax opened their account five minutes later Ben Johnston put in a kick and when the ball struck a post Jacob fairbank pounced for a try that Steve Tyrer goaled.

Hardman kicked a penalty but Halifax cut the gap to six points shortly before half-time when Rob Worrincy scored.

The home side snatched the lead with two tries in five minutes early in the second-half from Adam Tangata and Scott Murrell, both goaled by Tyrer.

Rovers quickly replied when Wildie set up Hardcastle’s second try.

Halifax’s Ryan Boyle was sin-binned for a high tackle on Chris Ulugia and Rovers then regained the lead with two penalty goals from substitute Kyle Briggs, the second after the home side were penalised for dissent.

The game swung back Halifax’s way in the 67th minute when Tyrer crosased at the corner to put them 26-24 in front.

A huge flare-up was then put on report by referee James Child before Briggs made it 26-26 with a penalty goal seven minutes from time.

Briggs put Rovers back in front two minutes later with his match-winning touchdown and they survived a tense final few minutes.

Halifax: Robinson; Saltonstall, Tyrer, Heaton, Worrincy; Murrell, Johnston; Ambler, Kaye, Cahalane, Grady, Grix, Fairbank. Subs: Tangata, Boyle, Barber, Mammone.

Featherstone Rovers: Hardman; Handley, Briscoe, Ulugia, Hardcastle; Thackeray, Wildie; Bostock, Carlile, Baldwinson, Davies, Mariano, Tagg. Subs: Briggs, Griffin, Walters, Ormondroyd.

Referee: James Child.

Attendance: 2,147.