There was an uncanny air of déjà vu as Batley went to The Shay, built a commanding lead only to lose it, then snatched a 3628 victory in the dying moments to the heartbreak of Halifax.
In an almost carbon copy of their Northern Rail Cup group success in February the Bulldogs opened a 226 advantage before being pegged back by a Fax side that seemed to then have the momentum to claim a victory that would have edged them ever nearer the playoff zone.
But it was not to be. Karl Harrison’s Batley are made of stern stuff – a fact demonstrated repeatedly throughout an afternoon when they stood up defensively to defy both Halifax and the sapping heat.
Having witnessed their lead overturned to trail 2824, the tough tackling Bulldogs were rewarded for their relentless efforts with two matchwinning tries in the final four minutes.
It was Batley’s fifth win on the trot and their 10th in 13 league matches which takes them back up to second place.
Having weathered a lively early storm from Fax, partially selfinflicted, the visitors proved much the more clinical finishers with four tries from the alert Alex Bretherton (two), hardworking Ash Lindsay and winger Alex Brown, earning them a 14point lead.
Bob Beswick’s opportunism from close range and Lee Paterson’s conversion, was Halifax’s only response until Ben Black sent Dylan Nash diving over on the stroke of halftime.
Danny Jones failed with the conversion, having taken over kicking duties when Paterson was helped off nursing a knee injury, but the late score looked to have sparked Fax into life as, four minutes after the break, Sean Penkywicz capitalised on another Batley handling error deep in their own half, scooting away from the scrum to score.
Paul Handforth landed a penalty but a further Fax try, plus two conversions and a penalty from Jones levelled on the hour.
Then, when Rob Worrincy intercepted a stray pass on halfway and raced into the corner Halifax hit the front for the first time and Batley, for all their tenacious tackling, were wobbling.
But with just four minutes remaining Handforth created the space for Johnny Campbell to race into the corner, and the unflappable Bulldogs standoff stroked over the touchline conversion to edge the visitors ahead once more.
Fax pressed for one final response, only for Campbell to break out of defence and set up the killer try for Danny Maun – Handforth adding his sixth goal in seven attempts as the hooter sounded.
HALIFAX: Miles Greenwood 7, Paul White 7, Lee Paterson 7, Dylan Nash 7, Rob Worrincy 7, Danny Jones 8, Ben Black 7, Jim Gannon 7, Bob Beswick 8, Neil Cherryholme7, Ryan Clayton 7, Stephen Bannister 7, Jacob Fairbank 7. Subs: Sean Penkywicz 8, Dave Larder 7, Sam Barlow 8, Paul Smith 7.
Tries: Beswick (14), Nash (40), Penkywicz (43), Jones (56), Worrincy (64).
Goals: Jones 3/5, Paterson 1/1.
BATLEY: Johnny Campbell 8, Wayne Reittie 7, Jason Walton 7, Danny Maun 8, Alex Brown 8, Paul Handforth 8, Paul Mennell 8, Byron Smith 8, Kris Lythe 8, Craig Potter 7, Dane Manning 9, Alex Bretherton 9, Ash Lindsay 9. Subs: Sean Hesketh 8, Adam Robinson 7, Chris Buttery 7, George Flanagan 8.
Tries: Bretherton (9, 23), Lindsay (27), Brown (38), Campbell (76), Maun (79).
Goals: Handforth 6/7
Referee: Tim Roby / HT: 1022 / Pens 117 / Weather: Hot / Sin Bin: None / Sent Off: None / MOTM: Dane Manning (Batley) / Att: 2,483 / Match Rating: 4/5.