BATLEY BULLDOGS battled back from a 14-point deficit to seal a memorable 22-22 draw at Mount Pleasant on Sunday, writes Matthew Shaw.
If rugby league games were 70 minutes long, Halifax’s season would be a lot different.
Of the six defeats Karl Harrison’s side have endured this campaign, five have come through decisive blows in the final 10 minutes.
And whilst they didn’t lose this time, they once again found themselves dropping a point in the dying embers. Staggeringly, it’s the third consecutive draw between the sides at Mount Pleasant.
Three tries in 13 second-half minutes had given Fax a 22-8 lead.
Yet they capitulated again, and had Scott Leatherbarrow not sliced the touchline conversion wide following Alex Brown’s dramatic final play try, Harrison would have been more frustrated than he was already.
He said: “Disappointment is the understatement of the day. We were cruising, but we love a good self-destruct at Halifax and it isn’t the first time it has happened this year. We made a mistake and couldn’t get the ball back. It’s extremely disappointing.”
The game itself was a brutal affair with both sides serving up aggression in abundance.
Yet it was the craft and guile of both side’s pivots that earned their respective teams a share of the spoils.
The visitors were unimaginative and lacked a spark in the opening 30 minutes, enjoying large spells with the ball in Batley’s half but failing to dismantle the burgundy wall put up in front of them.
It wasn’t until the introduction of hooker Keith Holden that Fax added the missing dynamic and creativity required.
The youngster scored with just his second touch of the ball, scooting over from close range to level the contest after Brown’s spectacular individual effort for the Bulldogs – outpacing two men and running over Ryan Fieldhouse – had given Batley an early lead.
John Kear’s side entered the interval two points ahead when Leatherbarrow slotted a penalty on the hooter.
However the arrears were quickly chalked off with interest as Halifax’s pack ran rampant to give them a stranglehold in the contest.
A superb period saw Fax overwhelm Batley, with Luke Ambler, Tommy Saxton and Ryan Fieldhouse all going over to give Halifax a seemingly unassailable 14-point cushion.
However they couldn’t capitalise on that momentum.
Scott Murrell, so often the catalyst for Fax, kicked out on the full, an error Batley took full advantage of when Charlie Martin scored from Ben Black’s pass.
Leatherbarrow converted, and added another conversion when former Fax scrum-half Black got in on the act, finishing a fine piece of rugby as Batley passed the ball through several sets of hands.
That gave them 16 minutes to find a further try, and they used the very final second of that time to strike – Leatherbarrow’s clever dinked kick over the top freeing Brown who charged down the line to score.
It gave Leatherbarrow a chance for glory, however his kick went comfortably wide and resulted in the points being shared.