Halifax 32 Whitehaven 24: Holroyd has Fax on-message

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The Independent Online

Halifax will stand between Widnes and their promotion ambitions on Thursday night after the guile of Graham Holroyd guided them over another play-off hurdle. The West Yorkshire club with the half-built ground might have no immediate Super League aspirations of their own but they emerged as the best of the rest in Dave Rotherham's last game as Whitehaven coach.

His side showed a stubborn streak by fighting back to 18-all and mounting another charge at the end, but the task of trying to prevent the long-predicted Widnes-Castleford grand final falls to Halifax, albeit with a truncated preparation that puts them at a severe disadvantage.

The first half-hour yesterday was a prolonged arm wrestle, punctuated by Carl Rudd's penalty after a sharp attack had caught Halifax offside. Whitehaven were then undermined by their own indiscipline and the craft of Holroyd. Halifax chose to run rather than kick for goal when Gary Broadbent was penalised for a high tackle and they were rewarded when Holroyd sent a low kick into the in-goal area, where Steven Maden let it bounce off him to present Dave Larder with the try.

Three minutes later, Holroyd delayed his pass to send Shad Royston through a gap, although Haven complained about obstruction. The Cumbrians sorted themselves out for long enough to score a glorious try in reply, set up by Rudd's chip and regather and finished by Craig Calvert in the corner.

Sean Penkywicz's angled kick and Aaron Trinder's well-timed run produced a third Halifax try before half-time, but Haven started the second half with a new resolve when Rudd sold a dummy and scored. Rudd's kick through and Calvert's fast reactions created another converted try to bring Whitehaven level.

Holroyd kicked Fax back into the lead with a penalty and Richard Varkulis crashed over to put them back in command. When Damien Ball went over for their fifth try a trip to Widnes was as good as booked. David Fatialofa scored late on for Haven.

Halifax: Royston; Gibson, Roberts, Varkulis, Greenwood; Holroyd, Watson; Southern, Hoare, Wrench, Larder, Smith, Joseph. Substitutes used: Penkywicz, Ball, Trinder, Watene.

Whitehaven: Broadbent; Calvert, Seeds, R Jackson, Maden; Joe, Rudd; Baldwin, Mattinson, Fatialofa, Miller, Fletcher, McAvoy. Substitutes used: Sice, Hill, M Jackson, Wright.

Referee: P Bentham (Warrington).