Rowley rolls Halifax into quarter-final

Halifax 24 Sheffield Eagles 20
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The Independent Online
Halifax won the right to entertain Leeds in the quarter-finals of the Silk Cut Challenge Cup yesterday at the end of a match several times more gripping than it was pretty.

The final tally of two sendings off, three sin-binnings, and incidents involving two other players placed on report and one carried off on a stretcher captures the general tone. It was also a game littered with handling errors, but what it lacked aesthetically it more than made up for in drama.

St John Ellis suffered a suspected broken leg as early as the fifth minute, helping to set up the length-of-the-field try scored by John Bentley, and improved by John Schuster, that put Halifax ahead.

Sheffield successfully whittled away that lead through three penalties from Matt Crowther, but not before an explosive passage of play that eventually led to Bentley being sent off for a high tackle on Lynton Stott, and Karl Harrison and Andy Hay being sent to the sin-bin for their parts in the brawl that followed.

Another Halifax player, Mike Umaga, might be fortunate to avoid punishment when his role in events is studied by the disciplinary committee this Thursday.

Perhaps the turning point came, however, when Sheffield squandered their one-man advantage as the result of what might be politely termed Gallic temperament. Jean-Marc Garcia reacted to being held back by Chris Chester with a right hook that laid him out.

With the game restored to 12-a-side, Halifax seemed to take firm control early in the second half when Paul Anderson and Simon Baldwin both went over for tries converted by Schuster. But Schuster then became the third man to take an enforced 10-minute rest when he prevented Stott from taking a quick play-the-ball.

In his absence, the Eagles grabbed tries through Richard Price and Stott, neither of which Crowther could convert, but when Paul Rowley dashed in from 30 yards out it seemed that Halifax were safe. "We had it won so many times and we let them back in so many times," was the assessment of the Halifax coach, Steve Simms.

They did so again when Price went in for his second try, giving Halifax a nervous final eight minutes before they could confirm their place in the last eight.

Halifax: Umaga; Bentley, Schuster, Tuilagi, Ellis (Chester, 7); Moana, Parker; Harrison, Rowley, Anderson (Ketteridge, 54, Anderson 72) Jackson, Amone, Baldwin.

Sheffield Eagles: Gamson; Crowther, Stott, Carr, Garcia; Sheridan, Aston; Broadbent (McAllister, 78), Lawless, McAllister (Farrell, 25), Hay (Hughes, 77), Hughes (Price h-t), Cook.

Referee: S Presley (Castleford).

n A hat-trick of tries from the centre Mike Pechey sent Widnes into the quarter-finals of the Silk Cut Challenge Cup in yesterday's 36-16 defeat at Dewsbury. Pechey's efforts were supplemented by those of Steve McCurrie and scrum-half Shane Cooper, who scored two tries apiece. The defeat may be Dewsbury's last game. Debts of almost pounds 900,000 led the First Division club's board to be sacked last week.