Rugby League: Halifax find the winning formula

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The Independent Online
Halifax Blue Sox 19 Wigan Warriors 8

HALIFAX TURNED the clock back to re-discover their compelling form of last year and record their first-ever victory over Wigan in Super League, writes Dave Hadfield.

After some lukewarm displays culminating in their defeat at Gateshead last Saturday, Halifax found the missing formula for a win that was particularly sweet for their coach, the ex-Wigan player, John Pendlebury, and his captain, another former Central Park stalwart, Kelvin Skerrett.

With their financial wrangles behind them and Gavin Clinch and Graham Holroyd bossing the show from half-back, Halifax were the better side throughout.

"It wasn't fancy and it wasn't too attractive at times, but it was pretty effective," Pendlebury said.

Wigan claimed the first try of the night, when Mick Cassidy went over after Lee Gilmour and Danny Moore had split Halifax down the opposite flank, but the rest of the first half belonged to the home side.

Chris Chester, back in the side and making an obvious difference, capitalised on Clinch's break and a fine pass from Holroyd to level the scores.

Then, after Holroyd's conversion and Andy Farrell's penalty left the scores tied at 8-8, Clinch was involved again, dribbling through only to be denied by Jason Robinson's brave dive on the loose ball. Clinch then performed his party trick of stealing the ball from young Wes Davies and sending Carl Gillespie in for Halifax's second try.

Holroyd's conversion and drop goal gave them a seven-point half-time lead, extended when the stand-off added a penalty.

After Davies had lost the ball in one heavy impact, the result was a Holroyd drop goal. When Halifax committed an error, on the other hand, there was always someone there to compensate and Clinch's drop goal sealed the win.

"John told us if we didn't lift our game some people would be getting sacked," Clinch said. There will be no P45s handed out this week, at least.

Halifax: Cardiss; Gibson, Craig, Bouveng, Pinkney; Holroyd, Clinch; Broadbent, Rowley, Skerrett, Clark, Blome, Chester. Substitutes used: Marshall, Hobson, Gillespie, Seal.

Wigan: Davies; Robinson, Connolly, Gilmour, Moore; Florimo, Reber; Cowie, Cassidy, Mestrov, Betts, Ball, Farrell. Substitutes used: O'Connor, Goldspink, Smith, Jones.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).

n Leeds, the Challenge Cup finalists, were unconvincing 22-18 winners last night against a Hull side lacking 11 first-team squad members. The home side looked a pale shadow of the team which beat Wigan, St Helens and Bradford en route to Wembley.