St Helens. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30
THERE will be no more sudden and astonishing fightback this season than the one St Helens launched after an hour at Thrum Hall yesterday.
Saints were well on their way to becoming the only team in the league to lose three matches in the first week of the season when three tries within seven minutes stood the match on its head.
Bobby Goulding, who had been working desperately to save Saints from further disintegration, set up the first for Chris Joynt after Steve Prescott had been caught by Mark Bailey.
Prompted by Goulding, the Saints forwards finally began to break tackles and Adam Fogerty barged over to put them ahead. The moment that confirmed the tide had turned, however, came when Scott Gibbs fielded Steve Hampson's kick-off and burst through superbly to send Alan Hunte over for the try that effectively clinched the game.
Halifax, who had twice been leading by a 10-point margin, could hardly believe what had happened. Although a try by John Shuster six minutes from the end put them back in with a chance, Goulding went over after a sparkling run in injury time to seal Halifax's fate.
Goulding, who almost joined Halifax from Widnes in the summer, looked intent on pressurising Shaun Edwards for the Great Britain scrum-half job, finishing with 18 points, including five goals and the first-half try that kept Saints in touch.
It was a match of brilliantly constructed tries, with Halifax - whose own opening week, because of the Malcolm Reilly affair, had hardly been the most sedate - seeming to have done enough early in the second half to win it.
Exquisite short passes from Karl Harrison to Mark Preston and from Michael Hagan to Mark Perrett built their first 10-point lead, and when Preston scored his second after a marvellous break by Hampson they were well set.
But they reckoned without Saints' stunning transformation and the unpredictable twist at the end of a trying week for both clubs.
Halifax: Hampson; Bentley, Shuster, Hallas, Preston; Bailey, Hagan; Harrison, Southernwood (Round, 23), Fieldhouse (Anderson, 57), Moriarty, Perrett (Fieldhouse,66), Divorty.
St Helens: Prescott; Hunte, Gibbs, Booth, Sullivan; Wareing (Loughlin, 79), Goulding; Neill (Nickle, 79), Cunningham, Fogerty, Joynt, Nickle (Pickavance 51), Casey.
Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).
The Wigan goalkicker and record points-scorer Frano Botica was taken off on a stretcher after the final hooter in his side's 40-16 win over Sheffield Eagles yesterday. He was later diagnosed as having torn medial ligaments in his right knee.