Haven out-gun heroic Halifax
Published at 01:00, Thursday, 07 September 2006
By Martin Morgan
IF this was debt-ridden Halifax’s final league game before liquidation it was a fitting way to bow out.
Their fans in the season’s best home crowd of 2,247 were appreciative of their massive effort and many stayed behind after the final whistle to salute their heroes.
For over 30 minutes Fax battered Haven’s resolute line without reward. They could not have tried any harder, but ultimately they were outgunned.
Haven seized their limited first-half chances in the style of a classy side to lead 10-6 at the interval.
And in the second-half, with the hosts flagging as a result of their earlier effort, the visitors took command, with subs Graeme Mattinson and Howard Hill, Spencer Miller and John Duffy, all excelling.
Fax were strong from the opening whistle, with full-back Gary Broadbent twice denying scrum-half Dominic Brambani after he broke the line. But it was his half-back partner Joel Penny, who excelled in that first period against his former Haven team-mates.
With his side-step, impressive flat pass and kicking game, he was a menace, but Haven were aware of the danger and ensured that most of the Aussie’s best work was seen well away from their danger zone.
An early kick through from the stand-off was knocked dead by Leroy Joe. From the resulting possession Fax could have scored when winger John Lebbon spilled a cross-field kick, but James Haley was unable to hold the rebound with the line at his mercy.
Lebbon made amends with a fine 40-metre break down the touch-line, and Aaron Smith was held up over the Fax line at the end of the set.
It was Haven’s best chance of the opening half-hour, and the hosts finally found a way to the line courtesy of loose-forward Damian Ball who weaved through from 20 metres out, Haley adding the extras.
Haven lost playmaker Carl Rudd to injury in the lead up to the try, hastening the arrival of young hooker Mattinson.
It was his guile, after good work from Miller which led to a close-range try for Leroy Joe, Duffy converting.
On the next set, the hosts were caught offside, and Joe this time turned creator. His dink over the top of the Fax defence was taken by Hill, leaving him a simple task to score.
Haven paid for a rare lapse in defence in the opening exchanges of the second-half.
Andy Kirk broke clear from deep in his own half and fed fellow winger Marcus George, who went under the posts, Brambani slotting the simplest of conversions.
Instead of wilting, Haven then raised their performance, Mark Leafa charging down Penny’s clearing kick, Mattinson going close to scoring.
The Cumbrians in the crowd, some in fancy dress, did not however have long to wait for a reply, centre Rob Jackson forcing his way over.
Duffy slotted the conversion and soon after hoisted an impressive boot to the corner.
George spilled the bomb and Steve Maden was on hand to touch down.
Haven then really turned the screw on the back of Duffy’s 40/20 kick. Penny knocked on Smith’s kick through and Ball was forced to knock dead Joe’s teasing kick.
The defence could not hold out against such sustained pressure, and when centre Derry Eilbeck stepped inside the cover, he crossed the whitewash unopposed.
With 72 minutes on the clock, another Duffy conversion made the game safe at 26-12.
The hosts crossed close to the sticks in the closing seconds, Haley tacking on the extras to John Clough’s touch down.
The game was lost but Halifax’s much bigger fight, for survival, goes on. Meanwhile, Haven march on, looking better by the week as the play-offs approach.
In this form, a third consecutive Grand Final appearance is not a forlorn hope.
Haven: Broadbent, Lebbon, R Jackson, Eilbeck, Maden, Joe, Duffy, Trindall, A Smith, Fatialofa, Miller, Leafa, Rudd. Subs: Mattinson, Wright, Hill, Teare.
Tries: Joe, Hill, R Jackson, Maden, Eilbeck.
Goals: Duffy 3.
Halifax: Gibson, Kirk, Haley, Blackwood, George, Penny, Brambani, Smith, Hoyle, Wrench, Larder, Whittaker, Ball. Subs: Lawford, Boult, Clough, Hayes.
Tries: Ball, George, Clough.
Goals: Haley 2, Brambani 1.
Referee: Ian Smith (Oldham).
Star Man: Graeme Mattinson.
Published by http://www.whitehavennews.co.uk
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