It was top against bottom in the Super Eights Qualifiers as Warrington Wolves looked to make the best out of a poor season as they took on a Halifax side with no wins in their first two games.
Halifax lost heavily to Widnes in round two but got much closer to causing an upset against Hull KR in round one. The Wolves have been confident in their two comfortable victories and are clear favourites with the bookies to finish at the top of the pile.
The Wolves were massive favourites to take the spoils with no-one giving ‘Fax any chance of even getting close to the Super League outfit.
It was a nervy opening few minutes from both sides. The Wolves were on the front foot but some excellent defence from Halifax kept them at bay.
It took twenty minutes for the home side to break down the visitors. Giving the ball some air, Peta Hiku was at the end of a passing move to take a back hand Jack Hughes pass and spin out of three attempted tackles and drop over the line. The conversion attempt from Patton slid wide and Warrington knew that they were in a battle.
There was little to choose between the two sides. Halifax appeared to have a real belief that they could cause an upset, and as the half wore on the Wolves seemed to become increasingly frustrated at their inability to get over the whitewash.
Sensationally, with just ninety seconds left on the clock, Chester Butler picked up a Simon Grix grubber and stepped inside Tom Lineham and wrong footed Stefan Ratchford to dive over. Steve Tyrer failed to add the extras but the two sides went into the interval tied up at 4-4, far from what the home crowd were expecting.
There was palpable relief around the stadium five minutes into the second half when Chris Hill went from first receiver to push past three defenders and stretch out an arm to score under the sticks. Declan Patton added the conversion for a 10-4 lead.
On fifty-four Halifax got their second of the afternoon when Chester Butler took a head high pass, rode the tackle of Tom Lineham, who tried to batter him into touch, and retained his composure to step three paces and ground. Tyrer again missed from wide leaving ‘Fax just two points behind the Wolves.
On sixty-five Warrington made use of a second successive set in the Halifax twenty. Matty Russell took a Kevin Brown kick to the corner and spun over the line to ground by the right corner flag. Patton again failed to add the conversion for 14-8.
A Patton penalty goal on sixty-nine put daylight between the sides.
The try that sealed the win came on seventy-eight when Andre Savelio took an inside ball and used his strength to drag three Halifax tacklers over to score under the uprights. This time Patton added the extras for 22-8, much to the relief of the Wolves supporters.
All credit to Halifax who weren’t daunted by the task of playing a Warrington side who were heavily fancied by the bookies and the pundits. The Wolves were out of sorts but had to dig deep when they were staring down the barrel of a potentially embarrassing loss. Warrington are far from the finely tuned machine that they were in 2016 but this afternoons win is probably enough to guarantee them Super League in 2018. Halifax took the honour, but are still pointless.
Wolves: Ratchford, Russell (T), Hiku (T), Atkins, Lineham, Patton (3G), Brown, Hill (T), Smith, Sims, Jullien, Hughes, Westwood. Subs: Philbin, Dwyer, Savelio (T), King.
Halifax: Saltonstall, Butler (2T), Woodburn-Hall, Tyrer, Worrincy, Murrell, Johnston, Morris, Kaye, Fairbank, Grady, Barber, Grix. Subs: Mammone, Sio, Moore, Boyle.
Referee: Robert Hicks.