This was as mid-table as you could get as fifth took on sixth in the televised Monday night game to complete the fixtures in round sixteen of the 2022 Betfred Championship. Both sides needed the win to consolidate their place in the top six to have a shot at the play-offs, and whoever emerged victorious at the end of eighty minutes would finish the round in fifth spot.
The bookies fancied Halifax for the win and gave them a six-point handicap on the coupon and with the Batley Bulldogs showing yesterday that Featherstone Rovers are fallible, the sides in the lower play-off places will have a new enthusiasm for their chances of making the Million Pound game.
The two sides met a couple of months ago the Shay with the Panthers taking a 40-18 win, the Raiders looking to level the score tonight.
It was the Panthers who opened the scoring in six minutes with a flowing passing move which ended in the hands of centre Ben Tibbs to step off the right foot and go through the gap he´d created to get the four-pointer. Joe Keyes drilled his touchline kick between the uprights for a 6-0 lead.
Ben Kavanagh scored the game´s second try for Halifax when he took a Keyes pass and ran over the top of Jarrod Sammut on sixteen minutes. Keyes again added the conversion for 12-0.
Barrow looked to have gone in through a spectacular long range Miloudi/Ritson combination on twenty, but the referee called back play and gave a penalty to Halifax inside the Barrow half.
Barrow did get their try on twenty-six with Josh Wood picking up the ball from a very messy play-the-ball and diving over from two metres as the Panthers defence were unprepared for his lunge. Sammut added the conversion to half the arrears.
James Woodburn-Hall bamboozled the Barrow defence with a double dummy and a run to the line from ten metres out. Keyes was accurate with his third kick, the Panthers 18-6 ahead with four minutes remaining in the half.
Back-to-back penalties gave Barrow great field position in the dying moments of the half and a Sammut pass picked out Jarrad Stack to cross between two defenders and ground by the right upright. Sammut added the conversion and there was just six points between the two sides at the interval.
An early penalty for Halifax allowed them cheap metres and four tackles into the set Brandon Moore scooted from acting half back to burrow under the defence and ground under the sticks. Keyes maintained his one hundred percent record with the boot for 24-12.
It all kicked off on fifty minutes with a lengthy brawl including multiple players. The referee took his time and consulted his touch judges before brandishing a yellow card for Barrow´s Hakin Miloudi and red cards for Panthers Greg Worthington for a punch to the head, and Titus Gwaze for lifting an injured player. Halifax down to eleven men for the remainder of the game, Barrow down to twelve for the next ten minutes.
The whole thing somehow resulted in a penalty for Halifax, Keyes kicking the penalty for a fourteen-point lead.
The eleven men scored a fifth try on fifty-six with Louis Jouffret finding space on in the centres to dive through a gap off a Woodburn-Hall pass to go in. Keyes added a sixth goal for 32-12. It was Barrow looking like they were down on numbers.
Incredibly it was the Panthers who further extended their lead on sixty-two, poor tackling allowed Lachlan Walmsley to go in at the corner. Keyes missed his first conversion attempt of the day as Barrow returned to a full thirteen, Miloudi out of the bin.
On sixty-five the Halifax defence made a real mess of dealing with a Sammut grubber, the Barrow half back collecting the ball himself to step past a couple of defenders and ground. He converted his own for 18-36.
Halifax had the ball stolen on the Barrow line on seventy as Woodburn-Hall looked to push over the line. Two plays after the penalty Matty Gee took a weaving Keyes pass to score by the right upright. Keyes added the conversion for 42-18, the eleven men giving a lesson in playing with reduced numbers.
Keyes added a one pointer on seventy-six for 43-18 to seal a terrific Panthers victory.
A game with many talking points but the one that will be exercising most is how an eleven men Halifax pushed on a demolished a thirteen-man Barrow side. This was an object lesson in how not to play with a two-man advantage, or in the Panthers case, how to function like a full side with two men missing. The Panthers looking secure in the play-off places, Barrow now in danger of slipping out of the top half of the table.
Barrow Raiders: Cresswell, Ritson, Miloudi (SB on 50), Costello, Toal S, Carter, Sammut (T, 3G), Forster, Wood (T), Gillam, Hopkins, Stack (T), Iaria. Subs: Mossop, Toal D, Brooks, Cozza.
Halifax Panthers: Woodburn-Hall (T), Walmsley (T), Worthington (SO on 50), Tibbs (T), Saltonstall, Jouffret (T), Keyes (7G, DG), Calcott, Moore (T), Murray, Kavanagh (T), Gee (T), Tangata. Subs: Gwaze (SO on 50), Larroyer, Wood, Fairbank.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 0-10, 0-12, 4-12, 6-12, 6-16, 6-18, 10-18, 12-18 : HT : 12-22, 12-24, (SB), (SO), (SO), 12-26, 12-30, 12-32, 12-36, 16-36, 18-36, 18-40, 18-42, 18-43 : FT.
Lead Exchanges: Halifax.
Referee: Aaron Moore.