The crunch: Fax v Fev match that deci
IT was the last league game of the season. Halifax were top of the table but would need at least a point from the game, at home at Thrum Hall, against Featherstone Rovers, who were fighting to avoid relegation into rugby league’s second division.
Aussies Joe Kilroy and Cavill Heugh had been recalled to Australia after Fax’s 18-6 defeat of Warrington on Easter Monday, March 31. That left just an Aussie contingent of three, captain and stand-off Chris Anderson, centre Tony Anderson and rampaging prop forward Geoff Robinson.
The full team that momentous day was fullback Colin Whitfield, threequarters Ed- die Riddlesden, Tony Anderson, Scott Wilson and Wilf George, halfbacks Chris Anderson and Gary Stephens, and forwards Geoff Robinson, Seamus McCallion, Mick Scott, Paul Dixon, Brian Juliff and Steve Bond.
Fax scored early, through a drop goal by Gary Stephens, worth one point, after seven minutes, but Featherstone scored one of their own through Keith Bell nine minutes later. With so much at stake for both sides it was a desperately tense affair, but on 24 minutes Wilf George crashed over for a try and then in first-half injury time Paul Dixon’s lunge brought a second try, converted by Colin Whitfield for an 11-1 half-time lead.
As the second half started it seemed that Halifax would carry on in the same vein. But then, from a scrum, Fev’s loose forward Paul Lyman scored unopposed; Steve Quinn added the conversion – and Rovers were back in it.
A Whitfield penalty gave Fax a six-point lead but Featherstone were not done and their half backs put pressure on Halifax with a series of long kicks. Then, with just six minutes to go, Rovers hoisted a high ball and Graham Steadman grabbed the bouncing ball to go over. Quinn converted to level the scores at 13-13 and as Fev pressed again it seemed only a matter of time before they would set up a drop goal attempt for a last-gasp winner.
And then, suddenly, it was all over. The hooter sounded and Halifax were champions. And the draw meant that Rovers kept their place in division one. The tension among the Halifax fans in the 7,465 crowd gave way to celebration as captain Chris Anderson held the championship trophy aloft.
But it did seem that the game had ended early, perhaps by two minutes, with a score that suited both sides. It meant that Wigan, with a much better points difference than Halifax’s, were pipped to the title by a point and York, who lost to Dewsbury, were relegated instead of Featherstone.
There was talk of the match having to be re-