HALIFAX PANTHERS were made to battle for their victory over Sheffield Eagles to kickstart the Championship weekend on Friday evening.
Joe Arundel was a thorn in the Eagles’ side throughout the game and his hat-trick - with two tries in the second half - helped inspire a comeback from the Panthers.
Sheffield fans also got to see the return of Cory Aston, but this time in a Halifax shirt - just a week on from helping the Steel City club beat Whitehaven at the Olympic Legacy Park.
Kris Welham broke the deadlock after six minutes for Sheffield as he latched on to a short pass to crash over from close range. Josh Guzdek couldn’t convert.
Halifax responded with two tries of their own, the first coming from Lachlan Walmsley who got on the end of a kick which had been batted towards the dead ball line by Ben Jones-Bishop.
Despite Joe Keyes’ missed conversion, it wouldn’t be long until the visitors took the lead for the first time. Aston’s pass to Arundel was on the money and the centre went over for his first of three tries. Keyes successfully converted his second attempt.
Two tries in quick succession helped Sheffield get their noses in front, which would last until the 55th minute. Tom Holmes was at the heart of both, scoring the first by playing Matty Chrimes into open space on the wing and having the state of mind to keep with the speedster to receive the offload.
The stand-off, in the next very set, launched a high kick that looked to be going dead in-goal but for a fortuitous bounce into the hands of the onrushing Anthony Thackeray. Guzdek converted one from two as the Eagles led by four points.
On the stroke of half-time, Holmes completed his double to the delight of the home fans. A bustling run from Mikey Wood, as well as the call of six more from referee James Child, set the platform and Holmes ran straight into the Panthers defence and managed to muscle over. Guzdek added the extras, the Eagles ten points up at the interval.
Second halves have proven to be the Eagles’ kryptonite in 2022 and so it proved once again. A 40/20 from Aston in the opening set was followed up by a looping ball from the half-back to Zack McComb who touched down against his former side. Keyes’ conversion cut the deficit further and Halifax were smelling Eagles blood.
Arundel’s second of the evening levelled matters as the hour mark approached, Keyes tagging on the two to put Halifax ahead. It would be a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Two tries in three minutes all but gave Halifax the win with ten minutes remaining. A last tackle blindside play gave Arundel the opportunity for his third score of the night and he wouldn’t pass up the opportunity. Keyes didn’t convert but more than made amends for the miss when he dummied his way to the whitewash in front of the travelling Panthers faithful.
There was still time for Brandon Douglas to notch a 20-metre effort with three minutes to go but Sheffield couldn’t spring a late shock on their promotion-chasing opponents.